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Todd's Beach Volleyball Rules Primer

Recommendations for beach volleyball tournament rules/guidelines

USAV beach volleyball rules USAV AVP FIVB
[ Beach/Indoor Rule Differences ]
[Rule Changes for 98! | Rules to know! | A note on setting | Officiating | Exploring further ]

Groovin Spot Icon Welcome to Todd's recommendations for your beach volleyball league or tournament's "Statement of Rules and Regulations." The page was originally composed by Todd H. for the Midwest Volleyball Professionals rules page in 1998. Since then, I have revamped the page as a general recommendation for other sand leagues around the country. I updated it in also when the USAV Beach rulebook changed on the first ball contact issue. It's last been reviewed in Summer of 2007.

Basically, I recommend that you point to a well-established standard printed set of rules (USA Volleyball Beach rules for the current year), detail anyminor deviations from these rules that are peculiar to your tournament format, and reinforce the USAV Beach interpretations of rules on which average players are typically misinformed. This way, you don't have to re-write the rulebook, you remain current, and you foster unity and consistency in rulings.

What are the rules?

Our tournament series uses current United States Beach Volleyball (USAV Beach) rules
Want to be sure you know your stuff when a rules question arises? Don't engage in a battle of wits unarmed! Download or order your copy of the USA Volleyball indoor/beach rule book (click for an on-line copy and ordering info) by calling USA Volleyball. Cost is just $6.95 and the proceeds benefit our Olympic volleyball teams.

Note there are other outdoor rule sets in existence such as FIVB Beach (international) and AVP rules. These rule sets were not chosen for our tournaments since they are specific to doubles competition and assume the use of a full officiating crew, net side bands and antennas. USA Volleyball rules handle 2/3/4/6 person competition with and without officials, net antennas, etc.

USAV Beach Rules Points of Emphasis

Though now over 9 years old, it's still worth reading these important USAV Beach volleyball rule changes for 1998. They include: 1) elimination of the service tossing error--you toss it, you serve it! and 2) block now counts as one of the team's three allowable contacts in 2's and 3's competition only. More recently, rally scoring was made mandatory, as well as shrinking the court size to a tinier 8x8m court for doubles instead of the traditional 9x9m court.

Points of Emphasis for USAV Beach rules

Serve contacting the net is not a fault

As in USAV indoor competition, it is not a fault when the serve contacts the net. The tournament director may modify this rule at his or her discretition provided a clear statement is made at the captains meeting or in the written rules statement for the tournament.

Beach Digs and Sets on the first team contact

Please read the Beach/Indoor Rule Differences. Note that it is illegal in beach rules to double contact the first team hit if you use your fingers to direct the ball UNLESS the ball is hard-driven. When determining if the ball is hard driven one should ask "did the defender have time to play the ball in any other fashion?"

Other double contacts (that do not use the fingers to direct the ball) are all legal on the first ball provided they occur in one attempt to play the ball. You can use open-palm "beach digs" which momentarily lift or push the ball if you are defending a hard-driven ball (i.e. attacked ball, or fast-moving ball off a block), and as stated previously, it's okay to use a hand setting action. If the ball isn't hard driven, that set has to be nectar since no double contact is allowed. If the ball is hard driven, a double contact is allowed and such a set needn't be pretty at all--on hard-driven balls, a momentary lift is permissible as is a double contact.


There is a common misconception that hand sets can be judged based on the number of rotations by the ball in the air. No such criterion has appeared in any recognized beach volleyball rule set in recent history. The USAV Beach volleyball rule book clarifies this matter:
Rotation of a set ball may indicate a held ball or multiple contacts during the set but in itself is not a fault.
It's also worth noting that the AVP has followed the trend of the FIVB and USAV in loosening up on hand setting calls. The purpose of this change is to encourage longer rallies, and decrease the number of rallies decided by the officials. Even so, we encourage you to call your own mishandled sets!

Setting over

For doubles and triples competition only, any ball that is intentionally set into the opponent's court must be contacted with two hands above the shoulders, and set directly forward or backward in relation to the player's body. An exception is granted if you cleanly "side set" your teammate and the ball is blown over the net by the wind.

No open hand tips

For 2's 3's and 4's competition only:
One-handed placement or redirection of the ball with the fingers (a "dink" or "open-hand tip") is a fault. [Rule 13.4.6]
The ball must be hit cleanly with the hand, straight locked fingers, or knurled fingers.

Officiating Duties for our tournaments

When you participate in our tournament, your team will be assigned officiating duties for some matches in your own pool. Likewise, other pool teams will be assigned officiating duties for matches you play. The officiating team should at least make sure play is started promptly after the warmup period.

Referees can be waived by mutual agreement of both playing teams. Due to the more relaxed nature of beach competition, most of our teams choose to self-referee in this fashion. The officiating team, however, should remain in the vicinity of the court to be consulted if the playing teams disagree.

Links to other resources:
Todd's Volleyball Rules and Refereeing Page
Comprehensive volleyball rules site authored by Todd H., one of our own USAV members and a USA Volleyball Regional referee. Includes answers to over 100 rules questions and links to additional information. Have a question not answered there? Send me your rules questions.
USA Volleyball's guide to conducting outdoor tournaments
A must-read for tournament directors. Includes tournament draws, pool arrangements and playing formats packed into only 4 pages!
USA Volleyball Rules On-Line!
The official rulebooks of USA Volleyball are now available on-line!
The rec.sport.volleyball newsgroup frequently asked question (FAQ) list
A must-read from Volleyball Worldwide.
Volleyball Worldwide Rules Page
Includes links to FIVB rules on-line, TOC of USAV rule books, full text of AVP rules, and ordering information for various rule books.

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