The hard-driven ball rule--volleyball rules FAQ

The mysterious hard-driven ball rule explained!

Created: 7/20/99 updated Sept 2004
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The hard-driven ball rule causes massive confusion for volleyball players. The reason is that different rulesets vary wildly in their treatment of the situation in which a player is defending against a hard-driven attack. This is further complicated by the variations among the rulesets on the "first team contact" situation.

The legality of hand-setting and various beach digs is entirely dependent on which rules you're using. Click here for a list of common volleyball rulesets, where each are used and links to on-line rulebooks if available. Here's a brief overview of various rulesets and their mention of hard-driven attacks:
  • USA Volleyball indoor and NAGWS indoor rules don't have a hard-driven ball clause! No special treatment is defined. On all first team contacts under these rules "successive contacts" are legal in a single attempt to play the ball (hard-driven or not). This gives rise to those ugly (but legal) first-ball sets that might get whistled as doubles if they occurred during the team's 2nd or 3rd contact. A lift/carry is still a fault regardless of the speed of the attack, or method of contact.
  • USA Volleyball, FIVB and AVP beach rules allow a momentary lift in defense of a hard-driven ball (defined as "an attack-hit or blocked ball traveling at a high rate of speed"), giving rise to open-palmed overhead beach digs that might be whistled as lifts indoors. They also allow multiple contacts using finger action in a single attempt to defend a hard-driven attack.

    Now it wasn't always this easy and permissive--the rules used to be different and confusing, and gave rise to why this page exists. However, they fixed things in the USAV Beach rulebook in 2004-05. It had been broken for a couple of years hinting that doubles with finger action were not legal on a hard driven ball, when in fact, the rules interpreters were indicating that they were legal. All is clarified now, and USAV beach, FIVB Beach and AVP are all working in lock step on this issue--on a hard driven attack, if the player has no time to do anything different, using the fingers in a setting action is okay, and you can even double that contact if ya like.
  • NFSHSA (Federation, high school indoor) rules are the most restrictive on this count. They say that, multiple contacts are okay in a single attempt to "Save a hard-driven spike on the team's first hit, provide there is no setting action." Hence, an ugly double contacted set is never okay on the first hit. Federation rules never permit a momentary lift, either. You can shank a pass off your forearms and chest, though, but only if you're attempting to dig a "hard-driven spike."


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