Did the rules of volleyball change recently?

I could’ve sworn that you could only score a point on your own serve. In fact, I played many years in high school by that rule. Were we playing wrong the whole time, or did they change the rules?

They changed the rules a couple of years back but I don’t know the exact year.

It is called rallypoint or at least it was when I first saw this.

The new method is called rally scoring.


Indeed, the rules have changed.


And it was a good idea to change the rules that way IMHO. I remember, back in the good old days when we played volleyball at school, how the serves changed to and fro between the teams several times in a row without anybody making a point. Makes the game faster.

(To compensate for this, the number of points needed to win a set has beenr educed - from 21 to 15, I think)

Actually, the points have been increased to 25 from 15.

I do agree it’s a good idea, although it makes serving on a match point pretty damn scary.

Since we’re on volleyball rules there’s one I wanted to know. I always thought that one side could only touch the ball three times. However, when one side goes up to spike the ball, or whatever they call it, and the otherside touches it with their fingers I have seen them then hit the ball three more times. Is this allowed now or has it always been allowed? Or does it not count as a hit because they were just trying to block?

Correct. A block does not count as a hit.

Wow, that’s a pretty major change. Have any other sports had similarly significant changes in the way they’re played or scored within recent memory?

And what’s the reason for the change? Or maybe I should ask the reason behind the old way of scoring, if the new is so obviously better (under the principle that before you change a rule you should understand the reason why it was there in the first place).

The new rule was implemented for one reason: television.

Under the old system (side-out scoring), the length of a match was very unpredictable, and matches lasted quite a bit longer than they currently do. This was fine when the majority of indoor volleyball was primarily a live spectator sport, with people seeing volleyball primarily by attending the games themselves.

Then about 10-15 years ago, beach volleyball caught on as a popular telvised sport. It had side-out scoring, which created problems for televising it. Games lasted too long, were of unpredictable length, and the defense has a big advantage, leading to no score being recorded for most rallies. Many games would, particularly those among the best players, would have long stretches of side-outs with no scoring.

To be able to fit matches into the alotted time slot, a compromise scoring system was developed. Matches had a set time limit, and when a certain amount of time was left, something like 6-8 minutes, scoring switched to rally scoring. This greatly speeds up play, and made timing of matches much more predictable.

This system made timing better, but it also made beach volleyball a lot like Family Feud (bear with me, I’ll connect it). In Family Feud, four rounds are usually played, with the goal being to score 300 points. The first two rounds are worth a maximum of 100 points each, the third is worth 200, and the forth is worth up to 300. It’s possible to win in just three rounds, but this very rarely happens. The triple point round decides the winner nine out of ten games, regardless of what has gone before.

Beach volleyball with rally scoring at the end was a lot like this. Unless one team was really dominant, practically the whole game occurred in those last 6-8 minutes once the rally scoring started. They weren’t about to go back to all side-out scoring, so eventually matches switched over to all rally scoring all the time. Rally point beach volleyball is very reliable time-wise.

The federations that governed indoor volleyball saw how the rule changes had “improved” beach volleyball (by “improved”, I mean, “made it better for television”). The rally scoring system eventually migrated over from the beach to the court.

The three main advantages are that scoring occurs much more quickly, matches are a lot shorter, and they are much easier to time for televison. In the United States, those might seem like unimportant reasons, but in other countries (Italy, for example) televised professional volleyball is a big deal, and making it tv friendly helps tremendously.

The International governing federation changed the rule first, and the US followed suit quite quickly, reasoning that not to adhere to such a fundamental change would put US programs at a disadvantage in international play, which is a reasonable and pragmatic choice. Once the US federation changed, lower levels started coming along. If you go to a local high school or jr. high game this coming year, you’re likely going to see rally point scoring.

It does change strategies greatly. In side-out scoring, the team with the serve has a clear advantage, and can take chances in trying to score, while the team receiving serve usually plays a bit more conservatively, trying not to make mistakes. There is a true offense/defense at work.

In rally point scoring, the team recieving serve has the advantage, and the serving team actually has to play more defensively. Scoring on your own serve is similar to getting a service break in tennis. Both teams are on offense and defense every single point. This may have the effect of lessening the aggression of the serving team a bit, but it usually promotes aggressive play by the team receiving serve at the same time.

It also changes the end game drastically. In side-out scoring, you have to actively score the winning point. Rally scoring games can be won with a bad serve by the opposition. A 14-11 lead in side-out scoring is pretty good, but far from commanding; as long as the team behind can keep siding out, they can chip away at the lead and come back. The same lead, 24-21, in rally scoring is a big lead, with the late come back being much more difficult. The team behind has to be perfect, and would need to score two or three consecutive points on their own serve (where they are at a disadvantage, and cannot play nearly as aggressively as they could in side-out scoring) with the recieving team needing only one good play or one mistake to win the game.

I prefer side-out scoring, but I’m willing to conceed that it may be a matter of old timer syndrome. My grandmother still thinks it was a mistake to switch girls’ basketball from 3 on 3 to 5 on 5.* I’ll give it some time, but I think I like the possibility of a big comeback late in the game too much to completely commit to the newer system.

*In Oklahoma, when my mother played high school basketball, the girl’s game had fundamentally different rules from boys. Despite the name, there were actually six girls per team on the court. Three played offense, three played defense, and each trio was restricted to their half of the court. There was still an association in OK playing by these rules as late as the late 80’s or early 90’s, and when there was a proposal to end this style as being archaic, Grandma was firmly in the camp of the old way being better because, well, because it was the old way. She’s much like people who oppose the designated hitter in baseball. :smiley:

What’s with the different colored jersey for one player? That’s fairly new, too, isn’t it?


That’s the libero.

That’s a back row only player. The libero never rotates to the front row. It allows teams to keep a defensive specialist on the court all the time and lets shorter player get more action.

Prior to the libero, if you were short, you either had to be a setter or get rotated out when you got to the front line.

The libero wears a different color uniform from the rest of the team so the officials can quickly determine if s/he has tried a kill from the front row.

Pro football added the two-point conversion only a few years ago. And it’s not really that old in college. The NBA adding the three-point shot in 1979 (the ABL came up with it in 1961). Those are the only other ones I can think of.

That plus it allows the scorers to keep track of libero substitutions more easily since the libero substitution doesn’t follow the normal procedure. Unlike a normal substitution, a libero substitution doesn’t require the second referee to allow the exchange.

Thanks Number 6. Now that’s what I call an answer!

Does a team have choice on whether it wants to use a libero? I’m thinking that maybe a team is full of good all-around players and would rather not use a libero.

Anything that can cut down on substitutions is a good idea. I used to watch our team play when I was in college, and certain girls would never, ever serve. Every time they came up in the rotation, they were rotated out.

You can only designate one player to be the libero (according to the rule book I found, but I wouldn’t bet against that rule being changed)

If you don’t designate a libero before the match, you don’t get to use one at any time. If the libero is injured, you can pick another player to be libero, but the other libero can’t come back in as a libero.

It’s sort of like the designated hitter in baseball.

On the subject of basketball scoring, the shot clock was added for the 1954 season. The sport was in danger of dying out at the time because there was no incentive for teams with a commanding lead to do anything. The shot clock also drastically changed the way the game was played, it brought about the era of the fast break and lumbering hulks like George Mikan found that their careers had ended virtually overnight.

College football introduced overtime in the early '90s, I do believe. Before, teams tied at the end of regulation would just get a tie, which created a different strategy; finding yourself down three at your opponents four-yard line with a few seconds on the clock, you could either go for the pretty much guaranteed three point field goal and a tie, or be riskier and go for a touchdown.

Cricket introduced the one-day game a couple of decades ago. Of course, they still play 4 & 5 day tests as well, so it’s more of an addition than a change, but most tournaments these days are one day cricket. This was also introduced for reasons mostly directly related to TV.