Middle school volleyball follows a few different rules in comparison to high school, college, and professional volleyball. This makes it the most different out of all volleyball formats, and people often wonder how long are middle school volleyball games.
Middle school volleyball matches are played up to three sets. The winner of two out of three sets is the winner of the entire match. The first two sets are played up to 25 points, and the third set is played up to 15 points.
This makes middle school volleyball games significantly shorter than high school games, and with good reason. The length of the match isn’t the only rule different from high school and college volleyball.
Keep reading to find a detailed explanation of middle school volleyball set rules, factors that affect game duration, other rule variations, and a few tips for the fans!
Official Game Duration Regulations
Middle school volleyball games are regulated by athletic bodies, usually on state-level. All of them follow the same rules when it comes to duration – the game is played for three sets, and the winner is the team winning two sets.
One of the most common questions we get is in middle school volleyball, how many points does a team have to win to win a set?
To win a set, a team needs to win 25 points with a 2-point lead. So, a 25-23 result or better would win a set! If the game is particularly tight, it’ll go on until one team achieves a 2-point lead (for example, 28-26).
Now, there’s a match-category difference between the point-cap rules. Most middle school leagues don’t have a point cap! If the game has to go to 35-33 for a team to win a set, they’ll let it get that far.
However, friendly games will often include a cap because there’s no point in tiring the children out in a non-competitive game. A point cap will prevent the game from lasting too long, but most competitive games don’t use a point cap in order to promote competition.
That’s how to win a set, but in order to win a game, a team has to win two sets.
If a team wins the first and the second set, they win the game! However, if the result is 1-1 after the first two sets, the game goes on to the third set, also known as the match-deciding set.
The third set is only played up to 15 points, not 25 points, with a 2-point gap. So, a team can win it with a result of 15-13 or 16-14, for example. After winning the third set, they won the game!
Because they’re only played up to three sets, middle school volleyball games usually last less than an hour. Rallies rarely last long in middle school because kids aren’t as good as they’ll be in a few years, so the fight to win a single point will rarely last more than 10 to 15 seconds.
Factors Influencing Game Duration
If the teams are closely matched, the match can get really drawn out. Although it doesn’t happen often because children don’t have the mental composure of adult athletes, sometimes sets can get really tight and the game can last for more than an hour.
I’ve personally played in matches and witnessed 13-year olds fighting for points like crazy, with the scoreboard showing results around 36-36 and even more.
Volleyball is a sport that can flip on a dime and a team that was confidently winning the set can lose it seemingly out of nowhere (it’s happened to me numerous times).
If there’s a huge gap in quality between the teams, the match likely won’t last long and the better team will end the game quickly.
We also have to talk about timeouts. Each team gets one timeout per set, and when one team calls for a timeout, both teams get to go to the bench to talk to the coach and get refreshments. However, the team that didn’t use the timeout still have their timeout.
Timeouts last between 30 and 90 seconds – this really depends on the referee. Some referees are extremely strict, others are lenient because, after all, middle schoolers are children and they could use a longer break. Referees usually won’t allow long timeouts because it destroys the rhythm of the match!
The most common reasons for a game taking longer than it should are:
- technical issues
- crowd trouble
Injuries are the worst nightmare of every parent. You don’t want your child to get injured, and since volleyball is a relatively safe sport, that most likely won’t happen to them.
However, you can land badly from a jump and sprain an ankle or a finger or you can get hit in the face with the ball and get a nosebleed (it’s not that common and it’s far less dangerous than it sounds).
If this happens, the coaches and the referees will often insist on pausing the game to see if the player is fit to continue, and this can delay the game for a few minutes. If something terrible happens (which is extremely rare), the game can be canceled altogether.
Technical issues with the court, the net, or the scoreboard can delay a game until they’re fixed.
Finally, we have crowd trouble. People sometimes have trouble finding the school gym, especially if they’re not from the area, and this can delay the game by anything from a few minutes to half an hour.
The most important thing to remember, and it’s something that a lot of people overlook, is that middle-schoolers don’t have the stamina and focus of adults, so the game is limited to three sets on purpose.
If the game was to go on for five sets, it would lose dynamic, become dull to watch, and the performances of the players would noticeably worsen.
Common Scenarios and Variations
The shortest possible game is a game ending after 2 sets – this often happens when one team is much better than the other. These games don’t last longer than 40 minutes, and even that is a stretch.
If the game goes to three sets, the game can last up to an hour, but rarely longer than that.
The only instance when middle school games last more than an hour is when the teams are very evenly matched, and every rally is a vigorous fight for that single point.
In these instances, a single rally can take half a minute, and when you account for the timeouts and minor breaks in the game, that can add up to more than an hour.
Honestly, these matches are a joy to watch, and some people really underestimate just how skilled middle-schoolers can be, so they’re often left shocked.
Sets can be very close, with one team barely establishing a two-point lead and with the points reaching 30 and above.
Long games often look similar to this:
Set 1: Team A 29-27 Team B
Set 2: Team A 30-32 Team B
Set 3: Team A 16-18 Team B
On average, however, middle-school volleyball matches last between 30 minutes to an hour.
Comparison with High School and Professional Volleyball Games
High school volleyball games are played up to 5 sets, just like professional volleyball, and the winner is the team winning three sets. Because of this, they’re normally longer than middle school games.
High school and professional volleyball games often see all five sets played, and that can last up to two hours. The point systems are identical – 25 points to win a set, 15 points to win the match-deciding set, all with a 2-point difference.
Rallies are usually much longer in high school and professional games. High schoolers and professional athletes are obviously much better at volleyball than middle schoolers, so it’s much more difficult to win a point.
Games can be delayed because of technical issues or issues with the crowd, although this rarely happens, but they’re rarely paused or canceled because of an injured player.
A five-set high school or professional game can last between an hour and, in extreme circumstances, more than two hours.
Practical Tips for Attendees
First of all, get to the game early to get good seats. Some schools have amazing crowds and it’s possible that you’ll have to stand throughout the entire game if you get in too late.
Secondly, remember to bring drinks because you don’t want to miss a moment of the game. If you’re taking props with you, make sure that the host school allows them (sometimes they don’t).
Middle school games have breaks between the sets – if you have to use the toilet, wait for those breaks.
Most importantly, remember to have fun. After all, it’s your kid playing their heart out and you’re supposed to be their number one fan!
I only once witnessed a game get noticeably prolonged because of something we couldn’t control. It was actually a high school game, not a middle school game, and one of the attendees who came to support their grandson suffered a heart attack during the second set.
The game was immediately stopped while first aid was administered and while we waited for the EMTs to arrive. He was taken to a hospital and thankfully survived, but the entire ordeal put a half-hour dent into the game.
The referee asked us if we wanted to continue and we agreed to, but only if we restart the second set (it was 8-10 at the time of the incident, so it wasn’t much of a delay result-wise) and we get 10 minutes to warm up again because we cooled down.
We lost the game, which in the end lasted for almost three hours, not because of the heart attack but because we weren’t good enough. That scenario, however, is a reminder that you never really know what’s going to happen.
I hope this article answers all the questions you had and that you now understand how long games take, why they sometimes take longer, and how can the game be affected by outside forces.
To repeat myself one final time, middle school games are played up to three sets and they usually last between half an hour, up to an hour. The game can get delayed because of technical troubles and the referee can take a long pause because of injury, but this happens very rarely.
To make the game more enjoyable for yourself, get in early and find good seats, and remember to cheer your heart out!
If you want to check out the rules of some volleyball and athletic associations, take a look here: