Volleyball is a sport that can be played by anyone, of any age and skill level. It’s a great way to stay active, have fun with friends or family, and get some exercise! The more you play the better you’ll get – both at volleyball skills and in your understanding of the game.
If this sounds like something you’d love to try, read on for an overview of common volleyball terms from A-Z. You don’t want to go into a match without knowing what these terms mean!
An ace (or “kill”) is a powerful shot that has such force it goes over the net and down without touching your opponents’ court lines at all – usually landing inside the “baseline” area which is immediately past their court.
When the server hits the ball and it is not touched again before the ball bounces, the server’s team is awarded a point. When the ball hits, this is considered an ace.
Aces are usually hit with a player’s fingers instead of a player’s entire arm, and it’s an incredibly useful way to score when you’re in a tight spot.
Attack (Offensive Play)
An attack is when a player tries to make contact with the ball and sends it over to the opponent’s court for a point after receiving it from another teammate or getting a direct pass from the setter.
The attacking team can hit the ball three times before it must go over the net to the opponent’s side. A “free ball” is called when the third hit is a volley and the team’s offense must return the ball to their opponent.
Back Row Players
Back row players are the opposite of front row players – they stand in the back half of the team’s court. They’re ready for receiving serves and can place their hands behind them to hit over their heads to send it back into play.
Ball Over Net
A ball that goes over the net after being hit by a player from either team is considered to be ‘over’. If a player tries to spike but it lands in their own court, this counts as an error and is called “off-block”. The same rule applies if players try to block but land the ball in their own court.
Block (Defensive Play)
A block is when a player in the front row jumps with arms extended and tries to deflect a spiked ball down before it touches the ground within their court, or off of their body. A blocked ball that touches the ground in the opponent’s court scores a point for the blocking player’s team.
Blocking is one of the best ways to stop a hard-hitting serve from sending your team into a bad position or gaining your opponent an offensive point. It involves jumping up at the net and trying to punch the ball away from your court.
Sometimes a player has great vision and is able to predict where their opponents will aim, allowing them to block well in advance just before it comes down. Other times, blocking could be a last minute move as players scramble towards the net after evading an attack from another direction.
Cross Court Shot
A cross-court shot is when a player hits the ball across the net to an opposite diagonal corner.
When a player is leaping up for a high volley, the contact point is where he or she makes contact with an opponent; depending on who has possession of the ball at any given time, this may be done offensively or defensively.
Dig (Defensive Play)
A dig is when a player jumps to deflect or knock away a spike that has been sent over the net by the opposing team. If the ball is not handled correctly, it can fall back down into their court for a point for the other team, so players must use a controlled touch.
If you’re playing defense and the ball is shot towards your court, digging is one of many ways you can try to prevent it from hitting the ground. When digging, players are required to jump up with their arms outstretched before the ball reaches them so they can punch it further away from their own court.
At the same time, players should always keep their eyes up to watch where the ball is going after they’ve deflected it.
Dipping or dunking implies attempting a low-percentage shot that will go over the net but not too far beyond it, so that it lands close enough for one of your teammates on your team to reach it easily.
A double block is a team’s defensive tactic of lining up two players in the front row to jump and swing at the ball, with one player blocking left towards their opponents’ right side and another player blocking right towards their opposite.
If this fails, it essentially means both blockers were not able to stop the opponent from scoring as they had planned.
The end line is the back boundary line in each team’s side of the court.
End Line Referee
An official that stands behind each baseline to call when any part of the ball goes past the end line, whether it was because of a block, net touch or out-of-bounds. The referee will also be responsible for counting the score, deciding when to switch sides of the court and for starting play at the beginning of each game.
Front row attack (Offensive Play)
Players who are positioned in front of the other team’s court. They serve, set, spike and block among other things.
A jump serve is a kind of serve in which the ball is hit high enough for it to bounce twice before going over the net. This technique makes it harder for blockers to block and puts more force behind the ball as it bounces, which can make it very difficult for defenders to return.
The libero is a defensive specialist with slightly different rules for substitution and play in comparison to the six players in front of them. Their main role is to help their team receive balls that are difficult to deal with so the setter can set up a good attack for their teammates, though they have other important roles too.
Liberos are typically positioned behind the setter when their team’s on defense, and sit out when their team’s on offense. Their main job is to defend their team’s court from difficult-to-handle attacks from the other team, but they’re also tasked with setting up a strong defense that can help their teammates win.
The middle blocker is positioned in front of their team’s court between the outside and the inside hitters, so their main goal is to help stop attacks from hitting their team’s court.
They have to be quick and accurate with their movements because they have the most ground to cover out of any player on the front row.
A player positioned on the other side of the net from the outside hitter, so they alternate hitting from right-handed and left-handed sides.
A person can also hit both ways, i.e. an opposite hitter.
An Offensive player who hits the ball onto the opponent’s court from behind the attack line. The opposite hitter may set up in any location around the 3 meter (9 foot) line, but must remain outside the court until the ball is hit by the inserter or passer.
An opposite hitter’s primary responsibility is to put a strong, high arc on her hits so that they cannot be returned easily by opposing blockers and defenders. The best opposite hitters have difficulty hitting into the opponents’ court as well as down-the-line shots; those with exceptional cross-court hitting ability usually have difficulty with down-the-line shots.
The outside hitter has a lot of responsibility during an offensive play since they’re required to score points for their team on a regular basis. They’re typically responsible for what’s called “power hitting,” which is when they swing down at the ball so it moves with high speed and force.
The serve is the most important part in a volleyball game. A player must hit it over the net and land inside their opponent’s court lines to start each rally, but players have many different serves they can use depending on how high or low they want to aim for that perfect placement!
Some popular choices are “jump” or ‘spike’ servers which involve jumping while airborne before serving at your opponents who will then be taken aback by this sudden burst into action from above them (and maybe even lift up just enough so you get an advantage).
In contrast, a ‘soft’ serve is safer and will usually be much slower towards your opponent’s making it easy to block.
The team taking turns to serve in a match is known as the serving team. They have the upper hand when they are on offense, trying to score points with each rally. The player taking turns to serve is known as “the server” or simply “server”.
A side-out happens when the receiving team gets the ball over the net and onto their opponent’s court without any errors being committed upon reception. Once the ball is in play, the team that did not serve before will now take their turn to attack. This is the first way to score a point in volleyball, and as such it must be done properly.
Spike or Attack (Offensive Play)
A balled spiked, sometimes called an attack, is a ball that is hit downward toward the ground with force. Spikes are commonly used as a shot type during offensive plays in volleyball to a back row player, and it’s one of many ways players can score points from their opponents’ court.
The height of a spike is usually greater than the height from which a ball is lifted or thrown. The spike follows an arc trajectory through the air and players can hit it at different speeds, but in most cases a powerful spike will make contact with the opponent’s court close to where they are standing.
Depending on the defensive system of the opponents, the attacked ball and be hit to the center of the court, left side, right side, towards the center line, or the line. The goal is for the ball land on the court prior to the opponent touching or returning the ball. If the ball spiked is returned or “digged” the ball remains in play and the ball passed to a server can be spiked once again.