Rules of Play

Beach Volleyball Quick-Guide
Generalized rules for doubles volleyball on sand



  • Net 28’ long. Height at center: Women 7’4&1/8” and Men 7’11&5/8.” Antennae required.
  • Court 26’3”x 52’6”square to 37’1” short diagonal. Lines 2” wide are inside the court.
  • Ball: light-colored, approx 26” circumference, 9-10 oz weight, at 2.5 to 3.2 psi

Spirit of the Game:

  • Know the rules and protocols. Behave respectfully to players and officials.
  • Atmosphere of self-empowerment and dedicated partnerships are key elements.
  • Coaching (similar to tennis) reflects this “player-oriented, 2 vs. 2 on-court” philosophy


  • Two Players with no substitutes
  • Note that any player may act as court captain to call TO, or to speak with referees.
  • Uniforms are shorts/tops or bathing suits. Legal numbers are 1 or 2. Cold weather gear as allowed.
  • Coaches observe from player box and address players only during intervals. They may suggest Timeout.

Match Format:
Two Out Of Three sets Match Play: Sets played to 21, 21, and (15). Rally scoring. No cap. Win by two.

o Teams switch sides every 7 points. (switch on 5’s in a deciding game)
Warm-ups total 10 min: 4 min informally, then coin toss, then 5 min formal shared.
o In warm-ups, players may hit or serve from any direction, from either side or end of the net.
At coin toss the winning captain chooses serve/receive or side A/B
o The opponent chooses among the remaining options
o Both teams declare their teams’ player serving order.

During the Set:
Invite teams onto court for handshake
Confirm that receiving team is “ready” and that there are no screens.
o Serving team must comply
o Scorer confirms that correct server will / does serve. There is no “wrong server” call.
Beckon for serve, observe play, whistle end of play. Signal the result by simply awarding the ball.
o Don’t show obvious faults like in/out. Do indicate ball handling errors or close-to-the-line calls.
After 7 points of play, indicate that teams should quickly switch sides.
o There is a “Technical Timeout” after the 21st point of sets 1 and 2.
o Each team may also call one timeout per set.
o Total duration of all timeouts is 60 seconds
Teams are given 15 seconds to move to player areas
Timeouts last 30 seconds (warning whistle at 45)
Teams are given 15 seconds to return to play
The interval between sets is 1 minute
After set 1, the 2nd referee offers the team that lost the first coin-toss to “first choice” for set 2.
o Then the other team makes the remaining choice, and both teams declare their service order.
If there is a deciding 3rd set, the 1st referee will conduct a second coin toss.
o As before, captains choose serve/receive or side A/B and then declare player service orders
o Remember that teams switch after every 5 points in the 3rd set.
o Play to 15; win by two. There is no TTO in the event of a 3rd set.
At the end of the match, both refs and all players shake hands at the ref stand.
Finally, both captains sign the score-sheet to formalize the result.

Playing Actions and Faults:
Position Faults: Players (other than server) must be on court at moment of service.
Service Order: Players alternate terms of service. Wrong server faults are actively prevented by officials.

Screening: Serving team may not impede the receiving teams’ view of the server and the ball.
o The receiving team typically raises a hand to request that the servers change alignment.
o The referee does not beckon for serve until both teams are prepared.

Delay: The routine time between rallies should be 12 seconds.
o Extra time may be allowed after long rallies… 20 seconds suggested maximum
o Teams who fail to meet the 12 second guideline are sanctioned with a (yellow) warning.
o Subsequent delays are sanctioned as (red) penalty points. (multiple penalties allowed)

Blocks: The block contact counts as first team contact.
o Following block contact either player of the blocking team may make the 2nd team contact.
o Block contact can lead to “four hits” calls against the blockers’ team.
o Lines-judges and 2nd Referees should show “touch at block” during play, to assist the 1st referee
o “Joust” is legal despite the ball coming briefly to rest. Any player may make next play as 1st contact.

Tips: “Open hand” tipping is illegal. (signal “illegal attack”)
o To tip legally, the fingers must be “rigid and together” or knuckles must be used.

Hand setting: Setting is judged more strictly than indoors.
o The hands should act together smoothly, or a “double-hit” may be called.
o “Spin” is an indicator, but not a fault. You must observe the contact itself to make a determination.
o Sets that visibly pause, or in which the ball is re-directed are “held ball” faults.
o “Setting over”: Hand-set attacks across the net are legal only if the setter is clearly facing directly toward, or back-setting squarely toward, the target. Faults are whistled as “illegal attacks.”
o If a set toward a team-mate is blown over the net by wind, etc, then play continues.
Defense it is legal for the ball to strike two or more parts of a defenders’ body during a single action.

Exception: Double contact with overhand finger action is NOT allowed…
unless the double-contact was in defense of a “hard –driven attack”
“Hard driven” attacks may be “double-contacted with finger action or momentarily held.
In judging hard-driven defense, the referee must consider a variety of factors such as:
1) “reactive” vs. “decisive” nature of the defense 2) speed/pace of ball 3) distance/time
SERVED balls are (by rule) “Never considered a hard-driven attack”.
It is legal to receive serve open-handed (NOT recommended), but strict hand set judgment applies

Plane of Net: Players may only contact the ball within their own playing space.
o Setters may not reach through the vertical plane of the net to retrieve the ball.
o Attackers must initiate contact of the ball on their side of the net. (follow through is legal)
o Blockers may penetrate the plane over the net and block only after an attack hit.

UNDER the net: Players may contact any part of the ball until it has passed completely through the plane.
Simultaneous Contact: If teammates touch the ball simultaneously this counts as TWO team contacts.
o Either player may make the 3rd contact.

Net: Net-contact is not a fault unless it occurs during the action of playing the ball or interferes with the play
Center-line encroachment: There is no centerline.
o Players may contact the opponents’ court as long as they do not interfere.

o A player who interferes with the opponents’ legitimate play must be called for the fault.
Signal “under” and say “interference.”
Interference is a fault that results in a point, not a replay
o Note that contact between opponents does not always constitute interference, (bump knees, step briefly on toes etc) and that interference can occur without physical contact. (example: fallen player under net prevents defender covering short)

Pursuit: is legal in beach volleyball.
o First ball must pass over/outside an antenna
o You may pursue under the net… even through your opponents’ court!
o The ball must be played back over/outside the same antenna
o Third contact must send the ball legally through the crossing space.

Ball Marks: The ball is “in” if it physically touches the line.
o Line movement can be confusing, but contact of ball-to-line is the rule.
o Players may occasionally request that a lines-call be reviewed, using the “ball-mark” left in the sand.
o Be aware that “splash” of soft sand, piles of sand or holes in the sand can all confuse the judgment.
o The FIRST Referee reviews a “Ball Mark” whenever THEY perceive a doubt in the correct result.
o Smooth sand and well-tended lines are critical to accurate lines-calls.

Disputes: Either player may occasionally approach the referee to request an explanation of a call.
o The referee(s) must offer an explanation.
o The players have the option to protest rules interpretations, but not judgment.
o It is critical that officials be approachable and that they offer due process.
o It is also important that the integrity and flow of the match be maintained.
o Team Delays, and especially failure to follow the 12 second guideline, are sanctioned for DELAY:
o “Yellow Card On Wrist ” signals a Team Delay Warning (max 1 per set)
o 2nd offense: “Red Card on Wrist” indicates Delay Penalty and loss of rally.

Multiple Delay Penalties may be awarded in a set or match.
o Individuals guilty of misconduct may be sanctioned as follows:

Warning (yellow card)
Penalty (red card, results in loss of rally)

o In both Team and Individual sanctions, multiple red cards are allowed within a set or match.
o Expulsion or disqualification is rarely implemented, but result in loss of set or match, respectively.

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