General Volleyball Terms

Pass

The first contact after a serve is considered a “pass”. The player who passes the ball is called the “passer”. Usually a pass is made with a player’s forearms but can also be made overhead with two open hands.

Set

The second contact (after a pass or dig) is considered a “set”. The player who sets is called the “setter”. Usually a set is made with two hands overhead. A bump set is made with a player’s forearms. A player can also set the ball over the net on the first, second or third contact with the same motion.

Hit/attack/spike

Typically the third contact when a player uses one open hand and swings at the ball to send it over the net is called a “hit/attack/spike”. The player who hits the ball is called the “hitter/attacker/spiker”. These three terms are used interchangeable. The whole hand is loosely cupped in the shape of the ball and the entire hand (palm and fingers) should contact the ball. In some situations a player may choose to attack on the second contact instead of the third.

Serve

The first contact that starts every rally is called a “serve”. The player who serves is called the “server”. Usually a server uses one, open hand to swing overhead and send the ball over the net from behind the end line. Less experienced players may serve underhand with one closed fist. Sometimes younger age groups are allowed to serve from within the court so be sure to check local league rules. There are 3 main types of serves that are defined below.

Dig

The first contact made after an attacker from the other team sends the ball over to the defensive team is said to be a “dig”. Digs can be made with the forearms, open or closed hands or any other part of the body. The first contact made after an attacker from the other team sends the ball over to the defensive team is said to be a “dig”. Digs can be made with the forearms, open or closed hands or any other part of the body.

Block

This move/contact is made by a player at the net to prevent the ball from coming over when an opposing player is sending the ball over the net. This move is made with two extended arms with open hands above their head. This contact does not count as one of the three contacts a team is allowed to make. The same player that blocks the ball may contact the ball again as the first of their team’s three contacts. When two players block at the same time it is called a “double block”. When three players block at the same time it is called a “triple block”.

Stuff Block

When a defensive team stops the ball from crossing the net as an opposing player tries to send it over. The ball then falls back to the floor in side the court on the side of the team that was attempting to hit it over.

Tool

The ball is deflected by a blocker but falls to the floor either outside the court on either side or onto the court on the same side as the blocker. This earns a point for the attacker’s team.

Joust

When players from opposing teams play the ball simultaneously, it is called a “joust”.

Cover

The attack is blocked back onto the attacker’s side but a member of the same team digs the ball and the rally continues. A textbook rally would follow this pattern of contacts: Serve, pass, set, hit, dig, set, hit, dig, etc. with the possibility of having a stuff block, covered block or deflection as well.

Platform

Refers to the forearms when they are put together by holding both hands together to create one larger surface for the ball to bounce off of.

Sprawl/Dive

When a player lands on the floor with their body in an attempt to save the ball with their arm or arms before it hits the floor it is called a “sprawl” or “dive”. This is considered an emergency move.

Pancake

When a player lands on the floor with their body in an attempt to save the ball with one open hand on the floor to allow the ball to bounce off of it is called a “pancake”. This is considered an emergency move.

Free Ball

When a team sends the ball over the net to their opponents with their forearms they are said to be giving a “free ball”. Considered an easier play for the defensive team.

Down Ball

When a player who is standing on the floor and swinging with an open hand to hit the ball over the net, it is usually called a “down ball”. Traditionally a “down ball” means the blockers at the net should not jump and instead stay down on the floor when an opposing player is sending the ball over the net.

Roll Shot

When a player slows down the speed of their arm swing while attacking to send the ball shorter in the court and in front of the defenders, it is called a “roll shot”. The arm still makes the same motion as a full speed attack and the whole hand makes contact with the ball.

Dump

When a setter sends the ball over the net on their team’s second contact instead of setting a player on their own team to hit it over the net it is called a “dump” or “setter attack”. A setter can do so tipping or hitting the ball over with one open hand or setting it over with two open hands. They may do so while standing on the floor or jumping in the air.

Tip

When a player uses one open hand to send the ball over the net it is called a “tip”. The player uses the pads of their fingers to contact the ball and control the direction it is sent. Tips are usually sent short in the court but can also be sent deep. A tip is in contrast to swinging the arm to hit the ball over the net.

Float Serve

A serve in which the ball does not spin is considered a “float serve”. This serve often changes direction and floats in unexpected trajectories.

Jump Serve

A serve in which the server approaches and jumps to hit the ball while in the air to send the ball over the net with spin with the top of the ball rotating down towards the floor from the passers perspective. This serve is also referred to as a “Spike serve”.

Float Serve Serve

A serve in which the server approaches and jumps to hit the ball while in the air to send the ball over the net with no spin is called a “jump float serve”.

Ace

A serve that is un-returnable in which it either hits the floor or a controlled second contact cannot be made off of the pass. This type of pass is often called a “shank”. An ace results in a point for the serving team.

Under-Hand Serve

A serve that is sent over by keeping the serving arm down and hitting the stationary ball in the opposite hand with a fist. This serve is often taught to beginner players.

Over Pass

The pass by the team receiving the serve that is sent immediately back over the net to the serving team on accident is called an “overpass”.

Rally

While the ball is in play it is said to be a “rally”.

Side-out

When a team is on serve receive and wins the rally, it is called a “side-out”.

Approach

The footwork an attacker uses to time the set, gain momentum and jump before contacting the ball to hit it over the net is called an “approach”.

Arm Swing

The movement a hitter or server’s arm makes to generate force before contacting the ball.

Hitting Error

When a player hits the ball either into the net or the antenna, or outside of the court or antenna it is called an “attack/hitting error”.

Kill

An attack that is un-returnable in which it either hits the floor or a controlled second contact cannot be made off of the dig. This type of dig is often called a “shank”. A kill results in a point for the attacking team.

Sideline

The two lines that run the length of the court are called “sidelines”. They are a total of 60 feet long and line up with the antennas that designate the side boundaries of the court. A server must serve from between these lines.

End Line

The two lines that run the width of the court are called “end lines”. They are each 30 ft long and designate the end boundary of the court. At most levels, a server must contact the ball with out stepping on this line to serve.

Center Line

The line that runs the width of the court under the net is called the “center line”. This line is also 30 ft long and designates the floor boundary between the two teams. Be sure to inquire locally regarding this line as rules regarding crossing or stepping on this line can vary.

10 ft (3m) line

The line that runs the width of the court 10 ft from the net is called the “10 ft line”. This line designates the boundary for jumping to attack for back-row players as well as the boundary for Liberos setting overhead to an attacker.

Antenna/pin

The thin, red and white striped poles that is attached to both sides of the net at the sidelines are called the “antennas”. These designate a vertical boundary of play that extends up to the ceiling of the gym. The ball is considered out if it touches the antenna or the net between the antenna and the pole as well as if the ball travels across the net over or outside of the antenna.

Poles

The metal structures used to hold and tighten the net are called “poles”. There are many different companies that manufacture net systems and different types of poles. There should always be a pad around the poles for players’ safety. In most leagues, it is legal for players to run past a pole to play a ball but the ball must travel back to their side outside of the antenna and then sub sequentially played to the opposing team between the antennas.

Tight

When the ball is sent close to the net (approximately 0-2 feet) it is said to be “tight”.

Off

When the ball is sent away from the net (more than 5 feet or so), it is said to be “off”.

Inside

When the ball is sent more than 5 feet inside of the sidelines, it is said to be “inside”.

Outside

When the ball is sent outside of the sidelines, it is said to be “outside”.

Short

When the ball is sent over the net in front of a player, it is said to be “short”.

Deep

When the ball is sent over the net behind a player, it is said to be “deep”.

Line

When the ball travels down the same sideline from one team to the other it is said to be hit down the “line”. This term can also be used to designate the defender that is near the same line the attacker is closest to. They are said to be the “line defender”.

Crosscourt/Angle

When the ball travels from one sideline to the other from one team to the opposing team it is said to be hit “crosscourt/angle”. This term can also be used to designate the defender that is near the opposite line the attacker is closest to. They are said to be the “crosscourt/angle defender”.

Let Serve

When the serve hits the net and continues over to the receiving team, it is a live ball and called a “let serve”.

Press/Penetrate

The movement a blocker should make with their hands so that they are over on the opponents side of the net. This creates an angle that the attack will reflect off of and land back on the attacker’s side of the court.

Call the Ball

Communication is key in this team sport. Players should make an early call to indicate they will play it. Common phrases used are “I go” or “mine”. Players should also call names of players and sets during play as well as other useful information like “short”, “deep”, “inside”, etc.

Substitution

When one player is replaced by another during a game, this is called a “substitution”. Depending on the league, the number of substitutions is limited per game. Once a player on the bench crosses in front of the 10 ft line, they have entered the substitution zone and must be subbed in. Players are to wait, one inside the court and one outside the court, in front of the 10 ft line until signaled by the bookkeeper to switch.

Rotation Home

As a team rotates so that each player serves once in the same order as the original line-up, the player’s “rotation home” changes. Each player will sequentially play in all 6 “rotational home” positions. If a player begins the game as right back, there rotational home will be “right-back” until they rotate and then their “rotational home” will then be “middle-back”, then “left-back”, then “left-front”, then “middle-front”, then “right-front”, then “right-back” again and so on and so forth.

Base Defense

The defensive spot on the floor that a player stands at and then possibly moves from depending on who is set on the opposing team is called “base defense”. Coaches determine the “base defense” they want their players to use based on the defensive strategy they want to use. This decision should be based on the opponent’s tendencies and the abilities of the defensive team.

Serve Receive

When a team is being served at, they are said to be on “serve receive”. Players are required to remain in their rotation home before the serve until the server contacts the ball. This requires teams to create serve receive formations to account for this rule and still put players in the best possible place to play the serve and run an offense. Specific details for serve receive formations are described in a subsequent section.

Game/Set

Depending on the league or tournament, a “game” or “set” is to a predetermined amount of points. Games must be won by two points unless a predetermined point cap is in place. Typically games are to 25 points unless teams are tied in number of games won and are breaking the tie in the final game. That tie-breaker game is typically to 15 points.

Match

A match is a predetermined number of games, often best or 3 or 5 games.

Time-Out

A coach, player or referee can call a stoppage in play for a variety of reasons. The stoppage is referred to as a “time-out”. They are often 60 seconds in length unless it is an injury timeout.

Libero Entry

A libero does not enter as a sub does. Instead, the player may enter for any back-row player at any time by crossing into the court through the sideline behind the 10 ft line while the other player exits the court the same way but not necessarily at the exact same time.

Line-up Sheet

the official sheet used by a coach to enter their line-up for each game. Usually there will be a rectangle with 6 boxes to enter the 6 starting players and an additional, detached one for the libero’s number. The roman numerals in each box designate the position in which each player will begin and the order in which they will serve.