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Volleyball

From Academic Kids

Volleyball is a popular sport where teams separated by a high net hit a ball back and forth between the teams. Every team is allowed three hits to get the ball over the net to the other half. A point is scored if the ball hits the opponents' court, if the opponents commit a fault, or if they fail to return the ball properly.

Volleyball game
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Volleyball game
Contents

History

On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played preferably indoors and by any number of players. The game took some of its characteristics from tennis and handball. Another indoor sport, basketball, was catching on in the area, having been invented just ten miles away in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts only four years before. Mintonette (as volleyball was then known) was designed to be an indoor sport less rough than basketball for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort.

The first rules, written down by William G. Morgan himself, called for a net 6 feet 6 inches high; a 25 x 50 foot court; any number of players; a match composed of 9 innings with 3 serves for each team in each inning; and no limit to the number of ball contacts allowed each team before sending the ball to the opponents court. In case of a serving error, a second try was allowed (as in tennis), and a ball hitting the net was to be considered a foul (with loss of the point or a side-out)--except in the case of the first-try serve (as in tennis). To protect the fingers of the ladies, they were allowed to catch the ball and then throw it again.

After an observer noticed the volleying nature of the game at its first exhibition match in 1896 played at the Springfield YMCA, the game quickly became known as volleyball (originally spelled as two words). Volleyball rules, along with rules for basketball, were slightly modified by the Springfield YMCA and spread around the country to other YMCA locations.

An international federation, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), was founded in 1947, and the first World Championships were held in 1949 (men) and 1952 (women). Volleyball was added to the program of the Olympic Games in 1964, and has been part ever since. Beach volleyball became a FIVB-endorsed variation in 1986 and was added to the Olympic program at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The first foreign country to adapt volleyball was Canada, in 1900. The sport is now popular in Brazil, Europe, Russia and neighboring countries including China and the rest of Asia, as well as the United States. The FIVB estimates that 1 in 6 people in the world participate in or observe indoor volleyball, beach volleyball, or backyard (recreational) volleyball.

Volleyball in the United States

The game is popular with both male and female participants of all ages; however, almost all high schools and colleges have female volleyball teams; signifigantly fewer have male teams. Some claim this is due in part to the provisions of Title IX requiring institutions to fund men's and women's sports equally overall but not necessarily equally for an individual sport.

As a professional sport, volleyball has had limited success. Numerous attempts have been made to start professional indoor women's volleyball leagues. In 1987, the latest attempt went bankrupt due to lack of fan interest and hence advertiser interest. Two-man and two-woman professional beach volleyball leagues have done better, most notably the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), but none have gained a wide following that would get them coverage by the major television networks. It is thought that one of the reasons for this failure is the small stadium audiences that beach volleyball competition attracts, which convey a degree of unpopularity to television audiences. Part of the reason for such small stadium audiences is the difficulty of erecting high stands on loose sand. Those trying to make beach volleyball succeed as a professional sport are trying to pattern it after professional tennis. Those seeking to make indoor volleyball a professional sport are trying to pattern it after professional basketball. Some think a possible breakthrough for professional indoor volleyball will come with the new emergence of indoor sand volleyball.

Today volleyball is the one of the most popular girls sports, and strong high school and club programs are found throughout the country. Arguably the biggest event in high school-age sports, the annual Volleyball Festival in Reno, NV, (formerly in Sacramento, CA) draws over 10,000 players for its five-day tournament. Boys volleyball is popular on a regional basis, and by far the greatest number of boys teams are in Southern California.

Rules

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VolleyballCourt.png
Volleyball court

Equipment

The game is played on indoor courts 18 metres long and 9 metres wide, divided into two 9 x 9 metre "team courts" by a one-metre wide net placed such that its highest point is 2.43 metres above the ground in men's competition, and 2.24 metres for women's competition (these heights are varied for veterans and junior competitions). There is a line 3 metres from and parallel to the net in each team court termed the "attack line". The team courts are surrounded by an area called the free zone which is a minimum of 2 metres wide and which the players may enter and play within after the service of the ball. All lines denoting the boundaries of the team court and the attack zone are drawn or painted within the dimensions of the area and are therefore a part of the court or zone and a ball touching the line is considered in. An antenna is placed on each side of the net perpendicular to the sideline and is a vertical extension of the side boundary of the court. A ball passing over the net must pass completely between the antennae (or their theoretical extensions to the ceiling) without contacting them.

The ball (a volleyball), is made of leather or synthetic leather and inflated with compressed air. It is round, almost the size of a soccer ball, but softer and lighter.

Game play

Each of the two teams consist of six players, three located in front of the attack line and three behind.

To get play started, a team is chosen to serve by coin toss. A player from the serving team (the server) throws the ball into the air and attempts to hit the ball so it passes over the net on a course such that it will land in the opposing team's court (the serve). The opposing team must use a combination of no more than three contacts with the volleyball to return the ball to the opponent's side of the net. These contacts usually consist first of the bump or pass so that the ball's trajectory is aimed towards the player designated as the setter; second of the set (an over-hand pass using finger-tip action) by the setter so that the ball's trajectory is aimed towards one or more players designated as the attacker and third by the attacker who spikes (jumping, raising one arm above the head and hitting the ball so it will move quickly down to the ground on the opponent's court) to return the ball over the net. The team with possession of the ball and that is trying to attack the ball as described is said to be on offense.

The team on defense attempts to prevent the attacker from directing the ball into their court by having players at the net jump and reach above the top (and if possible, across the plane) of the net in order to block the attacked ball. If the ball is hit around, above or through the block, the defensive players arranged in the rest of the court attempt to control the ball with a dig (a fore-arm pass of a hard-driven ball). After a successful dig, the team transitions to offense.

The game continues in this manner until the ball touches the court within the boundaries or until an error is made.

Errors or faults

  • The ball lands out of the court, in the same court as the team that touched it last, or the ball touches the net "antennas". The ball also may not pass over or outside the antennas even if it lands in the opponents court.1
  • The ball is touched more than three times before being returned to the other team's court.2
  • The same player touches the ball twice in succession.3
  • A player "lifts" or "carries" the ball (the ball remains in contact with the player's body for too long).
  • A player touches the net with any part of the body or clothing while making a play on the ball (with the exception of the hair).
  • The players of one team do not manage to touch the ball before the ball lands in their half of the court.
  • A back-row player spikes the ball while it is completely above the top of the net, unless he or she jumped from behind the attack line (the player is allowed to land in front of the attack line).
  • A back-row player attempts to block an opposing teams attack by reaching above the top of the net.
  • The libero, a defensive specialist who can only play in the back row, makes an "attacking hit", defined as any shot struck while the ball is entirely above the top of the net.
  • A player completes an attack hit from higher than the top of the net when the ball is coming from an overhand finger pass (set) by a Libero in the front zone.
  • A player is not in his right position at the moment of serve, or serves out of turn.
  • When hitting, a player makes contact with the ball in the space above the opponent's court (in blocking this is allowed).
  • A player touches the opponent's court below the center line with any part of his body except his feet or his hands.4
  • When serving, a player steps on the court or the endline before making contact with the ball.
  • A player takes more than 8 seconds to serve.
  • At the moment of serve, one or more players jump, raise their arms or stand together at the net in an attempt to block the sight of the ball from the opponent (screening).5

1If the ball passes outside the antennas at the first hit of team, e.g. as the result of a bad pass or dig, a player is allowed to go after the ball if he does not touch the opponent's court and if the ball travels back to his court also outside the antennas.

2 Except if a player blocks (touches a ball sent over the net by the opposing team, while reaching above the top of the net) a ball that stays in the blocker's side of the net. In such an instance the blocker may play the ball another time without violating the rule against playing the ball twice in succession. Also, contacts as part of a block do not count against the three allowed touches.

3 At the first hit of the team, the ball may be contact various parts of the body consecutively provided that the contacts occur during one action.

4 Penetration under the net with hands or feet is allowed only if a portion of the penetrating hands or feet remains in contact with the player's court or the center line.

5 Screening is only a fault if the players stand directly next to each other in a way that clearly impedes vision, and the serve is a low line drive over their heads. (This is a judgement call by the referee.)

Scoring

When the ball contacts the floor within the court boundaries or an error is made, the team that did not make the error is awarded a point, whether or not it served the ball. The team that won the point is awarded the right to serve for the next point. If the team that won the point served the previous point, the same player serves again. If the team that won the point did not serve the previous point, the players of the team rotate their position on the court in a clockwise manner. The game continues, with the first team to score 25 points (and be two points ahead) awarded the set. Matches are best-of-five sets and the fifth set (if necessary) is usually played to 15 points. (Scoring differs between leagues, tournaments, and levels; high schools sometimes play best-of-three to 30.)

Before 2000, points could be scored only when a team had the service (side-out scoring) and all sets went up to only 15 points. In, 2000, this rule was changed to the current scoring (formerly known as rally point system), primarily to make the length of the match more predictable and to make the game more spectator- and television-friendly.

The Libero

In 1998 the libero player was introduced. The libero is a player specialized in defensive skills: he must wear a different colored jersey and cannot block or attack. When the ball is not in play, the libero can replace any other player without prior notice to the referees. His substitutions also do not count against the 12-substitution limit each team is allowed per set.

The libero may function as a setter only under certain restrictions. If he makes an overhand set, he must be standing behind (and not stepping on) the 3-meter line; otherwise, the ball cannot be attacked. A bump set is allowed from any part of the court.

Furthermore, a libero is not allowed to serve, according to the official rules. An exception is the NCAA women's volleyball competition, where a 2004 rule change does allow the libero to serve.

Other recent rule changes

Other rule changes enacted in 2000 included the introduction of the net serve which allows play to continue even if a served ball touches the net as long as it continues into the opponent's court. Also, the service area was expanded and now players may serve from anywhere behind the end line but still within the theoretical extension of the side-lines. Other changes were made to lighten up calls on faults for carries and double-touches, such as allowing a "hard-driven ball" to be slightly carried.

Until 1998, it was a foul if the ball contacted any part of the body below the waist. However, modern rules allow any part of the body to hit the ball, including the legs and feet. Kick volleyball, where the ball is primarily contacted with the feet, is a popular variant, particular in South American countries.

Skills

At international level, competitive teams are supposed to master six basic skills: serve, pass, set, spike, block and dig. Each of these skills comprise a number of specific techniques that have been introduced along the years and are now considered standard practice in high-level volleyball.

Serve

The serve marks the beginning of a rally in volleyball. A player stands behind the baseline and hits the ball, in an attempt to drive it into the opponent's court. His main objective is to make it land inside the court; it is also desirable to set the ball's direction, speed and acceleration so that it becomes difficult for the receiver to handle it properly. A serve is called an "ace" when the ball lands directly onto the court or travels outside after being touched by an opponent.

In contemporary volleyball, many types of serve are employed:

  • Underhand and Overhand Serve: refers to whether the player strikes the ball from below, at waist level, or first tosses the ball in the air and then hits it above shoulder level. Underhand serve is considered very easy to receive and is not generally employed in international competitions.
  • Sky Ball Serve: a specific type of underhand serve, where the ball is hit so high it comes down almost in a straight line. This serve was invented and employed almost exclusively by the Brazilian team in the early 80's. It is now considered outdated.
  • Line and Cross-Court Serve: refers to whether the balls flies in a straight trajectory parallel to the side lines, or crosses through the court in an angle.
  • Spin Serve: an overhand serve where the ball gains topspin through wrist snapping.
  • Floater: an overhand serve where the ball is hit with no spin so that its path becomes unpredictable. Can be administered while jumping or while grounded.
  • Jump Serve: an overhand serve where the ball is first tossed high in the air, then hit with a strong downward movement of the arm, as in a spike; there is usually much topspin imparted on the ball. This is the most popular serve amongst college and professional teams.
  • Round-House Serve: the player stands with one shoulder facing the net, tosses the ball high and hits it with a fast circular movement of the arm. Usage of this serve in indoor volleyball is today restricted to a few Asian women's teams.

Pass

Also called reception, the pass is the attempt by a team to properly handle the opponent's serve or "free ball". Proper handling includes not only preventing the ball from touching the court, but also making it reach the position where the setter is standing quickly and precisely.

The skill of passing involves fundamentally two specific techniques: underarm pass, or bump, where the ball touches the inside part of the joined forearms, at waist line; and overhand pass, where it is handled with the fingertips above the head.

Set

The set is usually the second contact a team makes with the ball. The main goal of setting is to put the ball in the air in such a way that it can be driven by a spike into the opponent's court. The setter coordinates the offensive movements of a team. He is the one who ultimately decides which player will actually attack the ball.

As with passing, one may distinguish between an overhand and a bump set. Since the former allows for more control over the speed and direction of the ball, the bump is used only when the ball is so low it cannot be properly handled with fingertips, or in beach volleyball where rules regulating overhand setting are more stringent. In the case of a set, one also speaks of a front or back set, meaning whether the ball is thrown in the direction the setter is facing or not.

Sometimes a setter refrains from raising the ball for a teammate to perform a spike and tries to throw it directly onto the opponent's court. This movement is called a "dump".

Spike

The spike (or attack) is usually the third contact a team makes with the ball. The object of spiking is to handle the ball so that it lands on the opponent's court and cannot be defended. A player makes a series of steps (the "approach"), jumps and then projects his body forward, thus transferring its weight to the ball when contact is made.

Contemporary volleyball comprises a number of attacking techniques:

  • Backcourt attack: an attack performed by a player not standing at the net. The player cannot take off on or beyond the 3-meter line before making contact with the ball, but may land in front of the 3-meter line.
  • Line and Cross-court Shot: refers to whether the ball flies in a straight trajectory parallel to the side lines, or crosses through the court in an angle. A cross-court shot with a very pronounced angle, resulting in the ball landing near the 3-meter line, is called a cut shot.
  • Kill: a hard driven ball that successfully lands on the opponent's court.
  • Dink/Tip/Cheat: the player does not try to make a kill, but touches the ball lightly, so that it lands on an area of the opponent's court that is not being covered by the defense.
  • Tool/Wipe: the player does not try to make a kill, but hits the ball so that it touches the opponent's block and then bounces off-court.
  • Off-speed hit: the player does not hit the ball hard, reducing its acceleration and thus confusing the opponent's defense.
  • Quick hit/"One": an attack (usually by the middle hitter) where the approach and swing begin before the setter contacts the ball. The set (called a "quick set") is placed only slightly above the net and the ball is struck by the hitter almost immediately after leaving the setter's hands.
  • Slide: a variation of the quick hit that uses a low back set. The middle hitter steps around the setter and hits from behind him.

Block

Blocking refers to the actions taken by players standing at the net to stop or hinder an opponent's spike. A block is performed by jumping and raising one's arm over the net shortly before the ball is hit in an attempt to intercept its trajectory.

A block that is aimed at completely stopping an attack, thus making the ball remain in the opponent's court, is called offensive. By contrast, it is called defensive if the goal is merely to make contact with the ball so that it slows down and becomes more easy to be defended. A "roof" is a successful offensive block.

Blocking is also classified according to the number of players involved. Thus, one may speak of single (or solo), double, or triple block.

Dig

Digging is the ability to prevent the ball from touching one's court after a spike. In many aspects, this skill is similar to passing: overhand dig and bump are also used to distinguish between defensive actions taken with fingertips or with joined arms.

Some specific techniques are more common in digging than in passing. A player may sometimes perform a "dive", i.e., he throws his body in the air with a forward movement in an attempt to save the ball, and lands on his chest. When he also slides his hand under a ball that is almost touching the court, this is called a "pancake".

Sometimes a player may also be forced to drop his body quickly to the floor in order to save the ball. In this situation, he makes use of a specific rolling technique to minimize the chances of injuries.

Strategy

Player specialization

Players do not usually master all six skills, but rather focus on one or more of them in connection with the tactics employed by each team. The most common specialization comprises three positions: attacker/blocker, setter and defensive specialist.

Generally, tall players with the ability to jump high are utilized as attackers/blockers, where they attempt to block or spike opponents initial hits and return the ball at high speed on steep trajectories so that the ball lands before the other team has time to react. Setters are responsible for coordinating the offense and taking the second contact in an attempt to place the ball in the air where an attacker can hit the ball into the opponent's court. Defensive specialists, especially the libero, are responsible for receiving the attack or serve (the dig) and are usually the players on the court with the quickest reaction time and best passing skills. Liberos do not necessarily need to be tall, as they never play at the net, allowing for shorter players with strong passing skills to still excel.

Further specialization terminology is also employed to distinguish between different kinds of offensive players:

  • Middle blockers are players that can perform very fast spikes that usually take place near to the setter. They are specialized in blocking, since they must attempt to stop equally fast plays from their opponents and then quickly set up a double block at the sides of the court.
  • Outside hitters do quick spikes at the sides of the court. They are specialized hitters and must also master pass, since they generally help the libero in receiving the opponent's serve.

Formations

The 6-2 and 5-1 are commonly used formations in competitive volleyball.

6-2

In the 6-2 formation, a player always comes forward from the back row to set. The three front row players are all in attacking positions: strong-side (court-left), middle-hitter (court-middle), and weak-side (court-right).

A 6-2 lineup must therefore have two setters, who line up opposite to each other in the rotation. In addition to the setters, a typical lineup will have two middle hitters and two outside hitters. By aligning like positions opposite themselves in the rotation, there will always be one of each position in the front and back row. After service, the players in the front row move into their assigned positions.

5-1

The 5-1 formation has only one setter, who assumes setting responsibilities regardless of his position in the rotation. The team will therefore have three front-row attackers when the setter is in the back row, and only two when the setter is in the front row.

The player opposite the setter in a 5-1 rotation is called the opposite hitter. In general, opposite hitters do not pass; they stand behind their teammates when the opponent is serving. The opposite hitter may be used as a third attack option (backrow attack) when the setter is in the front row.

Variations

Beach volleyball

A newer variation of the game, beach volleyball, has evolved from the popular social games of volleyball played on many beaches around the world. This version, rather than played on indoor hard courts, is played on sand courts which may either be formed naturally or built specifically for the purpose. Instead of a team of six, each team consists of only two players, but otherwise the rules are almost identical with some exceptions including:

  • The size of the court (16 x 8m) (though many recreational players and regional organizations use the old 18 x 9m court)
  • The block always counts as the first contact
  • The disallowance of the open-hand dink or dump plays where a player uses their finger tips to redirect the ball into the opponent's court instead of a hard spike. A dink may be performed with a closed hand or knuckle
  • Stricter rules around double-contacts during hand setting
  • The disallowance of the first contact being an open-hand contact (i.e. a set)

Indoor sand volleyball

This is an even newer variation than beach volleyball. As beach volleyball took volleyball outdoors, indoor sand volleyball takes beach volleyball indoors. In the United States, a growing number of colleges are now considering switching from hard court indoor volleyball to sand court indoor volleyball. The biggest reason for the possible change is the reduced rate of injury of players. Secondary reasons are 1) bad weather doesn't cancel play as what commonly happens with beach volleyball and 2) it enable the game to be more appealing to spectators since sand courts do not need players to wear nobbing elbow and knee pads nor shoes. Still another reason for the expected success is the assumption that indoor teams will wear bikinis as beach volleyball teams do and thus increasing the sex appeal of the sport to male audiences. Indoor sand volleyball teams vary from two to six members, with college teams being six.

An indoor sand volleyball court normally doesn't have its own special arena, but uses an indoor basketball court. A protective tarp covers the floor of the basketball court and then "soft" sand is brought in and laid a foot deep over the tarp. The boundaries are commonly marked off with lines in the sand. However, a recent innovation uses colored lasers that illuminate the lines in the sand.

Sitting volleyball

Sitting volleyball for locomotor-disabled individuals was first introduced in 1956 by the Dutch Sports Committee. International competition began in 1967, but it would be 1978 before the International Sports Organisation for the Disabled (ISOD) sanctioned the sport and sponsored an official international tournament in 1979 at Haarlem, Netherlands.

Players in this variation typically are amputees or paraplegics. The game is played on a smaller 10 x 6 meter court and with a .8 meter-wide net set to a height of 1.15 meters for men and 1.05 meters for women. When hitting or attacking the ball, players may not lift or raise the buttocks from the floor surface.

Men's sitting volleyball was introduced to the Paralympic Games in 1980 and has grown to be one of the more popular Paralympic sports due to the fast and exciting action. Women's sitting volleyball was added to the program for Athens 2004. The international governing body for the sport is The World Organisation Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD).

Another attraction of sitting volleyball is how it eliminates the height of the players as a determining factor for team success. Blocks, spikes and overhand serves are easier to do for tall people thus they have a major advantage over short people during a normal volleyball game. Making all players sit removes this advantage.

Blind Volleyball

Another variation that tries to remove height of players as a determining factor in team success is blind volleyball. Ad-hoc blind volleyball is where sheets are draped over the net so one side cannot see the other side. A more formal type of blind volleyball removes the traditional volleyball net and replaces it with a thick tarp. The tarp being thick enough that shadows cast on it cannot be seen from the other side. Blocks, spikes, and overhand serves are prohibited. Blocks are almost impossible to do since it is difficult to know where the ball is going to come over the net. Spikes and overhand serves are prohibited because it is already very difficult for the receiving team to react to any incoming ball that to increase the speed of it would make returning it almost impossible.

An additional attraction for blind volleyball is that the spectators have an advantage over the players as they see what is taking place on both sides. It creates a higher level of suspense for spectators that no other variation of volleyball can.

Another unique feature of blind volleyball is how it can make the back row the row that hits the ball over the net. In regular volleyball, the back row tends to receive the volleyball and then move it to the front row. In blind volleyball, moving the ball to the back row makes it harder for the other team to see where the ball is and by hitting the ball on a more flat trajectory, the back row can more surprise the receiving team on where the ball will be coming over the net.

However, this variation of volleyball is unknown to most people.

Nine-man volleyball

A variation of volleyball utilizing nine players and a slightly larger court originated in Asia in the 1920s when American missionaries introduced the game there in China. The variant became popular within the Chinese-American communities in large US cities (Chinatown) and continues with a rotating popular tournaments called the North American Chinese Invitational Tournament.

Co-ed teams

Most competitive volleyball is played with same-sex teams (exclusively so at the elite levels). Mixed teams for indoor play with both male and female players operate under co-ed rules requiring alternating male and female players in the rotation or service order. The net is at a height halfway between men's and women's height. (Other variants include reverse co-ed, with a women's-height net and men prohibited from spiking inside the three-meter line, and co-ed on a men's-height net, in which one man may come from the back row to block, but not hit.) Additionally, in many leagues at least one contact of a team's possible three contacts must be made by a female player. Based on this rule, strategically, the setter on a co-ed team is usually a female player.

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