How to Play Volleyball

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Some people play volleyball as a hobby. Others desire to win a gold medal. However, no matter what kind of player you are, learning how to play volleyball and improving your technique is crucial.

How to Play Volleyball

With these steps, you can play a normal game with friends. However, this is only the introduction to the whole world of rules, strategies, tactics, and dynamics that volleyball comprehends. So, if you want to improve your game, you have to dig deep into them.

Volleyball players playing indoor volleyball

Step 1: Get a Team and Determine Who Starts

To play volleyball, you should have one team of six players on each side of the net positioned in two rows of three: one row closest to the net, and another behind them. Then, you should decide which team is starting the match by putting the ball into play; you can simply do this by flipping a coin.

Step 2: Position Your Team

Just like I mentioned, you must position your six players in two rows. To do this, you should take into consideration who will attack and who will defend. The three players who perform better in attack should be positioned in front of the row.

The other three should be placed in the back row and they will mostly be on defense. To better understand this, you should learn the different positions inside of the court:

  • Setter: Located in the middle of the front row, main contributor to the offense, and their primary objective is to set a good ball for the hitter.
  • Outside Hitter: Positioned on the left side of the front row and their main objective is to lead the attack and spike.
  • Opposite Hitter: Positioned on the right side of the front row with their main objective is to both attack and defend.
  • Middle Blocker: Positioned in the middle of the back row, and they are often the tallest player. Their main role is to lead the defense and quickly attack from the back row.
  • Libero: Defense-only player that moves freely around the back row. They can only play on the back-row and they are the best player to receive a hit for the opponents. Short players often excel at this position.
  • Defensive Specialist: Defensive player positioned on the right or left side of the back row. They are often specialized in “digs” since their primary objective is to keep the ball off the floor.

Step 3: Square Up

One of the most important parts of volleyball is your stance. The way you stand allows you to sprint faster and reach the ball correctly. This is one of the aspects that might be challenging for beginners, especially for arm and hand positioning.

Male player trying to hit a ball

For your body positioning, keep your legs shoulder-width apart, slightly bend the knees, and lean forward.

Now, if you’re going to let the ball hit your arms, the easiest way is to cover your fist with one hand and extend your arms forward. This is called a “bump.”

If you’re going to volley, you need to place your hand right above your forehead. Then, extend your fingers and make a semi-diamond shape. It should be a bit round. When making contact with the ball, make sure to gently push with your fingers. Don’t let it touch your palm.

Step 4: Serve, Receive and Hit The Ball

These are some of the most important aspects of the game.

To put the ball into play (serve), grab it with your dominant hand, extend it in front of you, swing your other hand, and hit it to the other side of the net. Once you have done this, you have officially started the game.

Then, if the opponents manage to return the ball, you must be prepared to receive it. For this, the best positioned player must get behind the ball, square up, and bump it. This is the most effective way of receiving a ball and passing it to your teammates.

Finally, if you are an attacker you must know how to hit the ball. If you are a beginner, the safest option is to volley the ball through the net. Then, over time, you will be able to spike. This means that you will jump and powerfully hit the ball into the other side of the net.

Step 5: Get To Know The Plays

Playing volleyball might also require some intelligent and quick plays that can be executed to win easy points. For example, one of the most popular tactics is to tip the ball. This tip deceives the opponent with a subtle touch, instead of a strong spike.

There are also defensive plays, such as the “roof.” This is a type of block that sends the ball back into the opponent’s court, resulting in a point. Another play is the “pancake,” which is when a player saves a ball by putting his hand flat on the floor and allowing the ball to hit it.

Step 6: Learn The Rules

Male volleyball players

Just like any other sport, volleyball has a set of rules you have to follow. If you’re a beginner, these rules might seem a little bit confusing. However, learning them is also a great way to improve.

Here are some of the basic rules.

  • The players cannot touch the net.
  • Teams can only touch the ball three times.
  • Every time the team regains the right to serve, players must rotate positions clockwise. For example, if your opponent served and failed, your team regained the serve which means that you should rotate your positions.
  • A player cannot touch the ball twice in a row.
  • The serve must be done from behind the end line.
  • The server can choose from an underhand to an overhand shot. Yet, it can not volley the serve.
  • The serve can not be blocked by the opposing team. It has to completely cross the net and be received by a player.
  • The ball can touch the net as long as it falls into the other side of the court.


Whether you are a professional volleyball player or an amateur, knowing how to play the game is important. Once you understand the basics, get out on the court and practice so you can improve your technique and skills.

Alfonso Andrade is an avid sportsman, growing up playing soccer and volleyball. He is a coach and sports analyst, studying the game to analyze performance and help create improvement.