A team sport featuring two teams of six players. Each team aims to score points by striking a ball over the net and grounding it on their opponent's side of the court. A common variation of the game, Beach Volleyball, also features at the Olympics.

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The Basics

  • One of the teams begins a 'rally' by serving the ball - which is done by tossing, or releasing it and then hitting it with a hand or arm. The opposing team are then allowed a maximum of three 'touches' to return the ball over the net and play continues. 
  • Any member of the receiving team may touch the ball. A player cannot touch the ball twice consecutively but could have the first and third touch before the ball is returned. If a player violates this rule or otherwise kills the ball then they concede the point. 
  • A traditional match is the best of five sets, with each set won by the first team to reach 25 points, provided they are ahead by a minimum of two points. If the match does go to five sets then the final set is often the first to reach 15 points, rather than 25.


Volleyball has featured at the Summer Olympics since 1964 and medals have been very evenly distributed in the event’s history. The Soviet Union still lead the overall medal table, with 12, whilst Brazil and the United States are just behind on 10 apiece.

Beach Volleyball has also featured at the Games since 1996. The United States lead the medal table with six gold medals, although Brazil has more medals in total, with 13 compared to USA’s 10. The Brazilians also took a gold and silver at their home games in Rio.

The Volleyball World Championship has been held since 1949 with a parallel women’s event introduced three years later. Poland (men) and the United States (women) are the current champions, with the next tournament set to take place in 2018.

Famous Competitors

  • Karch Kiraly – the American is widely considered to be one of the greatest of all time. He was part of the indoor American team which won Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988, before switching to beach volleyball and winning another Olympic gold in 1996. His long list of accolades also includes a gold medal at the 1986 World Championships. He is now the coach of the American Women’s team. 
  • Regla Torres – the Cuban was the recipient of the 'Best Player of the 20th Century' award in 2001, after helping her country win three successive Olympic gold medals between 1992 and 2000, the first coming at the age of just 17. Two further World Championship gold medals contributed towards her induction into the Volleyball Hall of Fame following her retirement.
National Governing Body

Volleyball England


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