What Is a Carry in Volleyball?

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Playing volleyball requires the players to strictly follow a set of rules that control the game. If you just started playing this sport, you might wonder what is a carry in volleyball and how to avoid it. After all, this could be considered a common mistake for beginners.

What Is a Carry in Volleyball?

According to the FIVB, carrying occurs when the ball doesn’t immediately bounce out of the player’s fingers or arms. This extended contact with the ball causes the player to throw the volleyball instead of hitting it, which is considered a rule violation.

An image of a guy playing Volleyball

This mistake can happen during a pass or even a spike. For example, if you accidentally grab the ball during a spike, this will be considered a carry and you will lose the point. That is why to grow as a player, you need to learn the types of carrying and how to avoid them.

What Are the Types of Carrying?

Players can accidentally carry the volleyball in many situations throughout a match. Each one of them needs to be aware of this mistake and correctly position themselves to safely receive the ball. Here are the types of carrying:

Carrying While Setting

The setter might be considered one of the players that commit this mistake the most. Since his job is to pass the ball to the striker, he needs to aim and quickly bounce the ball with his fingers many times throughout the match.

The problem comes when the ball is low and too close to his chest or face. When this happens, the setter might naturally try to elevate the volleyball, resulting in prolonged contact with the ball before it bounces off.

Carrying While Passing

This can happen to any player inside of the court when trying to perform a bump pass. If the player fails to position their arms correctly, the ball might get lifted with the inner elbows. This lift, while it is not a “grab” nor a “catch”, is an extended contact with the ball.

This means that the players don’t literally need to catch the volleyball for it to be illegal. If there’s prolonged contact, it is going to be considered a carry.

Carrying While Attacking

One of the most common attacks in volleyball is the spike, and it needs to be correctly aimed for it to be effective. With that being said, the strikers often try to guide the ball towards a certain spot inside of the opponent’s court.

A person blocking a volleyball

However, the mistake happens when they try to change the direction of the volleyball by moving their hands after the contact. This way, you’re controlling the ball instead of instantly hitting it, which is considered to be a carry.

Carrying While Saving the Ball

When the volleyball is about to go outside of the court, the players might try to run after it and perform a save. If done correctly, the ball will bounce on the player’s arm and go back inside of the court.

On the other hand, the save is done incorrectly when the player grabs the volleyball and throws it back into the court. Since saving the ball is a move that happens too fast, this is a common mistake that even professional players commit.

How to Avoid Carrying a Volleyball

Keep your arms strongBend your elbow
Hit the ball with both armsMake the volleyball spin
Keep your hands flexibleMake a downwards motion with your hands
Hit the ball with your fingers onlyHit the ball with one hand

Besides catching or grabbing the ball, certain details can define whether a hit was a carry or not. Learning them will allow you to avoid them at all times. Here are some tips to stop carrying the ball:

  • Try not to never bend your elbow while making contact with the ball. By doing this, you’re making a “lifting” motion, which could end up in prolonged contact with the volleyball.
  • Try to avoid making the volleyball spin. This is a sign that you either had too much contact with the ball or that you’re not correctly performing the bumping or serving technique. In any case, this is an indicator for the referee to call it a carry.
  • Try to hit the volleyball simultaneously with both hands. If you fail to do so, you might illegally lift the ball with one hand while hitting it with the other.
A volleyball player avoiding to carry in a volleyball game

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about carrying in volleyball:

Is Power Tipping Considered Carrying?

A power tip is also called “a dump”, and it is not considered a carry if done correctly. When you perform a power tip, you are softly striking the volleyball by doing a downward motion with your hand or fingers.

This downward motion might prolong the contact with the ball, which is why it is often considered a carry. While this play can be strong, it can also be very subjective and inspire a lot of debate.

What Is the Difference Between a Lift and a Carry in Volleyball?

The difference between a lift and a carry lies in the movement you do with your arms. If you do an upward motion while possessing the ball, you’re lifting, if you do a horizontal motion, you’re carrying.

Regardless of that, they both break the same rule; no player can hold the ball, only volley it, bump it, or hit it.

Is Palming Illegal in Volleyball?

While palming is not illegal in volleyball, it often ends up in a catch, or a lift, which is illegal. This is why it is important to avoid palming the volleyball when volleying or setting.


Carrying a volleyball is one of the most common mistakes that new, and even professional players commit. To avoid it, you need to be highly aware of the position of your arms and hands at all times.

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.