Volleyball basics: how to prep for a fun game

Learn the differences between volleyball and beach volleyball, the history, the basic rules and the benefits of this contactless sport.

people playing beach volleyball

If you’re interested in smashes and bumps, you’ll find lots of info in this article about how to start and progress in volleyball. You’ll not only maximize your chances of winning, but you’ll also have more fun on the court. Head to a local sports facility, park…or beach to practice your volleyball skills!

an indoor volleyball match

An intro to volleyball

Volleyball is a team sport that is played 6 against 6, sometimes 4 against 4 and sometimes, exclusively for beach volleyball, 2 against 2.

Back in 1895, William G. Morgan, a YMCA instructor in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts invented “mintonette” (now commonly known as volleyball). Inspired by basketball and baseball, Morgan saw the potential in creating a new contactless team sport.

Today, volleyball is played all over the world, both indoors and outdoors. The court is divided in two by a net. The main objective of the two teams is to pass the ball over the net so that it hits the ground on the opposing team’s side, while also protecting their own side of the court from the other team’s attacks. With just three touches of the ball, the team must pass the ball onto the other side of the court: bump, pass, and attack.

Each position has a particular function in the game: the wings, the centres, the passers, the libero (specialized defence), as well as serve specialists and defence players at the net. The rotation allows each team member to take a different position and become a multi-functional player, which makes the game even more interesting!

The principles of volleyball are simple and fun, which makes it a popular sport that can be played just about anywhere – even on the beach! Beach volleyball is played 2 against 2, on a sand court. The rounds are shorter and the court size is smaller. Playing a sport on the beach is a guaranteed good time!

Volleyball is a fast and tactical sport. Since it requires no contact, and is played at a steady rhythm, it’s a great sport for beginners of all ages.

The rules of volleyball

6 people per team, a net in the middle: ready to play?

In order to score a point, your team must make the ball hit the ground on the opposing team’s side of the court, or the opposing team must make an error or receive a penalty. Your team is allowed to touch the ball three times before sending it over the net to the other team. Easy, no?

Each exchange ends with a point earned by one of the teams. The team that wins the point gets the next serve. If it’s your turn to serve, you continue to serve as long as your team keeps winning points. This is the best time to get as many aces as possible (points earned directly from a serve). If the ball hits the net on your serve, the other team earns a point and it becomes their turn to serve.

You don’t need a timer for this sport, the first team to get 25 points wins the round. However, the winning team must be ahead by two points, otherwise the round continues.

You have to win 2 out of 3 rounds in order to win the match, or 3 out of 5 rounds. If there is a tie of 1 to 1, or 2 to 2, the deciding match is played to 15 points with a 2-point difference between the two teams’ scores. 

young players learning the rules of volleyball
people playing beach volleyball

The benefits of volleyball

Those who play volleyball love it. It’s a ball sport that is simple to learn and fun to practice. The game is fast, and the ball must always be in the air. The quick jumps and landings make for an excellent muscular workout based on muscle toning. You can practice this sport even if you don’t have a very high endurance to begin with. On the court, you will work your explosiveness and your reflexes, as well as your level of alertness.

Obviously, this is an excellent sport to play on the beach. What better way to get your recommended dose of Vitamin D?!

*Cautionary note: as with any type of physical activity, consider consulting your doctor to fin out if you have a medical contraindication.

Is volleyball for me?

Volleyball is all about team spirit. Since you can’t touch the ball twice in a row yourself, you always need to rely on your teammates and be ready to pass the ball to them. You can take time to find your rhythm and progress in your own techniques while also enjoying the teamwork the game requires.

You can start playing volleyball at any age since it is a contactless sport that puts your reflexes to the test, but can be adapted to all levels of physical fitness. If you are a good communicator, you will probably be a valuable addition to your team. Communication is an essential part of this sport.

Lastly, you don’t have to be super tall to play volleyball. Whether you are serving, attacking or playing defense, you can simply rely on the power in your legs and your vision of the game.

man tossing a volleyball

Minimal equipment required

Now that you know all about volleyball, you’ll need some very basic gear before you can really dive into the sport.

You will need shorts and a t-shirt for optimal freedom of movement as you play.

Obviously, you will need a ball to practice with before your first official game. The type of ball you need will depend on the type of volleyball you will be playing: indoor volleyball or beach volleyball.

For beach volleyball, you will play barefoot, and it’s a good idea to equip yourself with a good pair of sunglasses.

For classic volleyball, played indoors in a sports facility, you will need shoes that can stand up to lots of jumping and movement on a hard surface. Kneepads are great for protection when you dive for balls!

Finally, purchasing a net may turn out to be necessary. However, it’s possible that your fellow teammates, members of the other team or the owners of the location where you will be playing already have a net. Find out before purchasing one for yourself.

So, which do you think you’ll try? Classic volleyball or beach volleyball?