Show off your knowledge of volleyball terms by using as many of these terms when talking volleyball. :)
If you know of a term that’s missing from the list below, get in touch with us and we’ll add it in.
- assist: awarded when a player passes, sets, or digs the ball to a teammate who attacks the ball for a kill.
- antenna: vertical rods located at the edge of the net and are considered to be not-in-play.
- attack: an attempt to terminate the play by hitting the ball to the floor on the opponent’s side; can be awarded for a tip.
- attack line: sometimes called “3 metre line” the line parallel to the center line and three metres (10 feet) back from the net.
- back row attack: when a back row player attacks the ball by jumping from behind the attack line before hitting the ball; if the back row player steps on or past the line during take-off and sends the ball over after contacting it above the height of the net, the attack is illegal.
- back set: A volleyball that is set in the opposite direction than the setting player is facing.
- block: awarded when a player thwarts an attack, deflecting the ball onto the opponent’s court for a point. This is the first line of defence in Volleyball. The objective of the “block” is to stop the spiked ball from crossing the net or to channel the spike to defenders. The three front-court players share blocking. Teams usually opt for a “read and react” block (whereby they try to react to the ball leaving the setter’s hands) or for a “commit” block (whereby they decide before the point whether to jump on the quick middle balls). The key to good blocking is penetration – the best blockers reach well over the net and into the opponent’s court rather than reaching straight up, when the block can be easily penetrated by quality hitters.
- block assist: awarded when two or three players participate in a successful block; each player receives credit.
- carry: a misplayed ball involving “prolonged contact;”.
- centre line violation: player encroaches on opponent’s court under the net; no violation if some part of the foot or hand (i.e. the heel) remains in contact with the center line.
- coach kill: when an opponent serves the ball into the net or out immediately after a time-out or substitution called by the coach.
- dig: The “dig” is a forearm pass that is used to control the ball and pass it to the setter at the net. It is usually the first contact by the team and an effective shot to use in defence, such as when receiving a spike. The “libero” handles much of the team’s serve reception and is pivotal in backcourt defence.
- floater: served ball that doesn’t spin.
- friendly fire: being hit in the head (or anywhere else) by a teammate’s serve.
- free ball: an easy return from the opponent.
- joust: two opposing players contact the ball simultaneously above the plane of the net.
- jump serve: a serve in which the server tosses the ball, makes an approach, jumps, and spikes the ball, causing fans to hold their breath and then cheer if it works–but shake their heads and loudly question the coach’s I.Q. if it fails.
- kill: an attacked ball that strikes the floor or lands out of bounds after touching an opponent.
- libero: a specialised defensive player, the “libero”. The libero can perform only as a backcourt player and may not play an attacking shot (when the ball is hit back across the net), serve or block. If the libero makes an overhead set of the ball in front of the 3-metre attack line, the ball may not be spiked over by the team. If the libero makes the same action behind the front zone, the ball may be freely attacked. The libero must wear a jersey with a different colour or design than those of other team members.
- line shot: a ball spiked down the opponent’s sideline.
- net violation: illegal for any part of the player’s uniform or body to contact the top of the net.
- pancake: one-handed defensive save where the hand is extended and the palm is slid flat (like a pancake!) along the floor as the player dives for the ball; timed so the ball bounces off the back of the hand.
- pass: join your arms from the elbows to the wrists and strike the ball with the fleshy part of your forearms in an underhand motion.
- penetration: the act of reaching across and breaking the plane of the net during blocking.
- quick set: a set (usually 2 feet above the net) where the hitter approaches the setter, and may even be in the air, before the setter delivers the ball; requires precise timing.
- rally point system: Every rally earns a point. The first four sets are played to 25, but the winning team must be ahead by at least two points. The fifth set is played to 15 – and again the winner must have a two-point margin. The system was designed to make the scoring system easier to follow and games faster and more exciting.
- ready position: The flexed, yet comfortable, posture a player assumes before moving to contact the ball.
- red card: a penalty for extreme misconduct; results in a player/coach being disqualified and the team losing the point.
- roll: a certain way to pass a ball in which the digger, or passer lays out an arm, passes the ball, and rolls over the shoulder (over the shoulder roll) or back (barrel roll) after passing the ball. This is a quick way to return to action after the play.
- rotation: Each of the six players on an indoor team rotates a position after winning back service from the opponent. This is the key to the tactics of indoor Volleyball – you cannot simply keep your best blockers and spikers at the net or your best defenders in backcourt.
After serving from position one, players rotate to position six (middle back), then position five (left back), position four (left front), position three (middle front) and position two (right front) before returning to serve.
A team must be in correct rotation order before the serve is put into play. Once the ball is served, the players can move positions but backcourt players cannot move to the net to block or spike. They must make all attacking actions from behind the attack line (hence the advent of the backcourt attack to have great spikers participating in all six rotations). The rotation rule explains why a setter often appears to be “hiding” behind his or her players before a point. The setter must be in proper rotation order before sprinting to the net or a point is given to the opposition.
- screening: a deliberate (and illegal) attempt to obscure the start of a teammate’s serve by obstructing an opponent’s line of sight.
- serve: one of the six basic skills; used to put the ball into play. It is the only skill controlled exclusively by one player.
- server: the player who puts the ball into play.
- service: A serve begins each rally. A player must hit the ball with his or her hand over the net to land inside the lines of the court. Players may serve underarm or overarm (hardly anyone at elite level would offer an underarm serve). A popular serve is the “jump” or “spike” serve: the player jumps and serves the ball while airborne.
Each player gets only one chance to serve. The serve can touch the net and continue into the opponent’s court. Before this rule was introduced, a net touch on service ended the rally and the point was awarded to the receiving team. When the serving team loses a rally, it loses the right to serve. The receiving team then rotates one position on the court.
- service ace: a serve that hits the floor or causes the passer to misplay the ball such that no player can make a second contact.
- set: a maneuver in which a ball is purposely directed to a spiker; however, in the south, it can also mean to be seated: “I reckon y’all better come set here on the bench.” The “set” is an overhead pass used to change the direction of the dig and put the ball in a good position for the spiker. It is usually the team’s second contact. Setting is the tactical centre of Volleyball. A setter must be good enough to keep the big blockers from dominating the net. The setter must feed his or her best hitters while also looking for opponent’s blocking weaknesses (such as a short player on the front line or a slow centre blocker).
- shank: an awful pass that flies up into the side walls or cheap seats (if they exist).
- side line: the lines on the court perpendicular to the net.
- side out: receiving team wins a rally, earning the right to serve.
- spike: The “spike” is when the ball is hit or smashed across the net. It is the most powerful shot in volleyball – and the most effective way to win a rally.
- strong side: when a right-handed hitter is hitting from the left-front position or when a left-handed hitter is hitting from the right-front position.
- tip: placement or redirection of the ball with the fingers, sometimes referred to as a dump; a tip is counted as an attack attempt and, if successful, a kill.
- turning in: the act of an outside blocker turning his/her body into the court so as to ensure the blocked ball is deflected into the court and lands in-bounds.
- weak side: when a right-handed player is hitting from right-front position or when a left-handed player is hitting from the left-front position.
- yellow card: warning for misconduct indicated by display of a yellow card. Any player or coach who receives two yellow cards in a match is disqualified. A single yellow card does not result in loss of point or serve.
If there’s a missing volleyball term, get in touch with us.