A serve begins each rally. A player must hit the ball with his or her hand over the net to land inside the lines of the court. Players may serve underarm or overarm (hardly anyone at elite level would offer an underarm serve). A popular serve is the "jump" or "spike" serve: the player jumps and serves the ball while airborne.

Each player gets only one chance to serve. The serve can touch the net and continue into the opponent's court. Before this rule was introduced, a net touch on service ended the rally and the point was awarded to the receiving team. When the serving team loses a rally, it loses the right to serve. The receiving team then rotates one position on the court.


The "dig" is a forearm pass that is used to control the ball and pass it to the setter at the net. It is usually the first contact by the team and an effective shot to use in defence, such as when receiving a spike. The "libero" handles much of the team's serve reception and is pivotal in backcourt defence.


The "set" is an overhead pass used to change the direction of the dig and put the ball in a good position for the spiker.

It is usually the team's second contact. Setting is the tactical centre of Volleyball. A setter must be good enough to keep the big blockers from dominating the net. The setter must feed his or her best hitters while also looking for opponent's blocking weaknesses (such as a short player on the front line or a slow centre blocker).


The "spike" is when the ball is hit or smashed across the net. It is the most powerful shot in volleyball – and the most effective way to win a rally.


This is the first line of defence in Volleyball. The objective of the "block" is to stop the spiked ball from crossing the net or to channel the spike to defenders. The three front-court players share blocking. Teams usually opt for a "read and react" block (whereby they try to react to the ball leaving the setter's hands) or for a "commit" block (whereby they decide before the point whether to jump on the quick middle balls).

The key to good blocking is penetration – the best blockers reach well over the net and into the opponent's court rather than reaching straight up, when the block can be easily penetrated by quality hitters.

The Ball

After testing many colours, the FIVB introduced a ball with yellow, blue and white panels at the World Championships in Japan in 1998. It replaced the traditional all-white ball.

The Rally Point System

In 1998 the FIVB also tried some different scoring systems. At its World Congress in October 1998, the FIVB ratified the "rally point system." Every rally would now earn a point. The first four sets are played to 25, but the winning team must be ahead by at least two points. The fifth set is played to 15 – and again the winner must have a two-point margin. The system was designed to make the scoring system easier to follow and games faster and more exciting.

The Libero

The FIVB introduced a new specialised defensive player, the "libero", in 1996. The libero can perform only as a backcourt player and may not play an attacking shot (when the ball is hit back across the net), serve or block. If the libero makes an overhead set of the ball in front of the 3-metre attack line, the ball may not be spiked over by the team. If the libero makes the same action behind the front zone, the ball may be freely attacked.

The libero must wear a jersey with a different colour or design than those of other team members.


Each of the six players on an indoor team rotates a position after winning back service from the opponent. This is the key to the tactics of indoor Volleyball – you cannot simply keep your best blockers and spikers at the net or your best defenders in backcourt.

After serving from position one, players rotate to position six (middle back), then position five (left back), position four (left front), position three (middle front) and position two (right front) before returning to serve.

A team must be in correct rotation order before the serve is put into play. Once the ball is served, the players can move positions but backcourt players cannot move to the net to block or spike. They must make all attacking actions from behind the attack line (hence the advent of the backcourt attack to have great spikers participating in all six rotations). The rotation rule explains why a setter often appears to be "hiding" behind his or her players before a point. The setter must be in proper rotation order before sprinting to the net or a point is given to the opposition.