Is Volleyball a Contact Sport? (Explained with Examples)


is volleyball a contact sport

The agility and high pace that come with volleyball is often confused or thought about as if the sport involves some level of contact! However, this is not the case, indeed …

Volleyball is not considered a contact sport as each team has its own half of the court and none of them is allowed to enter the opposite team territory. In addition, direct contact is not allowed even in the area around the net where the opposite players get closer from each other.

In this article I clear up all ambiguities about this topic!

You will learn all types of contacts that are completely forbidden in volleyball, and some kinds of contacts that might be accepted if done in a certain way.

Volleyball is a non-contact sport with few exceptions …

As I’ve just said, the physical dimensions and layout of a volleyball court are designed to keep the two teams apart, with the two lining up on either side of the court, with the net dividing them.

That is not to say that contact is unknown, but it is almost always accidental, and most commonly occurs when one player steps on the foot of one of their teammates or collide when going for the same ball.

There is of course, one notable exception – players often embrace when they have won a point, but that is in celebration rather than anything more antagonistic than that.

Very rarely there may be a fight between players, with one of the most notable examples coming in a match in the Japan Volleyball League in 2017 during an All-Star Game.

Despite the fact that volleyball is a non-contact sport, injuries are not uncommon, particularly broken, and bruised fingers, whilst knee injuries are not uncommon either.

It should be noted that in the US, some states have classified volleyball as a moderate risk sport to play for high school students, particularly girls. That puts them in the same category as basketball, baseball, and tennis.

Typically, the rules of the sport make it clear what type of contact is allowed. Later, I provide more details on the do’s and don’ts.

Does this mean that volleyball represents no risks?

Again, although a no contact sport, volleyball injuries are not uncommon and usually are as a result of jumping and landing.

Italian star Lucia Bosetti, for example, tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in her right knee after landing badly on it during a league match in 2014. She missed that year’s World Cup and did not play again for another nine months.

Knee injuries are the most common, among both men and female players, some of whom live with pain for years.

One example of this was former American professional player Gabrielle Perry, who was forced to undergo knee replacement surgery following her retirement after the continual punishment her knees had taken during her playing career.

Important Tip: Using knee pads has proven to reduce knee injuries by about 50%. This percentage could be even higher if you use quality ones. These quality knee pads are a great example!

Shoulder injuries also frequently occur – when serving, spiking setting and blocking, the stress on the various shoulder muscles can cause prolonged pain and even dislocations

The feet and ankles can also suffer because of the frequent changes of direction of the lower extremities combined with the close contact at the net.

Beach volleyball comes its own unique set of risks, one of which is ”beach toe” – this occurs when the top of the joint that connects the big toe to the foot is hyper-flexed.

Contacts that might be allowed in volleyball

There are various types of contact that might be allowed in volleyball

1. Simultaneous

If two or more teammates – for example, blockers or setters – touch the ball simultaneously, it counts as one contact!

Any player from the team can play the next ball provided they were not involved in the simultaneous contact.

2. Blocking

blocking the ball

When blocking, it is allowed for consecutive contacts to be made by one or more of the blockers, provided that the contacts are judged to have taken place within one action.

A blocker also may reach beyond the net, but they must not interfere with the play of the opponents, before or during an attacking spike.

3. Hitting

A hitter is allowed to pass their hands beyond the net, provided that contact with the ball was made within the confines of their own playing space.

They are also allowed to pass their hands under the net, provided that the initial contact took place on their side of the court.

4. The body

Again, the ball may contact various parts of the body consecutively, provided that they occur during one action.

5. Joust

A joust occurs when opposing opponents simultaneously touch the ball over the net, and it remains in play. This is not regarded as a fault, and the play can continue as normal.

Forbidden types of contact in volleyball

There are various types of contact that are forbidden in volleyball.

1. Four Hits

This is when a team contacts the ball four times before returning it. This may not always be deliberate.

Sometimes in the heat of a rally, it is easy to lose count and to take an extra touch on the ball. However, the sanction is still the same – an award of the point to the opposition.

2. Double Contact

This is when a player makes contact with the ball twice in succession or the ball strikes various parts of their body twice consecutively. Again, the point goes to the opposition.

3. A catch

It is illegal to catch or throw a volleyball – the rules of the sport dictate that it must rebound from the contact. Yet again, this results in the opposition getting the point.

4. Touching the net

touching the net

Whilst making contact with the net is not a fault in itself, it becomes so during the action of playing the ball, or if it interferes with an opponent’s action.

5. Playing the ball from a non-play area

In volleyball, the non-play area is defined as the walls, spectator seating areas or bleachers, team benches, and the area between these benches and the scorers’ table.

Any player retrieving a ball from one of these non-play areas must be in contact with the ground when making contact with the ball, otherwise it is judged illegal.

Is this the same for all volleyball types? (Indoor, beach, pool …)

Indoor volleyball

There are a number of contacts and hits that are legal in indoor volleyball, but considered illegal in the beach form of the game. These include hand touches, tips, and dinks.

Beach volleyball

In beach volleyball, back row players must stay behind the line when hitting the ball, whereas, because there are only two players a side in the beach version of the game, a player can make contact with the ball anywhere provided that they are on their side of the net.

Pool volleyball

Pool volleyball is typically played for recreational purposes, so the rules and regulations governing it are less strict that land-based versions of the sport.

House rules are generally encouraged, meaning that a more laissez-faire attitude is also taken as to what constitutes contact.

However, whilst it may be considered as analogous to water polo, this is a misconception. Water polo is a full contact sport that involves a great deal of physical contact between opponents, whereas pool volleyball remains a non-contact sport.

Understand sport contact levels …

There are four different sport contact levels.

A full contact sport is one that involves significant physical impact between players, either deliberately, or accidental, and which are allowed for by the rules of the sport.

Also known in the US by the terminology collision sports, examples are American football, rugby, boxing, lacrosse, and ice hockey.  Contact actions typically include tacking and blocking, and physical injuries are common among participants.

A semi-contact sport refers typically to combat sports where a point system is employed to determine a winner, and participants may wear protective equipment to guard against injury. Examples of semi-contact sports include Mixed Martial Arts, karate, kickboxing, and taekwondo.

A limited contact sport is one where the rules are specifically written to preclude contact between players, but it may still occur, in which cases penalties are often used as a punishment.

Basketball is a prime example – there is still a great deal of contact involved but it is illegal to bump or knock a player off the ball deliberately. Other examples of limited contact sports include handball, baseball, and squash.

Finally, there are non-contact sports where athletes either compete in lanes or are physically separated by a barrier such as a net in tennis or volleyball.

In these sports making contact with an opponent can mean either that somebody is out of bounds or can result in their disqualification. Golf, swimming, and running are other examples.

Bottom Line

In case you are afraid or not sure about volleyball whether it is the right sport for you or not, then you probably have now a good reason to consider it, because it involves little to no contact at all!

This means that the risks that come with the sport are quite low which is great for beginners with limited athletic abilities. This is actually one of the main reasons many people consider the sport of volleyball as a lifetie activity!

Carissa Harmer

Carissa Harmer has over 6 years of volleyball experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest volleyball teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right path.

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