Learn The Basic Rules of Volleyball All Varsity Players Should Know

Basic rules of volleyball are 6 players on a team, 3 in the front row and 3 in the backrow a rally begins with a referee whistle blow and 3 contacts per side. 


With six players on a team, 3 stay in the front court and 3 in the backrow.

A rally begins with a head referee whistle blow and three contacts are allowed to each side. 



  • Players cannot switch from front court to back court. 

A front row player can switch positions with a front row player on her team only after the head referee has blown the whistle to start the rally. (L. Mayer)A front row player can switch positions with a front row player on her team only after the head referee has blown the whistle to start the rally. (L. Mayer)

  • During a rally a front row player can switch positions with a front row player on her team only after the head referee has blown the whistle to start the rally.


Rules of Volleyball: The Rally

In the traditional game of six players vs. six players, a rally begins when one of the teams sends the ball over the net with a serve from their endline into the opponent's court and the opponent subsequently sends it back over the net on the first, second or third contact.


A rally begins when one of the teams sends the ball over the net with a serve from their endline into the opponent's court. (Ralph Aversen)A rally begins when one of the teams sends the ball over the net with a serve from their endline into the opponent's court. (Ralph Aversen)

A rally continues when the teams are able to keep the ball from hitting the ground on their own court while sending it back and forth over the net.

Once the ball hits the floor the rally ends.

  • The two teams competing in the rally are composed of six players each, both facing each other from opposing sides of a net 
  • The official net height for women is 7 feet 4 5/8 inch.
  • The official net height for men is 7 feet 11 1/8 inch.
The server initiates the rally by contacting the ball, so that it goes directly over the net into the opponent's court. (Al Case)The server initiates the rally by contacting the ball, so that it goes directly over the net into the opponent's court. (Al Case)


  • A team is allowed to contact the ball a total of three times in their attempt to return the ball to the opponent's court during the rally. 


Rules of Volleyball
Scoring: Four Ways A Team Can Score A Point


When can a team score a point?

Team A can score a point if:

  • the ball of the opposing Team B travels outside of the designated boundaries without any of Team A's players contacting it
  • Team B fails to return it to Team A's court in three contact attempts
  • if any member of Team B commits a fault


Rules of Volleyball
Common Faults Committed in Competition


What's a fault?

A fault is an error committed during a playing action. It's an action not permitted in competition as described by volleyball game rules.

When a team commits a fault, the opposing team gets the point and the right to serve the next ball. 

The following actions are described as volleyball faults...


When a team commits a fault, the opposing team gets the point and the right to serve the next ball.When a team commits a fault, the opposing team gets the point and the right to serve the next ball.


  • If the ball lands outside of the court, or in the same court as the team that touched it last
  • if the ball touches the "antennas" 
  • If the ball passes outside the antennas even if it lands in the opponents court 
  • If a player "holds", "lifts" or "carries" the ball resulting in the ball remaining in contact with the player's body for too long or resulting in the ball coming to a complete stop 
  • If a player touches the net with any part of the body or clothing (except her hair) while making a play on the ball 
  • If the players on the team receiving serve don't touch the ball before it lands in their half of the court


Rules Of Volleyball
Scoring; More Ways To Score Points


The traditional way of keeping score is called sideout scoring

This was the original way of determining how a team earned their points

With sideout scoring only the team that served the ball was able to  score a point, so each team rallied to earn the right to serve the ball. 

In the Rally Point System, the team that is in serve receive can earn a point if they win the rally.


The team that wins the rally 

  • receives a point
  • they earn the right to serve the ball  
  • they are required to rotate one position


A beginner's explanation of Olympic Volleyball Rules.

Watch this short video tutorial guide on how to play Volley ball under Olympic and FIVB rules.

Rules of Volleyball:
Where Do You Go From Here?


Fun stuff! Where do you need to go now? Here are your options: 

  1. Learn more about the Rules
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap  Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the Volleyball Rules section in the drop down menu at the top of the page 


Learn more from these volleyball rules pages!

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