Beach Volleyball Rules: How The Sand Differs From Indoor Volleyball

ByRebekah Morris

Published on Wed Feb 17 2021

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3 min read

Beach Volleyball Rules: How The Sand Differs From Indoor Volleyball

What can be better than watching volleyball? Not much... besides watching volleyball on the beach! Beach volleyball is a relatively-new NCAA sport that is growing as fast as any. And now, volleyball players from landlocked states and cold-weather climates can earn athletic scholarships and attend college to play beach volleyball.

But, before you ditch your sneakers and knee pads to hit the sand, it's important to familiarize yourself with the rules. Beach volleyball has a few different rules compared to indoor volleyball.

While they might be hard to master at first, the sport will come easy as you continue to play. And trust me, once you feel the sun and take in the views around a beach court, it'll be hard to get you back inside.


Here are five of the differences between beach volleyball and indoor volleyball:


A Smaller Court... And Very Different Surface

The size of the court is different than indoor volleyball because indoor is played with 6 players per side, while beach volleyball is played with two players on each side. The court is entirely sand, so it easy to dive and dig, and measures 2 meters shorter and 1 meter narrower than a regulation indoor court.

The extra three feet missing from the court means that the two players have less ground to cover on defense. Alternatively, the smaller area means the attackers have less area of the court to aim for and score.


More Side Changes During Each Set

Side changes occur more often as well because when you're outside there are more elements to be considered: wind, sunshine, rain, sun, and even humidity. Side changes occur every 7 points as opposed to indoor where it occurs after every set.


Different Scoring With Shorter Sets

An indoor volleyball set is won when a team reaches 25 points first. Beach volleyball, on the other hand, has sets that end when a team earns 21 points.

Another major difference is that, unlike collegiate indoor volleyball, a game in the sand ends once one of the two teams wins a second set. So, on the beach, you have to win only two sets, while in the gym, you have to win three.

But, in both versions of the sport, a tie means another set is played to 15 points and the winner having to win by 2 points. The games might be quicker, but when you're playing 2-versus-2, you're touching the ball more often and moving further than you would in an indoor game. Not to mention, the sun and the sand make beach volleyball a workout for every player, even if one team dominates the whole match. Two sets in the sand is definitely a test for any athlete.


The Ball

A volleyball used for beach volleyball is different than indoor. It is lighter, softer, and marginally bigger to enable players to close distances quicker and react faster to a floatier ball. The lighter weight of the volleyball allows the volleyballs to float in the air more, allowing great players to use the weather to their advantage, as well as enabling a reaction to the weather whereas the leather balls during weather would be harder to control.


No Tipping and No Doubles

In beach volleyball there is no tipping with fingers to try and psych the other team out. Instead one would have to use their palm, or straight locked or curled fingers to hit a short shot over the net.

Along with that technical side of beach volleyball, double touching is also much stricter than in indoor volleyball, so there will be much more "bump sets" to avoid a player double touching and fewer instances of players setting the ball with their initial contact after the serve.

Another technical difference is that when a block touch occurs, it is considered the first contact of the play so your team only has two more attempts to get the ball over the net instead of three more attempts in indoor volleyball.

Play Style

Because there are only two players on each side of the net, it can be expected that the game is a little slower than indoor when there are six people on each side. Beach volleyball also requires players to be versatile in every position as each player will be serving, passing, setting, defending, and hitting, unlike indoor volleyball. These players are well-rounded and have high a high volleyball IQ in order to be successful.

At higher levels of beach volleyball, one player is dedicated to blocking and one player is dedicated to digging. This format allows the digger to play on the opposite side of the blocker and allows the blocker the chance to block the opponent's attack.

If you're an indoor volleyball player, during the summer go and play some outdoor beach volleyball as well because the game will make your indoor volleyball better as well. It is easier to dive in the sand, you will learn more control due to more contact with the ball, and constantly playing volleyball will make you a better volleyball player.

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