Getting into volleyball as an adult novice might initially feel intimidating. But with knowledge comes power–or at least more self-confidence. Once you grasp the basics of volleyball, you’ll be ready to play the game, whether in a gym, on sand, on grass, or any other surface.

Whether it’s been years since you’ve touched a volleyball or if you’ve never touched one in your life, volleyball is an accessible sport for adults of all ages and skills. And when you’re ready to play, we’ve got you covered with a ton of adult volleyball leagues right in our directory. But more on that later.

First, let’s get you filled in on the basics of the game, from positions to playing.

Volleyball Court

A volleyball court is pretty simple. Take a rectangle and divide it by a net, and there you have it. However, there are a few more nuances to be aware of.

Court Size

Regulation Volleyball Court (beach or indoor): A regulation volleyball court is 59 feet (18 meters) long and 29.5 (9 meters) feet wide.

Beach Volleyball Court Variations: If you’re playing 4s or 6s (four or six players a side), court dimensions are the same as above. However, if you’re playing 2s, it’s a tad smaller at 26.3 feet (8 meters) by 26.3 feet (8 meters). 

Keep in mind, if you’re playing in a recreational league, there really is no regulation, so court sizes can–and will–vary. 

Net Height

The net height will vary depending on whether you’re playing in a men’s or women’s volleyball league. 

The net is 7 feet and 11 5/8 inches high for men. For women, it’s 7 feet and 4 1/8 inches high. For co-ed, the net is about 7 feet and 8 inches high. 

Those measurements are from the ground to the top of the net.

Volleyball Positions

As mentioned earlier, the standard format for volleyball is six players per side (6s), but you can also play 2s, 3s, 4s, or some other variation in recreational volleyball leagues. 

Positions In Volleyball 6s

Setter: The setter is a crucial player in a volleyball team as they are responsible for setting the ball for the attackers. This position requires exceptional ball-handling skills and quick decision-making abilities. The setter is responsible for running the offense by deciding which type of set to use and who to set to to create the best opportunity for scoring a point.

Outside Hitter: The outside hitter, also known as the left-side hitter, is positioned on the front left side of the court and is usually the primary attacker. This position requires the player to be versatile, as they are responsible for attacking, blocking, and serving. Outside hitters tend to receive a high volume of sets and are expected to score points through spikes.

Opposite Hitter: The opposite hitter, also known as the right-side hitter, is on the front right side of the court. They act as the secondary attacker and are crucial in blocking the opposing team’s outside hitters. Their position is directly opposite to the setter. In addition to their blocking abilities, opposite hitters must possess proficiency in executing back-row attacks and serves.

indoor volleyball game with two men jumping at net

Middle Blocker: The position of middle blocker, also known as middle hitter, is situated at the net in the center of the court. The middle blocker is crucial in executing blocks against the opposing team’s attackers. Additionally, they contribute to the offense with quick attacks in the middle. Quick reflexes and timing are essential for a middle blocker to excel.

Libero: A libero is a defensive player who wears a different-colored jersey. They cannot attack the ball above the height of the net, but they are experts in receiving serves and defending against attacks. The libero can substitute for any back-row player without using one of the team’s regular substitutions. However, they cannot serve, block, or attempt to block.

Defensive Specialist: A defensive specialist is a volleyball player specializing in ball reception and defense. Unlike the libero, this player can also serve but does not have the same flexibility in terms of substitutions. Teams use defensive specialists to improve their defense and serve-receive.

These positions work together in a rotational system, meaning players move to the next position clockwise whenever their team wins the serve from the opponent. This system ensures that all players, except the libero, rotate through both the front-row and back-row positions during a match. Playing different positions requires versatility and a broad skill set from each player.

Beach Volleyball Doubles (2s) and Quads (4s) Positions

Beach volleyball doubles require a lot of versatility since both players need to be able to play offensively and defensively for any given play. 

Beach volleyball quads introduce two additional players to each side, allowing for slightly more specialized roles than doubles. However, like in doubles, the positions are more fluid than in indoor volleyball. The roles can align with indoor volleyball but must adapt to the beach setting:

Blocker: Typically, one or two players act as blockers. They are responsible for guarding the net and attempting to block the opponent’s attacks.

Defender: The other one or two players primarily focus on defense, covering the backcourt and picking up any balls that get past the block. They are also responsible for setting up the ball for attacks.

Attacker: While all players in doubles and quads need to be able to attack, certain players might take on the primary role of attacking, especially in transition plays or when they are in an advantageous position to hit.

In both doubles and quads, communication and versatility are pivotal, as players must constantly adapt to the flow of the game and switch roles fluidly. Beach volleyball emphasizes all-around skills, teamwork, and strategy, with players making quick decisions and adjustments throughout the match.

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Scoring

Volleyball matches thrive on successful rallies. They are the heart of any volleyball match indoors or on the sand. Here’s how the scoring system works.

Rally Scoring System

Point on Every Serve: A point is scored on every serve, regardless of who served the ball. So, if the serving team wins the rally, they score a point and continue to serve. If the receiving team wins the rally, they score a point and serve next.

Games/Sets: A typical indoor volleyball game structure is best-of-five sets, where the goal is to reach 25 points before the opponent, with a mandatory lead of at least two points, to clinch a set. If the match reaches a fifth set, teams play this tiebreaker set to 15 points.

Beach volleyball matches are typically played best out of three sets. The first two sets are played to 21 points, and if a deciding third set is necessary, teams play to 15 points. The requirement to win by two points applies in all sets.

Switching Sides: In indoor volleyball, teams switch sides after each set. In beach volleyball, teams switch sides of the court every 7 points in a set to 21 or every 5 points in a tiebreaker set to 15. This ensures neither team has a consistent advantage due to external conditions like wind or sun.

Grasping the standard rules is also key. It includes understanding rotations, substitutions, net violations, and fault calls. Violating these rules can lead to the opposing team earning additional points. For a more detailed overview of the rules, you can find them at USA Volleyball.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Fortunately, there’s not a ton of gear you need to play volleyball–even less when playing beach volleyball.

If you’re playing indoor volleyball, you’ll want a solid pair of volleyball shoes to ensure proper grip and support.

You can also use sneaker grip spray to avoid slippage if you’re playing on a not-well-maintained court or if the grip on your sneakers is, well, losing its grip.

Knee pads are also a vital piece of gear for indoor volleyball. They shield your knees against the harsh impacts and friction when diving and kneeling.

If you have bad ankles, as many of us adult athletes do, consider ankle braces. You’ll do a lot of pivoting when you play volleyball, and braces can provide extra support and stability.

Essential Volleyball Skills

In volleyball, honing skills such as serving, passing, setting, attacking, and blocking can significantly elevate your gameplay and overall performance.

Mastering various serving techniques can make a substantial difference in your game. Begin with the basics of overhand and underhand serves. Then, advance to more complex jump and spin serves. The correct positioning of your hands and the precise movement of your feet are important to master these serves.

Practice passing drills to accurately bump the ball and anticipate where it will land, preparing for a potential attack. This skill demands quick reflexes and sound judgment.

For setting the volleyball, create a triangle with your hands, make contact with the ball at eye level, and propel it upwards with the strength of your legs. This skill is pivotal for setting up powerful attacks.

Attacking involves making rapid decisions and maintaining effective communication with teammates. Identify gaps in the opponent’s court and forcefully slam the ball directly into that gap.

Blocking enables you to transition from defense to offense. Block your opponent’s attack, and your team will regain control of the ball. 

Joining a Local League

Now for the fun part! You know the positions and the basics of volleyball, so how do you find an adult volleyball league near you?

Fortunately, Adults Play Sports has an online directory where you can find adult volleyball leagues for all skill levels near you.

You can search for sand/beach volleyball leagues. You can also search for leagues by single gender or co-ed. You can filter your search by beginner, intermediate, or advanced leagues.

There are also plenty of social sports leagues that offer adult volleyball. Most of these leagues keep it casual and put an emphasis on socializing after games. Social sports leagues are a great option for adults who want to stay active in sports but also value the friendships they can form while playing.

Adult Volleyball Camps and Clinics

The great thing about learning to play volleyball as an adult is that there are a ton of camps and clinics that cater specifically to adults. Many adult sports don’t offer this, so take advantage of a camp or clinic if one is offered near you.

Better at Beach offers beach volleyball clinics around the country. If you’re not ready to sign up yet, you can grab their 36 Essential Drills For Beach Volleyball guide to start. Be sure to use the promo code TANJA if you do sign up for a camp or clinic, and you’ll get an extra 10 percent discount. (FYI–I’ll also earn a small commission).

If Better at Beach isn’t your jam, you can also filter your volleyball search in our directory to narrow down who offers camps or clinics.

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