FAQ - Is it legal to block a volleyball
through the net?

[ Back up to Todd's Volleyball Rules Page ]

This is a contentious issue indeed! Like most such issues, the interpretation of this situation varies widely by ruleset. Below you will find interpretations on this situation for the major indoor volleyball rulesets.

FAQ addition for rec.sport volleyball                           vers. 1.0
Rules Section:                                                 11 July 1997

Revised by tdh                                                  vers. 1.1
removed references to rec.sport.volleyball FAQ, added beach    08 July 2000
interpretations, added notes on NFSHSA interp.

Revised by tdh                                                  vers. 1.2
Added note that 2004-2005 USAV indoor rules 12.4.4             29 Sept 2004
does not override 12.3.3

Revised by tdh                                                  vers. 1.3
USAV changed the indoor ruling finally!                         2 May 2008

Q.  Say I pass the ball a little too hard and it is about to go into
    the net.  Can a blocker on the other side of the net run up to the net
    and place his hands such that the ball hits the net into his hands and
    deflects the ball down?  Is this legal?

A.  It depends.  Whether or not this action is legal is a factor of
    which ruleset you are playing under, and whether or not the player
    contacts the net in the effort to deflect the ball.

    As is commonly known, the player should not be held at fault if the
    impact of the ball drives the net into him or her.
    However, under all of the rulesets commonly used, if a player
    initiates the contact with the net, then they should be called for a 
    net fault.

 ** USAV Indoor Rules:

	As of May 2008, this play is no longer legal under USAV indoor rules.  This is a change. 
	The following was issued in the 2007-08 season in Rules Interpretation Newsletter #2: 
	1. After Team A's first or second team contact, the ball travels toward the 
	   middle of the net. A player from Team B places his hands near the net (on his 
	   side of the net) in the path of the ball. The ball contacts the net, which causes 
	   the net to contact the stationary hand(s) of the Team B player. 
	   This action deflects the ball and affects the natural rebound of the ball from the net.

	Ruling: Since the player on Team B moved to place their hands in the path of the ball,
    the net touch in this action meets the USAV/FIVB interpretation of "interferes with play"
    in Rule 11.3.1, and should be called a net fault by the Team B player.
    Prior to 2008 the law of the land was: 
	USAV Indoor 16.4.3  (2004-2005 rule 12.3.3)
    "When the ball is driven into the net and causes it to touch an
    opponent, no fault is committed."

    and that was interpreted by Tom Blue (90's) and reconfirmed by Steve Thorpe (in 2004) 
	as including intentionally moving to a place on the net to let the ball hit the player 
	so it can be deflected.   But the ruling, as stated above, has indeed changed.  And 
	for so much the better! 

** USAV Beach Rules 
    See FIVB Beach Rules. 

 ** NAGWS (Indoor) Rules:

    The relevant NAGWS rule is:
    9.7 Commentary - A Ball crossing vertical plane of net

    (irrelevant parts snipped for clarity)
    "_It is legal for a player to be contacted by a ball hit into
    the net by an opponent, unless the referee deems the contact to be an
    intentional effort to prevent further play._"  

    This commentary was incorporated into NAGWS rules for the 1996-97 season.
    Thus, under NAGWS, the referee must determine if this was an 
    intentional play.  This is different from USAV Rules, where the 
    official is only judging whether or not a net violation occured.

    Ann Fruechte, the NAGWS Rules Interpreter,
    offers this interpretation:

    "Commentary 9.7 sums up the NAGWS position well.  A player
    cannot intentionally touch a ball that is in the body of the net; the
    referee obviously determines intention.  The general guideline is if a
    player is positioned close to the net and is merely standing with hands
    out and the ball and net move into the hands, it is an unintentional act
    (passive); if the player makes movement with the hands toward the ball
    then it's intentional (active).  If the referee determines the act is
    intentional the proper call is net violation."

    A referee should exercise some judgement if a player puts her hands up
    to protect herself and deflects the ball.  The key concept here is that
    the official must judge whether or not the contact was intentional,
    unlike in the USAV interpretation, where a net fault is called only if
    the player initiates the net contact.

 ** FIVB Indoor Rules:

    Neill Luebke, Chairman of the Rules of the Game Commission for USAV
    and an International Referee, supplies these thoughts:

    "No organization interprets a Rule more literally than the FIVB.  Do 
    not read ANYTHING into the Rule."

    FIVB 12.3 (irrelevant parts removed): 
    "Contact with the net is a fault ... 
    When the ball is driven into the net and causes it to touch an opponent,
    no fault is committed."
    Neill adds that "nowhere does it state intent or describe a caveat for
    performing such a feat.  If it is not written, it is legal.  The FIVB
    tries very diligently to remove the referee's intent and his own
    interpretation from influencing a play."

    Rainer Perske (GER) adds these observations:

    "If the player on the other side makes any movement towards the ball
    while the ball is already touching the net, the player is _actively_ 
    going into the net. Net Fault.

    If the player on the other side stops any movement towards the net
    before the ball begins touching the net, the player is _passive_.
    No Fault, no misbehaviour, even if he did so intentionally."

    This appears to concur precisely with the USAV indoor interpretation.

    Christian Perrier (FRA) adds:

    "The ref has here to decide whether the contact with the net was
    caused by the ball driving the net into the player or not. Of course,
    as described [in the question above], the net hits the hands of the
    player, so there is no fault.  However, the ref may also decide that
    the net violation was due to an action of the player."

    However, Jeffrey Gogol (CAN) says:

    "In Canada, we have interpreted this play as legal as long as the player
    does not move their hands either forward or to the side so that the 
    _ball contacts them_ through the net.  They can set their hands in front
    of them but they cannot make a play for the ball."

    [Editor's note:  Jeff Gogol's comments hint at the 
     FIVB beach interpretation.... ]

 ** FIVB Beach Rules

    [ Editor's note:  the beach interpretation for FIVB appears to differ
      from indoor FIVB.  I am in the process of contacting members of the 
      FIVB beach officials division for verification.  The following text, 
      however, appeared in the FIVB 1999 Beach Refereeing Guidelines:

        A player who reaches towards and contacts the ball through the
        net when the ball is on the opponent's side causing the
        opponents not to have a play on the ball will be
        penalised. Conversely, a ball hitting a player through the net
        when the player did not attempt to contact the ball would not
        be a penalty (i.e.: they had a potential play on the ball or
        were in an existing position).  Note: This situation is
        penalised as a net touch as the player is considered to have
        touched the net, not the ball causing the net to touch them.

 ** High School (NFSHSA, or "Federation") Rules:

    For the 2001-2002 Rule Book there is a change making it explicitly illegal:

       Rule 9-6-7-d-2:
	There is interference by a player who makes:

	Intentional contact with a ball which the opponent has caused to pass
	partially under the net or into the body of the net and the opponent is
	attempting to play it again.
(thanks to John Villalovos for informing me of this change)

Q.  Yeah, but is it sportsmanlike?

A.  Well, that's a question to be debated outside of the rules.  As far
    as the rules go, it's either a fault or it isn't, and we defer
    to the judgement of the respective rules interpreters. 


    The compilers of this addition to the FAQ would like to recognize
    the following people for their contributions of wisdom and prose
    to this document:  Tom Blue, Ann Fruechte, Jeffrey Gogol, Kevin Lentin,
    Neill Luebke, Christian Perrier, Rainer Perske, and Joel Reinford.
    Excellent peer review and commentary was provided by Rob Peglar, Joel
    Reinford, and Neill Luebke.


    All of these rulesets are publically available, and can be obtained

    USAV rulebooks:   
                      online rules at:

    NAGWS rulebooks:  National Assoc. for Girls & Women in Sport
                      1900 Association Dr.  Reston, VA  22091
                      (703)-476-3400      FAX: (703)-476-9527
                      email:  NAGWS@AAHPERD.ORG

    FIVB rules:       Available online at:

This FAQ addition was compiled by
Michael Bertz (bertz@eiffel.ce.gatech.edu) and Todd H. (tdh@vbref.org).
This FAQ was never added to the rec.sport.volleyball FAQ and
will be maintained as a separate entity.  
Currently maintained by Todd Haverkos <tdh@vbref.org>