Do You Know the Rules of Beach Volleyball?


By: Daniel Yetman

7 Min Quiz

Image: Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Alright, it's time to dig deep into your beach volleyball knowledge to see if you can ace this quiz. There's nothing better on a hot summer day than driving to the beach with a couple of friends and hitting a ball back and forth. 

However, if you ever want to get into competitive beach volleyball and win some prizes on the sand, you'll have to know the official rules. Luckily, most of the rules of beach volleyball are relatively intuitive and similar to regular volleyball. 

It's thought that beach volleyball originated about 100 years ago in Waikiki, Hawaii. In the early days of the sport, teams played with six players a side like in indoor volleyball. It began to gain popularity in the 1980s and it was added to the Olympics in 1996. Nowadays, professional matches consist of two players per side. 

Do you know which nations have been most dominant? 30 medals have been awarded at the Olympic level, and 20 out of the 30 medals have gone either to America or Brazil. 

Are you ready to see if you're as well-versed in the rules of beach volleyball as you think you are? Spike the ball, it's time to put your knowledge to the test! 

How many consecutive times can a team hit the ball?

If a team makes a fourth consecutive hit, it's considered a foul and the other team gets a point. Even unintentional hits are counted. So if you get a ball in the face, that still counts as your first hit.


Which of these is an illegal player setup?

Unlike a sport like pairs tennis, both players are free to wander anywhere on the court. You probably wouldn't want both of your players standing in the same back corner, but in theory you could if you felt it gave you an advantage somehow.


What color card does a player get when they recieve their first warning?

For a warning, a player receives a verbal warning from the referee as well as a yellow card. If they get expelled from a game, the referee will raise the yellow and red card together in one hand.


How do the line judges announce when a ball lands out of bounds?

Whenever there's a close call, the line judge raises a flag to announce if the ball landed in or out of bounds. In case you're wondering, the official size of each flag is 40cm by 40cm (about 1'4").


What is a "dig" in beach volleyball?

When your opponent spikes the ball, your first move is usually to "dig" or set up the ball for your teammate. Even if you were able to directly return their spike, it would be almost impossible to get a good shot off.


Which of these following situations describes a joust?

When two players on opposite teams both grab the ball at the same time, it's known as jousting. Usually in this situation, the player who's able to push the ball into the other team's zone wins the point.


Where are the antennae located?

The antennae are located on either side of the net and act as the borders. If the ball passes to the inner side of the antennae, the ball is in play. If the ball passes on the other side, it's out of bounds.


Can the ball touch the net when crossing?

The ball is allowed to touch the net without any penalty. For instance, if the ball came down on the top of the net and then came down on your opponents' side of the court, you would score a point.


If the ball tears down the net or rips the mesh, who gets a point?

It doesn't happen often, but if the nets tears down, the rally gets canceled and no point is awarded. Maybe a good strategy would be to purposefully knock the net whenever you're losing momentum. But then again, maybe not ...


What happens when your hands cross the net while blocking?

Your hands can cross the net when you make a block, but you can't interfere with the other team making their shot. For instance, if you knocked the ball away from the other player's hand, it would be an illegal play.


How many subsitutes does a beach volleyball team get?

In indoor volleyball, each team has six players on the court and can have six players on the bench. In beach volleyball, each player is expected to play the entire game without a substitute.


Who performs their job from standing on the referee's stand with a view higher than the net?

The first referee stands so that their view is at least 50cm over the top of the net. They're essentially the head honcho of the referees and have the final ruling over all other officials if they notice a mistake.


How high is the net in a men's beach volleyball game?

The regulation height of the net for men is 2.43m. The world record for the high jump is 2.45m by Javier Sotomayor. Only one other man in history (Mutaz Essa) has jumped 2.43m.


Who's responsible for using a buzzer sound to alert the referee of any irregularities in the game?

The scorer sits at the scorer's table on the opposite of the court as the 1st referee and can interrupt the game with a buzzer sound. They're also responsible for dealing with protests and time out requests.


If somebody "sizzled the pits," what did they do?

Every sport has a few expressions that are unique to that sport. Sizzling the pits is volleyball slang for spiking the ball by a blocker's armpits. Contrary to popular belief, it's not when you get a sunburn from playing beach volleyball all day.


What are the two general names given to the positions of the two players on either team?

Generally, teams have one player who specializes in blocking balls at the net and one player who specializes in defending the backcourt. However, there are no mandatory positions so some teams don't assign specific roles.


How many points do you need to win a set (not including match-deciding set)?

The first team to 21 points wins the set. However, you need to win by at least two points. If you take a 21-20 lead, you'll need to win a 22nd point in order for the set to be over.


Which of the following could lead to a team penalty or sanction?

There are many ways for a team to get a game delay warning or penalty. Even if they legally request a time-out, if a team intentionally prolongs the time-out after time has expired, they may get a warning.


Which team serves first?

The team that serves first is chosen randomly based on a coin toss. The coin toss is performed by an official with both team captains present. The winner can choose to serve or defend first.


How often do teams switch sides of the court?

If the match goes to a third set, the frequency of court switches increases to every five points. This is to ensure that one team isn't getting an advantage due to environmental factors like wind or sand conditions.


How many points do you need to win a match-deciding set?

During the final set of the match, you only need 15 points to take home the win. However, just like in a regular set, you need to win the final set by at least two points, so the winning team might end up with more than 15 points.


What's the regulation net height for women's beach volleyball?

The regulation height of the beach volleyball net for women is almost 7.5 feet. It sounds high, but if you watch Olympic beach volleyball, you'll see that some of the women can jump much higher than the net!


What is the responsibility of the third referee?

The third referee has no responsibilities because we made them up. There's a first and second referee at all official matches as well as scorers and line judges, but never a third referee.


How heavy is a regulation volleyball? For reference, there are 454g in a pound

A regulation beach volleyball must be between 260-280g, which is a little over half a pound. The balls are made of either leather or synthetic leather with a rubber bladder on the inside to keep out moisture.


Screening is when one player tries to conceal their teammate's serve. Is screening legal?

It's always illegal to screen the other team during a serve. Arm waving, jumping or moving side to side while the serve is happening can all be considered screening and can result in losing the point.


What happens when two teams show up to a match dressed in the same color uniforms?

Rule 4.4 in the FIVB handbook states that if two teams arrive in the same color uniform, there will be a coin toss to determine who has to change. Is there anything more awkward than that?


What year was beach volleyball added to the Olympics?

Beach volleyball made its debut in the Olympics in 1996. The sport didn't begin to gain mainstream attention until the first professional tournaments were opened in the 1980s. Nowadays, USA and Brazil dominate the world stage.


You dive to keep the ball in play and your feet and legs cross into the other team's side of the court. What happens?

Even if your amazing diving play causes you to slide under the net, it's legal as long as you don't interfere with the other team. However, you may want to stay on your feet in case the other team takes advantage of the opportunity!


How often is a time out called?

A timeout is called when there's 21 points between the two teams. For example, the timeout would be called when one team has a 16-5 lead over the other. A 17-4 or 11-10 score would also signal for a timeout.


Which of the following could lead to a penalty?

The official FIVB rulebook states that incorrect conduct toward fans, your opponents, or your teammates can all lead to penalties or sanctions. Of course, any physical altercations could lead to getting expelled from the game.


Where can you find the "free zone"?

Everything out of bounds is part of the free zone. If you hit the ball into the free zone without your opponent making contact, you lose the point. The free zone also includes the scorer's table and everything around the court that's considered to be out of play.


What happens when two players hit the ball at the same time?

If two players both hit the ball at the same time, the ball is still in play but the contact counts as two hits. If both players reach for the ball but only one player hits it, it's counted as a normal one-contact hit.


Does blocking at the net count as one of your three allowable touches?

Blocking a spike doesn't count as a touch in indoor volleyball. However, in beach volleyball it does count as a touch. So if you're going to try to block at the net, you better be confident that you're going to stop the ball!


How many line judges are there at international competitions?

At all FIVB World and Official competitions, it's mandatory to have four judges watching the lines to monitor when balls hit out of bounds. At smaller competitions, there may only be two judges.


How long is a beach volleyball court?

A beach volleyball court is slightly smaller than an indoor volleyball court. An indoor court is 18m (59.1ft) wide. However, beach volleyball teams only have two players so each player has more ground to cover.


According to the official FIVB rules, what type of footwear is allowed?

There are many sports in the world where it's mandatory to be barefoot, but beach volleyball is one of them. Maybe wearing running shoes is the beach volleyball equivalent of taking performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.


When a team is disqualified, what does the official do with the red and yellow cards?

If your team has been playing by the rules, it's possible that you've never had to see a disqualification in a game. If you see the ref holding up both cards in separate hands, one team must have really been cheating.


Do indoor volleyball and beach volleyball use the same size balls?

The balls used in an official beach volleyball match are larger than the balls used in indoor volleyball. The balls are also rougher and have a lower pressure, which better fits gameplay on an outdoor court.


When beach volleyball was first invented, how many players played on each team?

It's thought that beach volleyball originated in Waikiki, Hawaii. In the original version of the game, each team played with six players like in indoor volleyball. Teams have been made up of two players since it was added to the Olympics.


Which of the following was a major rule change implemented by FIVB in the 1990s?

In the 1990s, the ball pressure was reduced by about 30%. At the same time, the size of the ball was made a centimeter wider. The court size did get smaller, but the change wasn't implemented until 2001.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!