The Weirdest Rules in Volleyball: What You Didn’t Know


Every sport has its fair share of strange rules. Did you know that in soccer, goalkeepers can only hold onto the ball for six seconds? And, in American football, if a team does not send out their captains on time for the pregame coin toss, they automatically lose the toss?

Volleyball is no exception. Every now and then, something happens in a game that makes you stop and think:

What just happened? And why did (or didn’t) the referee stop the play?

volleyball weirdest rules

More often than not, there is an explanation for these moments. 

Let’s go over some of the strangest rules in volleyball!

You’re Not Allowed to Block a Serve

Unfortunately, we’re starting off by eliminating what could be the easiest thing to do with a soft serve: jumping and sending it right back down. 

not allowed to block when serve

The FIVB rule is clear and to the point: “To block an opponent’s service is forbidden.” Typically it’s pretty tough to block a serve anyway, given that it either comes over the net very fast or well out of reach.

You Cannot Hit the Antennae

This one may seem obvious, but rules for antennae are not as straightforward as you might think. If the ball hits the antenna for any reason, it’s ruled out and the opposing team is awarded a point. But what happens if you hit the antenna?

Even if it’s by accident, you’re out of luck. According to the FIVB rules, contacting the antenna for any reason “in the action of playing the ball” is a fault, and gives a point to the other team.

Any player that is near the ball when it’s contacted, or is trying to contact it (e.g. jumping up for a block) is considered to be “in the action of playing the ball.”  

Players are allowed to contact anything outside the antennae, including the net, so long as they do not interfere with the play. 

So, we know that the antenna is out of bounds. But what happens if the ball goes over the net outside of the antenna itself?

You Can Play the Ball on Your Opponent’s Side of the Net

While this might seem bizarre, it actually happens more often than you think. As long as the ball crosses the vertical plane of the net outside the antennae, it is not yet out of bounds. 

So, for example, if your teammate shanks a pass and sends it over the referee’s head, you are still allowed to chase it down and send it back onto your side for your final contact. 

The caveat is that when you play the ball, it also has to come back over the net outside the antenna. 

Your Teammates Are Not Allowed to Lift You Up to Play a Ball

Despite how cool it might seem to try, you are unfortunately not allowed to use your teammates to help you play the ball. The FIVB rules state that an “assisted hit”, where a player “takes support from a teammate” to play the ball. 

lift up rules

So, I’m sorry to say, you cannot get one of your teammates to lift you up Titanic-style to hit a ball. 

This rule also prohibits players from using any of the structures around the court–for example, the posts–to help to play the ball either. 

Back Row Players Can Hit from the Front Row

This one is a bit technical. It seems impossible that there is any way a back row player could legally hit the ball the way front row attackers do–although, if you’re blessed with an incredible vertical jump, sometimes a back row attack is nearly indistinguishable from a front row attack. 

The FIVB rules state that a back row player can hit the ball in front of the attack line, as long as part of the ball is below the height of the net.

So, for all you defensive specialists who only get subbed into the back row: tell your setter to give you the ball and aim for a tool off the block!

Volleyball is an odd game, and one that takes a while to get the hang of. But it’s nice to know that even after you think you’ve learned everything about this sport, that it can still find ways to surprise you! 

ABOUT Harvey Meale

As a former international level volleyball player, I now spend my days working out and writing for Volleyball Vault. I look for ways to bring my wealth of experience and knowledge to create unique and insightful perspectives in my content.