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Important Beach Volleyball Terminology to Know Before You Watch

ByScotty Jenkins

Published on Fri Nov 04 2022


4 min read

Important Beach Volleyball Terminology to Know Before You Watch

Beach volleyball is a fun and exciting sport for the summer. The game is usually played between either two or four person teams in sand courts. Sand courts can be indoor or outdoors, and many famous venues, including Madison Square Garden, have a converted indoor sand court.

Courts are rectangular (18 meters - or - 59 feet) and divided into two equal playing portions. The net is usually 2.24 meters or seven feet high. All games are played to 15 points and a team must win by two points with only three hits per side to send the ball over the net.

Learning some of the most common beach volleyball terms is important to understanding the game and being able to play at a competitive level. The following are the most common terms to know before hitting the courts:

  • Ace (aka spader, silver bullet): This is a served ball that is within bounds, untouched by the receiving team and scores a point.
  • Attack: When a point or hideout is gained by putting the ball down on the opponents side of the net, usually for a kill.
  • Block: When a player stops the ball before or while it is crossing the net.
  • Bump Pass: Technique where the forearms and hands together are used to direct the ball.
  • Bump Set: A forearm pass used in order to set
  • Carry: A fault resulting from a ball that came to rest due to player contact
  • Court Switch: Teams switch sides of the court when the team’s combined scores total to a multiples of five
  • Cross Court Shot (aka Cut Short Shot): An offensive hit where a player slices the ball nearly parallel to the net and slightly over it, instead of hitting with power
  • Dig (aka save): When the ball is “saved” or brought back up with any part of the body, usually off of a spike attempt
  • Double-Double: When a player has double figures in two of any of the following categories: kills, blocks, ace serves
  • Double Fault: These occur when players from both opposing teams commit simultaneous faults, and thus the referee will direct the play
  • Floater: A serve that has no spin and goes across the net smoothly, usually somewhere difficult for the opposing team to return. In other terms, the serve “floats” across the net. This serve is usually also flat-footed
  • Hit ball: A clearly hit ball and does not rest upon contact.
  • Hard Driven Ball: A spiked ball that is either above or even with the height of the net that may be double-hit by any part of the body as long as the hit is the first attempt to play the ball
  • Interference: A player who does not allow the opposition to complete a play on the ball
  • Joust: A ball played close to the net with both hitter and blocker contacting the ball at the same time.
  • Kill: The end of a play which leads to a point or side out
  • Off Hand Side: Right hand player playing right side. The ball comes across the body on a set.
  • On hand side: Right hand player playing the left side and the ball comes in front of a player.
  • Out of Bounds: When the ball touches any surface, object, or ground outside of the court, it is considered out of bounds. If the ball touches a boundary line, inside poles of the net, or net it is not out of bounds.
  • Pass (Serve Receive): This is the first contact from a ball hit over the net.
  • Play over: When the ball is put back into play without awarding either a point or side out.
  • Rally: Successive returns over a net in the course of one point
  • Replay: When the ball is put into play again without a point or side out. Also known as a play over.
  • Serve: Putting a ball into play. There are many techniques to serve a ball successfully
  • Shoot: Two handed set shot that allows a player to dink or hit a deep placement shot.
  • Side out: When a team who receives a serve wins a rally, they will be awarded a side-out. They will not receive a point, but will be the serving team of the next play.
  • Simultaneous contact: When contact is made at the same time by two players
  • Spiked ball (aka bury, crush, hammer, kill, put away, slam): When a ball (not the served ball) is hit forcibly and from a height of the net or taller.
  • Timeouts: Each team is allowed two, sixty-second timeouts and four twenty-second timeouts.
  • Triple-Double: When a player has double figures in all of the following: kills, blocks, and aces

The above terms are good to know while playing for fun or competitively.  The following terms are important if you plan to compete and want to understand the layout of a tournament:

  • Championship Bracket: Teams who win stay in this bracket where the final two teams advance to the "Olympic Crossing" semifinals. Once a team loses a match in the championship bracket, the pair drops into this bracket where another loss will eliminate the tandem.
  • Contender’s Bracket: A bracket a team is moved to after one loss. If a team loses in this bracket, they will be eliminated
  • Double Elimination Format: Teams have to lose twice before they are eliminated from the tournament
  • Olympic Crossing: A double-elimination format until the final four teams remain. Then the final two teams in the winners bracket will play those in the contenders bracket. The winner of each game will go to the finals.
  • Pool Play: Teams are seeded into pools and play each team in the pool. First and second place teams will continue to the playoffs.
  • Round Robin: All teams compete in one pool with the three teams, with the best record advancing to the playoffs. The team with the best record has a bye to the finals. Teams two and three play a single-elimination game to see who advances to the finals.
  • Winner’s Bracket: Teams who win are put in this bracket while the losing teams are put in the contender’s bracket.
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