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All Volleyball Serve Rules (Easily Explained)

Serving is one of the most important parts of volleyball games. Still, lots of people don’t know the rules behind it. In this article, you will learn everything about volleyball serve rules, so you will be an expert in that field.

What are the serving rules in volleyball?

The team that has just earned a point always serves. The player who serves, must toss the ball and hit it into the opposing team’s side. If the opposing team receives the ball incorrectly, the server’s team earns one point.

Now let’s talk in details about volleyball serve rules.

What’s the definition of the service?

According to the FIVB, “The service is the act of putting the ball into play, by the back-right player, placed in the service zone”.

In other words, the service means starting the volleyball action. The action is always started by the player who is in the defense line. In reality, almost all players serve, because of rotations. A couple of times during a set every player is in the defense zone, and he needs to serve.

The service must take place in the service zone. This zone is easy to define because it includes everything outside the court, which is 9 or more meters from the net.

Look at the picture. The red zone is the service zone.

Who serves first in a set?

When it comes to the service order, it’s pretty easy. When the match starts, the referee chooses which team begins the game. It’s determined by the toss, so it’s fully random.

When it comes to another set, there isn’t a toss anymore. The team that lost the toss, serves first in the second set. For example, if Poland plays against Brazil, and Poland serves first in the match, Brazil will serve in the 2nd set.

The 3rd and 4th sets will be started with the service of the team that did not serve first in the previous set.

In the 5th set also called a tie-break, there is a toss again.

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What’s the service order in a set?

The serve is always made by the team that previously earned a point. If team A has just won a point, they serve. If they serve and win a point again, they serve again and again until the opposing team eventually earns a point. In short, the team who earned the point gains the right to serve.

How do we know which player of the team serves?

The players of both teams have to follow the service order recorded on the line-up sheet. When the receiving team wins the rally, it gains the right to serve and rotates before actually serving. The player who moves from the front right position to the back-right position will serve.

The 1st referee authorizes the service, after having checked that the two teams are ready to play and that the server is in possession of the ball.

Let’s talk about the execution of the service

If you’ve ever watched volleyball, you have probably noticed that all the players execute the service with their palms. In the FIVB rules, it doesn’t say that players are allowed to do so. They can serve with any part of their hands or arms. So, in reality, they can serve with their elbows or wrists. No one does so, because serving with opened palms is the most comfortable and the most effective. The players need to remember not to serve with two hands.

There is only one toss permitted. In tennis, for example, players can toss the ball a couple of times if they need. In volleyball, there is only one chance. However, volleyball players can dribble and move the ball in their hands. Lots of players have their own moving rituals.

At the moment of the service, the player must be in the service zone. It means he can’t step into the line or touch the court. If at the moment of the service, the player finds himself in the court, it’s an error and the opposing team earns one point. After the hit, he/she may step or land outside the service zone, or inside the court.

We already know that the referee authorizes the service. In order to do so, he whistles. From this time, the player has 8 seconds to serve. If the player doesn’t make it with time, the opposing team wins a point. If the player serves too early, it must be canceled and repeated.

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What faults can you make during a service?

The service might be quite risky. You can make a couple of errors if you’re not careful.

If the ball has been correctly hit, the service becomes a fault if the ball touches a player of the serving team. It happens very rarely, but it’s an obvious error.

The most common error is when the ball fails to cross the vertical plane of the net completely through the crossing space. I think it’s the most popular error to hit the net with the ball. The players who do the jump serving make this mistake the most often.

Also, if the ball goes outside the court, it’s a fault.

Can you attack or block on a serve?

Lots of beginners ask this question. The answer is simple. You can’t spike or block a serve. It’s an error. However, players can directly return a serve, for example, if they have made a mistake receiving the ball. You can read more about it here.

Does libero serve?

A libero is a defensive player and his role is to prevent his team from losing points. By definition, he can’t even attempt to score a point. That’s why we will never see a libero who is serving.

However, in some leagues rules are different and liberos are allowed to serve. But I’d say in 97% of cases, liberos don’t serve. It applies to international games and almost all national leagues.

Can a libero be a captain? Get to know it in this article.

What are the 3 types of serves in volleyball?

If you sometimes watch volleyball matches, you can notice that other players execute the service differently. There are 3 types of service that players use.

Jump serve- It’s the most popular type of service. It’s used mostly in men’s volleyball and all the players from the list above use this technique to serve fast. Because of speed, players on the other side of the court, often have problems with receiving the ball, because they don’t have a lot of time to react. But some teams like Russia are used to jump serves, and they receive it pretty well. On trainings, almost the whole team serves jumping, and they know how to receive it.

The floater- It can be really, really beneficial. Some players like Mateusz Bieniek or Bruno Rezende are the masters of the floater because these serves are aimed well and aren’t comfortable to receive. Some teams have huge problems with floaters, so even though it’s not that fast, it can be sometimes more powerful than the jump serve.

The topsin- It’s not used in men’s volleyball. Sometimes women use it, but it’s not really effective and I don’t recommend it.

What’s the average speed of a serve?

The speed depends on a couple of factors.

The most important one is the type of serve. Usually, the jump serves are the fastest. Volleyball players don’t serve 130 km/h on a daily basis. See the fastest volleyball serves here. Usually, they serve between 90-110 km/h, because they don’t want to use too much energy. When it comes to the floater serve, it is slower in most cases. Players typically hit a ball with 40-70 km/h.

Men have usually more strength than women. That’s why they serve way faster. When it comes to the jump serve, men serve about 30% faster than women. The floater’s speed is similar.

The type of volleyball is also a factor. In indoor volleyball, serves are faster, because players have better control over the ball. In beach volleyball, there is sand everywhere, and jump serve is rather rare.

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