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Is Volleyball A Contact Sport? Full Analysis

Volleyball involves spikes and serves that can be very fast. Often they are so fast that they can hit a part of the opposing team’s body. But, I was curious to know whether volleyball is a contact sport. I did some research and here’s what I found.

Volleyball is not a contact sport. A contact sport is one where participants make bodily contact with each other. According to the official volleyball rules published by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), players are not allowed to make bodily contact with players of the opposing team. 

There are various rules for each of the circumstances where contact with the opposing players occurs, as well as when players on the same team make bodily contact with each other. So, below I will describe these rules and why the rules are such that it makes volleyball a non-contact sport.

Man dives for a ball in a volleyball match

How Bodily Can Contact Occurs in Volleyball & if It’s a Rule Violation

Certain bodily contact that occurs in volleyball is considered a rule violation. It can occur between players on opposing teams, as well as, between two or more players on the same team. Here are the rules regarding situations where it can occur.

Player contact between players on opposing teams

Player contact between two players of opposing teams can occur during a spike when another player attempts to block the ball. It can also occur at the bottom of the net.

However, if this does occur it is against the rules, and is deemed a fault.

For a bit of context, there is a centerline that splits the court in half. 

Section 11.2 of the official FIVB rules state that a player’s foot may go over the centerline provided the whole foot doesn’t go over the line. And “that this does not interfere with the opponent’s play” – quoted directly from the rules.

The hands or any part of a player’s body can also make contact with the center line and the area underneath the net provided it doesn’t interfere with the opposing team’s play. 

In this case, it’s up to the referee to decide exactly if such a play interferes with the opposing team’s play. 

However, in general, if you touch an opposing player under the net it’s virtually always the case that it will interfere with the opposing team’s play. And therefore it will always be called up by the referee if they notice it, or are deemed as a fault. A fault scores a point to the opposing team, and they gain service. Meaning they serve the ball.

Players cannot be in the opposing players area of the court

It’s against the rules of volleyball for a player on one team to be in the opponent’s area of the court. Therefore, bodily contact is impossible between players that are on opposing teams.

Additionally, when a player from one team is spiking the ball and one player or a few players are trying to block the ball, sometimes the follow-through of the spike leads to a situation where the hitting player and blocking player(s) are wrestling against each other and both pressing against the ball at the same time. 

But, there are various rules governing this type of play. And it’s not allowed. Here’s what they are:

Rules regarding reaching over the net when blocking

The official rules state that a blocking player can make contact with the ball by reaching over the net. But, they can’t touch the ball while the opposing team is trying to hit the ball.

For example, if the setter is setting the ball, they reach up and block the ball. Or, if a spike is being made they can’t make contact with the ball by reaching over the net before the opposing player hits it.

The official rules published by the FIVB it states that the following is a rule violation and deemed a fault:

‘11.4.1 A player touches the ball or an opponent in the opponent’s space before or during the opponent’s attack hit.’

Also, rule 11.1.1 is states:

‘In blocking, a player may touch the ball beyond the net, provided that he/she does not interfere with the opponent’s play before or during the latter’s attack hit.’

Rule 11.1.1 is a bit vague and is up to the discretion of the referee but it’s generally understood that when blocking you need to ensure that you don’t stop the other players hitting motion. 

This is where your block would stop the attacking player from following through with their spike. Interestingly when the ball is blocked it doesn’t count at 1 of the 3 hits max hits.

External interference – occurs when the ball is outside of the teams court

Due to the layout of the court and where the posts are that hold the net up, it’s difficult to get to a ball that makes it outside the court on the other side of the net. So, most players won’t attempt to retrieve it and hit it back into play.

But, for completeness, it’s also not allowed.

The rules state that a player from the opposing team cannot interfere when the ball is out of bounds on the opposing team’s side of the net.

It’s common that the ball can be miss-hit and go out of bounds on the opposing team’s side. However, it’s against the rules to run to fetch it once it goes past the centerline or the imaginary line where the net is.

Volleyball match in a gymnasium

Player contact between players on the same team

Due to the chaotic nature of some rallies, it’s common that a player can attempt to hit the ball without seeing that there is another player already playing the ball, and a collision can occur. Or, their arm or leg can bump up against another player as they’re trying to retrieve it.

Rule states that this does not constitute a fault, and is perfectly fine, although it often results in the ball not being played in a way where they can easily hit it over the net again. 

The rule states: ‘A collision of players does not constitute a fault.’

Interestingly, it’s not allowed to use another player to support a hit. If this rule wasn’t in place it would mean players could potentially jump off other players to jump incredibly high. Or be lifted up by other players.

A sharp referee may call a fault when there is a collision between two players on the same team. For example, a player uses the collision to provide more strength to their hit. However, this is very rare and would be a very creative play.

All of these instances are covered by rule 9.1.3, which says:

‘Within the playing area, a player is not permitted to take support from a team-mate or any structure/object in order to hit the ball.’

For all of these reasons, it’s against the rules for players to make bodily contact with players on the opposing team. Although, in rare cases, it doesn’t occur by accident, as most players will be aware of these rules and don’t want to unnecessarily give away points. 

This is very different to a sport that is considered full contact such as rugby. Where players can pretty much manhandle each other while trying to gain possession of the ball.

There are various rules in rugby such as you cannot do dangerous tackles, such as swinging arms above the shoulder line. And dumping players on their heads. Other sports can be contact sports but are not full contact sports such as basketball. 

In basketball, it’s perfectly fine to bump into other players to a certain extent. And bodily contact occurs a lot. But, you can’t fully stop a player from moving as you can in American Football, rugby, or wrestling.

What happens if players break any of the above rules regarding contact

According to the official volleyball rules it is deemed a fault. A fault is counted as a point. Which in the definition of the rules gives a point to the team that didn’t commit the fault. And service goes to the team that didn’t commit the fault.

Spikes can hit players but it isn’t the best place to aim

When you spike the ball it’s best to aim at a spot away from the opposing team’s players because it’s more difficult to retrieve. It is somewhat rare that the ball can hit a player in the body and in the worst-case scenario in the face. 

At the highest levels, this rarely happens, because players have very good control over their spikes. But, at the amateur level, it can happen more often.

I found when I played volleyball I hated receiving a spike when I was positioned in the backcourt. The reason was that the best way to retrieve a spike is to dig the ball.

As you may know, this is where you clasp your hands together and put them out in front of you while doing a squatting motion. 

However, doing that puts your arms very far away from your face. So, if the ball comes towards your face it’s very hard to get your hands up in time to deflect it.

Luckily it’s very rare for the ball to hit someone in the face in volleyball. And if players continued to do it where it seemed to be on purpose it would likely be called up for being unsportsmanlike.

Or, the opposing team would respond in kind.

Non contact sports have a lower rate of injury compared to contact sports

Interestingly, noncontact sports like volleyball have a lower rate of injury compared to contact sports according to Stanford Children’s Hospital

They also state that injuries occur most often during practice rather than in competitive matches. And that individual sports and recreational activities have more severe injuries.

What Is Illegal Blocking in Volleyball?

Blocking in volleyball is one of the most impactful parts of the game. The reason is that the main objective when receiving the ball is to get it to the setter who will set it for one of the other players to spike the ball. But, what exactly is an illegal block in volleyball?

An illegal block is one where the blocking player touches the net, where the ball is touched before the opposing team plays the ball on their side of the net, blocking a serve, and where it interferes with the opposing team’s ability to play the ball according to the official FIVB rules. 

It’s definitely possible to do each of these plays in any given game. And in some cases, it can be seen as the most efficient way to score a point given the circumstance. 

However, doing so will be deemed a fault by the referee. And results in a point being scored to the other team, and service going to the opposing team.

Is Volleyball a Non Contact Sport?

Volleyball involves hitting the ball with a lot of force. But, is volleyball considered a non-contact sport?

Volleyball is a non-contact sport. The official rules of volleyball published by the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), which translates to International Volleyball Federation state that bodily contact cannot be made between players of opposing teams.

This is described throughout the rules for each of the different aspects of the game. Such as, hitting and blocking. 

If players on the same team make bodily contact with each other this is not considered a fault. However, players cannot use each other for support to play the ball.

Why Are Non Contact Sports Better?

There are full contact, non-contact, and contact sports. Many people wonder what sport is the best for them and so I did some research into why contact sports are better. Here’s what I found.

Overall, there is a much lower risk of injury in non-contact sports compared to contact sports according to statistics provided by Stanford Children’s Hospital. Certain non-contact sports are more prone to injury, specifically extreme sports. 

Contact sports involve players and teams competing by using their body which presents many more opportunities for injury.

Stanford Children’s hospital has compiled statistics about what sports result in the most injuries. And they report that injuries occur the most often during contact sports. 

However, they say that more severe injuries occur in individual sports and recreational activities.