How Volleyball Rules Have Changed Over Time

March 15, 2023

Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in the world, with over 800 million people playing volleyball at least once a week!  Ever since its inception in 1895, volleyball is a sport that has undergone through several changes and has evolved from what it was originally. From the way the game is played to the rules and regulations that govern it, volleyball has changed over time into what we love today. So how different was volleyball back then and was it that much different than what we have today? Read on to find out!

Scoring system

Today, most volleyball players are used to rally scoring, which is a scoring system used in volleyball where a point is scored on every rally. Both teams have an opportunity to score a point, regardless of whether or not they are serving.

However, this system was only officially adopted in 1999. Before the rally scoring system, volleyball was using a side out scoring system. In this system, points can only be scored by the serving team. If the receiving team won the rally, they wouldn’t get a point and instead would get possession of the ball to serve. All non-deciding games would be played to 25 points, with deciding games played to 15 points.

Volleyball Ball

The light and springy volleyball that we’re used to today wasn’t the ball that was originally used during volleyball’s inception. The original volleyball was made out the bladder of a basketball, however, due to the lack of weight, the bladder was too slow in the air. To solve this problem, the creator of volleyball, William G. Morgan, decided to go to A.G. Spalding so that they could create the official volleyball. This is when the classic white volleyball was created, with the design being used to this day.

However, in 2008, the classic look of volleyball changed when Mikasa developed a new patented design. This design featured 8-panels instead of the classic 18-panels. This new design was easier to hit and gave more accuracy to players, making it the preferred volleyball design to use in professional play.

3-Hit Rule & Back Row Attacks

Did you know that volleyball originally didn’t have the 3-hit rule when invented in 1895? This rule was made later in the 1916’s by the Phillipines, alongside the standard six players per side. This 3-hit rule is now a staple in volleyball and has created the popular bread-and-butter sequence in volleyball: the pass-set-spike. It wasn’t until 1920 were the official rules mandated three hits per side alongside back row attack rules.

In addition to this, in 1976, a rule was added so that blocks no longer counted as one of the team's three hits.


The libero position is a relatively new position in volleyball, introduced in 1998 to give teams more flexibility in their defensive strategies. They are a specialized defensive position that operate by unique rules that only apply to them! Some of them include not being able to attack and not being able to move to the front row.

Starting in 2022, liberos can now also be team captains. Prior to this, liberos were not allowed to be team captains as the libero was always substituted. This rule changed as people argued that a regular player captain can also be substituted, so it would be unfair for liberos to not be eligible to become a team captain.

Jumping Over the Score Table

Have you ever seen those crazy saves in volleyball where a player would jump over the scorer’s table in order to keep the ball in play? As amazing as those plays were, unfortunately they were considered illegal before 2022. Now as of 2022, the 37th FIVB Congress approved this play.


The serving rules of volleyball have also undergone several changes. Prior to 2001, serves where the ball touches the net and then lands into the opponent’s side of the court, called for a re-serve. Now, if the ball touches the net on a serve, it is legal and still in play until a point is made.

The service area was also expanded in 1994 to allow players to serve from anywhere behind the end line, but still within the theoretical extension of the side lines. This was made so that jump servers could get more room to work with, however, this gave the serving team a huge advantage. To compensate for this, double hits of multiple body parts were allowed for the first touch of the ball when coming from the opponent's court.

Ball Contact

Traditionally, your hands and arms are what makes contact with the ball in volleyball, but did you know that you can use your head and feet too? In 1996, a rule was made for the ball to be able to make contact with any parts of your body and still remain in play. This allows for some incredibly specific scenarios where a player might not be able to dive for the ball, but can kick it instead. This has led to some incredible saves in the professional scene to keep the ball alive.

In conclusion, the rules of volleyball have changed significantly over time, from the way the game is scored to the introduction of new positions and rules that give teams more flexibility. These changes have helped to make volleyball a more exciting and competitive sport, and they continue to evolve with each passing year.

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