Volleyball is a sport beloved by many and can easily be played year-round. However, if you have the chance to hit the court outdoors when the weather’s good, why wouldn’t you try to get in some fresh air and sunshine while you play the game you love? There are differences between indoor and outdoor (sometimes called “sand”) volleyball. These differences are not enough to be real game-changers, but there are some things to be aware of depending on your volleyball environment.
The Volleyball Court
Sand volleyball courts and indoor courts are fairly different in size. Beach courts are actually smaller than indoor courts. Indoor courts have a rule where players in the back row cannot advance behind a certain point in the court to hit the ball, whereas sand volleyball players can hit the ball from anywhere on their side of the net. The reasoning behind the smaller sand court size may be that getting any traction and running in sand is much more difficult than on a hard surface. A smaller court keeps the ball in play longer, keeping rallies more entertaining and face-paced.
Players Per Team
With the larger court size for indoor volleyball, it reasons that a larger amount of people would be needed to cover the area. Indoor volleyball requires six players per team, or side. Each player has a specialized position that rotates and switches throughout the game. Sand volleyball is usually played with two-person teams. One player hits from the left side of the court, one hits from the right. The serve is rotated between the two players. There are no specialized positions and each player is usually well-versed in all hits, blocks and digs. At competition-level sand volleyball, players can have dedicated positions such as one may block and one may dig, but both could still hit.
The ball itself is one of the differences between indoor and outdoor volleyball. Indoor balls are made of leather and are somewhat heavier than balls used outdoors. These heavier indoor balls can be hit harder and tend to move more quickly than an outdoor ball. Sand volleyballs are bigger, softer and less heavy than indoor balls. The lighter weight helps them float through the air better, allowing more experienced players to use the weather to their advantage.
Indoor volleyball has matches made up of five sets or games. Games are played until the first team reaches 25 points, and are declared the winners of that game. Three sets win the match. If both teams have won two sets, a tiebreaker game is played to 15 points. Teams switch sides after each game.
Sand volleyball has matches made up of only three sets or games. Games are played until the first team reaches 21 points, and if a tiebreaker game is necessary, it is played until 15 points.
In both versions, a game must be won by a minimum two-point margin.
The way the ball is touched or handled by players is different between the two types of games. Indoor volleyball allows players to block the ball without it counting as one of the three allowed hits for each team. Sand volleyball counts a block as one of the three hits allowed.
Indoor volleyball also allows open-hand tips, or dinks, which send the ball just slightly over the net, however sand volleyball does not allow these types of moves.
If you enjoy volleyball, then it probably doesn’t matter whether you play it indoors or outdoors. In fact you may find that you do prefer one way over the other, but just getting to play the game you love any time of year is a big benefit. Educating yourself about both versions of the sport will help your gameplay, and hopefully your enjoyment of the sport as well.