Volleyball is a dynamic and engaging sport enjoyed by millions of players and fans worldwide.
As with any sport, understanding the unique terminology and jargon is crucial for both players and enthusiasts to fully appreciate the game.
This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of volleyball terminology, shedding light on the vernacular used by players, coaches, and fans alike.
By delving into the world of spikes, digs, and blocks, we will foster a deeper appreciation for the sport, empowering enthusiasts to better comprehend and discuss the intricacies of each breathtaking play.
From court positions and rules to common phrases used during gameplay, these Volleyball Terms aim to enhance your volleyball experience by equipping you with the necessary knowledge to navigate the sport with confidence and ease.
Table of Contents
Volleyball: Glossary and Terms
- Ace: A serve that results in a point for the serving team, either by landing untouched in the opponent’s court or by being mishandled by the receiving team.
- Antenna: A vertical rod placed at the edges of the net, defining the boundaries for legal plays and serves. The ball must pass inside the antennas when crossing the net.
- Approach: The steps a player takes to prepare for jumping and hitting the ball during an attack or spike.
- Attack: The offensive action of hitting or spiking the ball with the intent of scoring a point against the opposing team.
- Attack line: Also known as the 10-foot line or 3-meter line, this line is parallel to the net and marks the boundary between the front and back row.
- Attacker: A player who attempts to score a point by hitting or spiking the ball over the net and into the opponent’s court.
- Assist: Passing or setting the ball to a teammate who attacks the ball for a kill is knows as Assist. This leads directly to a successful attack, resulting in a point for the team.
- All-Round Player: A player who is skilled in multiple aspects of the game, such as passing, setting, attacking, blocking, and serving.
- Angle: The direction in which a player aims their attack, typically referring to an angled shot that is hit diagonally across the court.
- Alley-oop: A high set that is lofted close to the net, giving the attacker ample time to approach, jump, and hit the ball.
- Back row: The three players positioned near the back of the court, including the libero. These players primarily focus on defense and serve reception.
- Back-row attack: An attack executed by a back-row player who jumps from behind the attack line (3-meter line) to hit the ball.
- Back set: A set made by the setter that sends the ball backward over their head to a hitter positioned behind them.
- Ball-handling error: A violation caused by a player’s improper contact with the ball, such as a double contact, lift, or carry.
- Bump: – A two-armed forearm pass that is used to pass the ball to a teammate, while maintaining control.
- Block: An attempt by any of the front-row players to stop an attacked/spiked ball.
- Block assist: When two or more players on the same team participate in a successful block, each player is credited with a block assist.
- Block solo: A successful block executed by a single player without assistance from teammates.
- Block touch: When a player successfully touches an opponent’s attack during a block attempt, but the ball remains in play.
- Blocking error: A violation or mistake that occurs during a block attempt, such as touching the net, reaching over the net, or a positional fault.
- Bump set: A set executed using the bump technique, typically used when the setter is out of position or unable to perform a traditional overhead set.
- Butterfly: A serving technique where the ball is tossed high in the air and struck with a powerful, top-spinning underhand motion, causing it to dip sharply as it crosses the net.
- Campfire: A colloquial term used when a ball lands on the floor between several players who are unable to decide who should go for the ball, leaving them standing around the spot like a campfire.
- Carry: A ball-handling error that occurs when a player momentarily holds or throws the ball during play instead of cleanly contacting it.
- Center – The line directly under the net that separates the two halves of the court.
- Centerline: The line that runs underneath the net and divides the court into two equal halves, separating the teams.
- Closed block: A technique where blockers jump and press their arms and hands together, sealing the space between them to prevent the ball from passing through.
- Coach: The person responsible for training and directing a volleyball team, creating game strategies, and making decisions during matches.
- Communication: The act of players on a team consistently talking to each other during a game, sharing information about the opponents’ tactics, player positions, and coordinating their own team’s plays.
- Coverage: The act of supporting and protecting an attacking teammate by positioning oneself to react to a blocked ball, ensuring it remains in play.
- Cut shot: An off-speed attacking shot that is deliberately hit at a sharp angle, usually across the court, to deceive the defenders and land the ball in a difficult-to-reach area.
- Dig: A defensive technique used to receive and control a hard-driven attack from the opposing team, typically executed with a forearm pass or a one-handed stab.
- Double block: When two players on the same team jump together to form a larger barrier to stop or redirect an opponent’s attack.
- Double contact: A ball-handling error that occurs when a player contacts the ball twice consecutively or when the ball contacts different parts of the body in one attempt, except during a block or first contact after a hard-driven attack.
- Dump: An unexpected attack executed by the setter, who takes advantage of an open spot in the opponent’s court by “dumping” the ball over the net instead of setting it to a teammate.
- Dive: A defensive move in which a player quickly extends their body toward the floor, often sliding or rolling, to reach a ball that would otherwise be unreachable.
- Deep: A term used to describe the area of the court near the end lines, furthest from the net.
- Deep Set: This type of set to be hit away from the net to confuse or disrupt the timing of the blocker.
- Down ball: An attack in which the hitter does not jump and uses a less powerful swing, usually due to a poor set or a strategic decision.
- Down referee: The official who stands on the ground at the opposite end of the court from the first referee, responsible for monitoring the receiving team’s positioning, player rotation, and other duties.
- End line: The boundary line at the back of the court, running parallel to the net. Serves must land inside the court, between the end lines and sidelines, to be considered inbounds.
- Error: A mistake made by a player that results in a point for the opposing team, such as a missed serve, a ball-handling error, or a hitting error.
- Extension: The act of fully stretching one’s arms and body during a hit or block to maximize reach and effectiveness.
- Extra ball: An additional ball that is kept near the court during play, allowing players to quickly start a new rally after a dead ball situation.
- Early call: A term used when a player communicates their intention to play the ball before it arrives, ensuring that teammates are aware and avoiding confusion on the court.
- Elimination: A type of drill or game played in practice, where players are eliminated from the game for making errors or not meeting certain performance criteria, such as missing serves or failing to execute a proper dig.
- Float serve: A type of serve that has little to no spin, causing it to move unpredictably in the air and making it difficult for the receiving team to accurately predict its trajectory.
- Forearm pass: Also known as bump or pass, this is a technique used to receive the ball by joining the forearms and striking the ball with the inner sides of both arms. It is primarily used for serve reception and defense.
- Front row: The three players positioned near the front of the court, closest to the net. These players typically focus on attacking and blocking.
- Free ball: A ball that is easily returned to the opponent’s court without much speed or power, often as a result of a poor pass or dig. The receiving team has an advantage in this situation, as they can easily set up an attack.
- Foot fault: A violation that occurs when the server steps on or over the end line before or during the act of serving, resulting in a point for the receiving team.
- Four-two offense: An offensive system that utilizes four hitters and two setters, usually with the setters positioned in the back row.
- Friendly fire: A colloquial term referring to a situation in which a player unintentionally contacts the ball in a way that disrupts their own team’s play, often leading to a lost point.
- Game point: The situation in which a team needs only one more point to win a set or match.
- Groundstroke: A hit that is executed from a standing position, with the player’s feet on the ground, instead of jumping and hitting the ball in the air.
- Grubber: A colloquial term for a low, fast serve that barely clears the net and lands near the opponent’s front court, making it difficult to receive.
- Guardian: A defensive player who is responsible for covering the hitter in case their attack is blocked by the opposing team, allowing the ball to remain in play.
- Gap: The open space between blockers, which attackers often target to exploit the defense and score a point.
- Go-ball: A quick and flat set to the outside hitter, usually executed when the setter is close to the net and aiming to catch the opposing blockers off-guard.
- Golden set: A tie-breaking set played when two teams are tied in points during a tournament. The winner of this set advances in the competition.
- Goose neck: A term referring to the shape of a player’s wrist and hand when preparing to execute a spike, resembling the curved neck of a goose.
- Hit: The act of striking the ball with force to send it over the net and into the opponent’s court, with the intent of scoring a point. Also known as a spike or attack.
- Hitter: A player who specializes in attacking the ball by hitting or spiking it over the net. Common positions for hitters include outside hitter, middle blocker, and opposite.
- High ball: A type of set that is delivered high and slow to the outside hitter, giving them time to approach, jump, and hit the ball.
- Held ball: A ball-handling error that occurs when a player catches, lifts, or holds the ball during play instead of cleanly contacting it.
- House: A colloquial term for the area on the court directly in front of the setter, which is often targeted by servers aiming to disrupt the setter’s ability to execute a clean set.
- Hitting error: A mistake made by a hitter, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net, resulting in a point for the opposing team.
- Hitting percentage: A statistical measure of a hitter’s offensive performance, calculated by subtracting the number of hitting errors from the number of kills and dividing the result by the total number of attempts.
- Inbounds: The area within the court’s boundaries, including the end lines and sidelines. A ball is considered inbounds if any part of it touches the lines.
- Intentional fault: A strategic move in which a player deliberately commits a violation, such as a foot fault or a net touch, to disrupt the flow of the game or gain an advantage.
- Interference: An action by a player that impedes the movement or vision of an opponent during play, which can result in a penalty or loss of point.
- In-system: A term used to describe when a team is successfully executing their offensive and defensive plays as planned, with players in their proper positions and performing their designated roles.
- Iso play: Short for isolation play, this is a strategy in which the setter sets the ball to a specific hitter in order to create a one-on-one situation against a single blocker, increasing the likelihood of scoring a point.
- Joust: A situation that occurs when two opposing players simultaneously contact the ball above the net, each attempting to push it into the other’s court. The outcome of a joust depends on the strength, timing, and positioning of the players involved.
- Jump serve: A powerful serve executed by tossing the ball high into the air, jumping, and striking the ball at the peak of the jump. This type of serve is difficult to receive due to its speed and downward trajectory.
- Jump set: A technique used by setters who jump and set the ball in mid-air, often to deceive the opposing blockers and create a more dynamic attack.
- Jump float serve: A variation of the jump serve in which the player jumps and serves the ball with little to no spin, causing it to float and move unpredictably in the air, making it difficult for the receiving team to handle.
- Kill: A successful attack that results in a point for the attacking team, either by landing the ball in the opponent’s court or causing a receiving error.
- Key: A blocking term referring to the central blocker’s position in relation to the other blockers, ensuring proper alignment to cover the hitter’s attacking angles.
- Kink: A term used to describe a sudden change in the direction of the ball, often due to an unexpected or unorthodox contact, making it difficult for the receiving team to predict its trajectory.
- Kneepads: Protective gear worn by players to cushion their knees from impact during dives and falls on the court.
- Libero: A specialized defensive player who wears a contrasting jersey and is allowed to replace any back-row player without counting as a substitution. The libero is restricted from attacking, blocking, and serving.
- Line shot: An attack directed along the sideline, aiming to land the ball near the boundary line to catch the defense off-guard.
- Line judge: An official responsible for determining whether the ball is in or out of bounds along the sidelines and end lines. They also signal touches, antenna violations, and foot faults.
- Lineup: The starting rotation of players on the court for a team, which determines the initial order of service and positioning.
- Long ball: A ball that is hit or served beyond the end line, resulting in an out-of-bounds call and a point for the opposing team.
- Lift: A ball-handling error that occurs when a player scoops or holds the ball in an extended upward motion, rather than cleanly contacting it. Lifts are often called as violations.
- Middle blocker: A front-row player who specializes in blocking and attacking near the center of the net. Middle blockers are usually taller and faster to react, as they are responsible for blocking multiple attack angles.
- Mintonette: The original name for the sport of volleyball, coined by its inventor, William G. Morgan, in 1895. The name was later changed to volleyball to better describe the nature of the game.
- Match point: The situation in which a team needs only one more point to win the match. A match is typically won by the best of three or five sets.
- Mis-hit: An unintentional contact with the ball that results in an unpredictable or unfavorable trajectory, often leading to a lost point or a weak attack.
- Middle set: A set directed to the middle blocker, who attacks the ball close to the setter and often uses a quick, low-trajectory set to exploit gaps in the opposing team’s block.
- Motion offense: A dynamic offensive strategy in which players continuously change their positions and attacking patterns to confuse the opposing team’s blockers and create scoring opportunities.
- Mismatch: A situation in which a hitter faces a significantly smaller or less skilled blocker, increasing the likelihood of a successful attack.
- Man-up: A term used to describe a situation where one team has a numerical advantage in attackers versus blockers, usually as a result of a strategic play or a player being out of position.
- Net: The central dividing barrier between the two teams on the court, made of mesh and supported by two vertical poles with antennas attached. The net’s height varies depending on the level of play and gender of the players.
- Net violation: A rule infraction that occurs when a player touches the net with any part of their body during play, resulting in a point for the opposing team.
- Net antenna: A flexible rod attached to each side of the net, extending vertically above the net and marking the boundary for legal ball crossing. The ball must pass between the antennas to be considered a legal hit.
- Net height: The vertical distance from the ground to the top of the net, which varies based on the level of play and gender of the players. In standard indoor volleyball, the net height is 2.43 meters (7 feet 11 5/8 inches) for men and 2.24 meters (7 feet 4 1/8 inches) for women.
- Non-setter: Any player on the court who is not designated as the team’s primary setter. Non-setters are usually responsible for attacking, blocking, or playing defense, depending on their position.
- No-touch: A term used by players to indicate that they did not touch the ball as it passes out of bounds, which can help the referee determine whether a point should be awarded.
- Off-speed shot: A strategic attacking move in which the hitter deliberately reduces the speed and power of their hit to deceive the defense and disrupt their timing, making it difficult to predict and defend against.
- Off the block: A term used to describe a successful attack that touches one or more blockers’ hands before going out of bounds, resulting in a point for the attacking team.
- Outside hitter: A front-row player who specializes in attacking from the left side of the court (when facing the net). Outside hitters are often the primary attackers on a team and must be versatile in both offensive and defensive skills.
- Overhand pass: A ball-handling technique in which a player contacts the ball with both hands above their head, using their fingertips to direct the ball to a teammate. This technique is commonly used by setters to set the ball for an attack.
- Overlap: A violation that occurs when players are not positioned correctly within their designated rotational zones at the moment of service. An overlap results in a point for the opposing team.
- Overpass: A pass that unintentionally goes over the net and into the opponent’s court, typically as a result of a poorly executed reception or dig. Overpasses often give the opposing team an advantage, as they can quickly set up an attack.
- Pass: The act of receiving and directing the ball to a teammate using a forearm or overhand technique. The first contact after a serve is typically a pass, also known as a reception or dig.
- Pancake: A defensive technique in which a player slides their hand flat on the floor just before the ball touches the ground, allowing the ball to bounce off the back of their hand and remain in play.
- Point: The unit of scoring in volleyball, awarded when the opposing team commits an error, such as hitting the ball out of bounds, failing to return the ball over the net, or committing a violation.
- Power tip: An attacking move in which the hitter uses their fingertips to forcefully push the ball over the net and into an open area of the opponent’s court, rather than spiking it with an open hand.
- Perimeter defense: A defensive system in which players are positioned near the boundary lines of the court to cover deep attacks and tips, leaving the middle of the court open.
- Pipe: A back-row attack that occurs from the middle of the court, usually executed by the opposite hitter or a back-row outside hitter.
- Pursuit: A rule that allows players to chase and retrieve a ball that has crossed the plane of the net outside the antennas, as long as they do not cross the opponent’s court or interfere with their play.
- Push: A strategic attacking move in which the player extends their arm and uses their open hand to direct the ball to a specific area of the opponent’s court, usually aiming for gaps in the defense.
- Quick set: A low, fast set designed to minimize the time between the setter’s contact with the ball and the hitter’s attack. Quick sets are often used to exploit gaps in the opposing team’s block and catch the defense off-guard.
- Quick attack: An offensive play that involves a hitter approaching the net at a fast pace, timing their jump to hit a quick set immediately after the setter’s contact. This strategy aims to create one-on-one situations with the blockers, increasing the chances of a successful attack.
- Quick hit: Another term for a quick attack, emphasizing the speed and timing of the hitter’s approach and contact with the ball.
- Quick transition: The act of rapidly switching from defense to offense, or vice versa, in response to the flow of the game. Teams that excel in quick transitions can catch their opponents off-guard and create scoring opportunities.
- Reception: The act of receiving the ball from the opponent’s serve, also known as a pass. A good reception is crucial for setting up an effective offensive play.
- Rotation- Occurs after a side out and the receiving team earns the serve. Players rotate clockwise.
- Rally- When the teams are hitting the ball back and forth across the net continuously.
- Red card: A disciplinary card issued by the referee to a player or coach for a severe violation or misconduct. A red card typically results in the immediate expulsion of the individual from the match and may carry additional penalties.
- Roll shot: A strategic attacking move in which the hitter contacts the ball with a rolling motion of the hand and wrist, causing the ball to arc over the block and land in a vacant area of the court. Roll shots are used to deceive the defense and exploit gaps in their coverage.
- Roof: A slang term for a successful block that deflects the ball straight down to the floor on the attacker’s side of the court, making it impossible for the attacking team to continue the play.
- Read defense: A defensive system in which players observe the opponent’s offensive setup and movement before reacting and positioning themselves to defend against the attack.
- Serve: The act of putting the ball into play by striking it from behind the end line, either with an overhand or underhand technique. The serve initiates each rally and can be a powerful offensive weapon.
- Setter: A specialized player responsible for setting up offensive plays by distributing the ball to the hitters. Setters require excellent ball-handling skills, strategic thinking, and strong communication with their teammates.
- Spike: A powerful and fast downward attack, executed by jumping and striking the ball with an open hand, aimed at landing the ball in the opponent’s court or off their block.
- Set- The ball is contacted with the pads of the fingers and pushed upwards to “set” up a teammate.
- Side Out- Occurs when the serving team commits a fault. Service goes to the opponent as well as a point.
- Substitution: The act of replacing one player with another during a match. Each team is allowed a limited number of substitutions per set, and certain positional restrictions apply.
- Serve receive: The act of receiving the ball from the opponent’s serve, also known as a pass or reception.
- Short set: A low and fast set directed to the middle or outside hitter, designed to exploit gaps in the opposing team’s block.
- Slide: An attacking move in which the middle blocker or opposite hitter approaches the net from behind the setter, taking a wide and fast lateral step before jumping and hitting a set ball.
- Setter dump: A surprise attack executed by the setter, who feigns setting the ball to a hitter but instead sends it directly into the opponent’s court.
- Six-pack: A slang term for when a player is struck in the face or head by a spiked ball, usually as a result of being unprepared or misjudging the trajectory.
- Scoring – A point is given every time someone serves regardless of who wins the rally. Girls play to 25 points and boys play to 25 points. You must win by 2 points or more.
- Spike– Generally hit after a ball is set. A very hard downward hit that is extremely difficult to return.
- Sequence of the ball – When the ball comes over the net this is the sequence that you want to try to use to get the ball back over the net. Bump, Set, and Spike
- Tandem: An offensive play in which two attackers approach the net simultaneously, with one attacker following closely behind the other. The first attacker serves as a decoy, while the second attacker hits the ball, aiming to confuse the defense and create scoring opportunities.
- Tip: A soft offensive shot executed by contacting the ball with the fingertips and gently pushing it over the net, typically aimed at exploiting gaps in the defense or catching the blockers off-guard.
- Triple block: A defensive formation in which three front-row players jump together to block an attack, maximizing the coverage of the net and reducing the attacker’s options.
- Tool: An attacking strategy in which the hitter deliberately aims the ball at the opposing team’s block, attempting to deflect it out of bounds and win a point for their team.
- Timeout: A break in play, requested by a coach or team captain, to allow the team to regroup, discuss strategy, or rest. Each team is typically allowed two timeouts per set.
- Touch: A term used to describe a situation in which the ball makes contact with a player or their equipment, often used to clarify whether a point should be awarded or not.
- Transition: The process of switching from offense to defense or vice versa, as the ball changes possession between the two teams. Effective transitions require good communication, quick movement, and anticipation of the opponent’s actions.
- Underhand serve : A type of serve in which the player contacts the ball below waist level, using a closed fist or open hand, and swings their arm forward to send the ball over the net. This serve is considered less powerful and easier to receive than overhand serves but can be used effectively with proper placement and strategy.
- Uprights: The vertical poles that support the net and divide the court into two equal halves. These poles are typically padded to prevent injury and have adjustable mechanisms for setting the net at the correct height for different levels of play.
- Unforced error: A mistake made by a player that is not the result of an opponent’s skillful play, such as hitting the ball out of bounds, serving into the net, or committing a violation. Unforced errors often have a significant impact on the outcome of a match.
- Volley: The act of striking the ball with an open hand, typically to set or pass the ball to a teammate. Unlike a serve, a volley occurs during a rally and does not involve the ball touching the ground before contact.
- Violation: A rule infraction committed by a player or team, resulting in a point for the opposing team. Common violations include net touches, double contacts, lifts, and rotational errors.
- Vertical jump: The act of jumping straight up into the air, typically to attack or block the ball. A player’s vertical jump is an essential skill in volleyball, as it determines their ability to reach high above the net and compete against opposing hitters and blockers.
- Volleyball court: The playing area for a volleyball match, typically measuring 18 meters long by 9 meters wide and divided into two equal halves by a net. The court is marked with boundary lines, attack lines, and service zones to define specific areas of play.
Here is a list of volleyball terms starting with the letter ‘W’:
- Wipe: An attacking strategy similar to a tool, in which the hitter deliberately aims the ball at the opposing team’s block, attempting to deflect it out of bounds and win a point for their team.
- Weak side: The right side of the court (when facing the net) for a right-handed hitter, or the left side for a left-handed hitter. It is called the weak side because hitters usually have less power and accuracy when attacking from this side.
- Wing spiker: Another term for an outside hitter, who specializes in attacking from the left side of the court (when facing the net) and is often the primary attacker on the team.
- Wall: A slang term for an impenetrable block, usually a double or triple block, that completely denies the attacker’s shot and forces the ball to land on their side of the court.
- ‘X’ Play: The ‘X’ play is an offensive strategy in volleyball that involves two hitters crossing paths in the front row before attacking the ball. The goal of this play is to confuse the opposing blockers and create openings for a successful attack.
- Yellow card: A disciplinary card issued by the referee to a player or coach for a minor violation or misconduct, such as delay of game or inappropriate behavior. A yellow card serves as a warning, and multiple yellow cards can lead to more severe penalties, such as a red card or loss of points.
- Zone: A specific area of the volleyball court, often numbered and used to designate target areas for serves, attacks, and defensive positioning. Zones can help players communicate more effectively and execute strategic plays.
- Zero tempo: A type of quick set in which the setter delivers the ball to the hitter with almost no time between their contact and the hitter’s attack. The aim is to catch the opposing blockers off-guard and create scoring opportunities.
In conclusion, this comprehensive Volleyball Glossary and Terms guide covers a wide range of terms and concepts related to the sport, from basic rules and positions to more advanced offensive and defensive strategies.
By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can enhance your understanding of the game and improve your ability to communicate effectively with teammates and coaches.
While this guide includes many common terms, it’s important to remember that volleyball terminology may vary between regions and levels of play, so there may be colloquial or local terms not covered here.
As you continue to develop your skills and knowledge of volleyball, you’ll find these terms to be an invaluable resource that will help you navigate the dynamic and exciting world of this popular sport.