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Volleyball Definitions

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Volleyball | Volleyball Definitions | Volleyball Techniques and Tactics

If you're struggling to understand some of the terms used in either the Volleyball Entry or the Volleyball Techniques and Tactics Entry, then this Entry will explain in detail…lots and lots of detail1. Listed alphabetically, some explanations may make reference to another definition - shown in bold - in order to be understood properly, thus allowing this writer to send you on a small treasure hunt.

Court Position Numbering System

Begins at the back right, going anticlockwise from one to six.

  • 1 - back  right, where the player who has just served stands.
  • 2 - front right.
  • 3 - front middle.
  • 4 - front left.
  • 5 - back  left.
  • 6 - back  middle.


  • Attack Line - the line parallel to, but three metres away from, the net, separating the front and back of the court.


  • Back court hitter - this is the person designated in the back three positions to hit the ball across the net.

  • Block - using the hands and arms to stop the ball from crossing the net. Extremely tall players find little need to jump, unlike anyone shorter than about 1.90m (6'2").

  • Blocker - someone who blocks the ball at the net.

  • Bump - a pass using both forearms, with hands joined. Used to pass balls from below the height of a player's head.


  • Calling - often when players first begin playing they are told to 'Call for the ball', an obvious requirement within a team sport. Actually getting them to do this is incredibly difficult. Calling can also refer to the team chants that occur between rallies as they try to psyche each other out. The whole team may chant '7-4-7 Zoooom' or 'Taxi' to draw attention to a spike that hits the back wall of the sports hall or 'Yooou are stuffed'2 to indicate the great block that one of their team has just performed. In truth these types of call are against the spirit of the game and many teams just call their own name at the end of a time-out3 or celebrate with high fives.

  • Combination - this is a pre-determined attacking play where two hitters jump near the same area of net. The aim is to get the opposition blocker to jump with one player, so that the second hitter has an open attack. Examples are the cross-over, piston and tandem.

  • Cross-over - a combination play where two hitters approach from different sides of the court and cross behind/in front of each other.


  • Dig - the dig is either a general defence move, where a low bump takes place to prevent a point being scored. It can also refer to the dive that takes place to try to prevent a spike from scoring.

  • Dink - see Tip.


  • Free Ball - in fact this is not winning a ball in the local raffle, but actually when the opposition attack is so weak that it should result in a perfect pass into the setter. This should provide the attacking team with the maximum chance of winning the point.


  • Hitter - surprise surprise, the person who hits the ball. For those that are fussy and point out that every player hits the ball, it is the player who hits the ball over the net.


  • Libero - a specialist defensive player who wears a different shirt and can substitute onto court an unlimited number times. They many not serve, block or hit the ball above the height of the net. If they overhand volley a ball inside the three metre line, it may not be hit above the height of the net.


  • Middle player - a hitter that positions themselves in the middle of the court, just behind the attack line.


  • Outside player - a player that positions themselves on the left side of the court, on the weaker side of a setter.


  • Piston - a combination play where two hitters attack the same area of the net, but at different times. The first hitter jumps and as he begins to descend, the second hitter then jumps. The overall effect is like that of the pistons in an engine.

  • Pancake - a move used in a dig. The hands are flattened together4 allowing them to get under a very low ball.


  • Roofing - in olden times, roofing referred to a player being able to hit a ball onto the floor hard enough that it would bounce up and hit the roof. In the modern day it is a term describing a good block. Imagine a roof being made over the ball by the blocker's hand so that it cannot escape.


  • Set - the action that a setter does to prepare the ball to be hit by the hitter.

  • Setter - the second player to hit the ball. They pass the ball to the correct position for the hit, choosing both who will hit the ball and the position that they will do so from.

  • Short - a ball set a short distance to a player who is already in the air. It therefore travels a short distance in a short time.

  • Side-out - receiving service and winning the rally. In old times (pre-1998) it did not score a point.

  • Spike - the spike is the volleyball attack. After the ball is set an attacker will jump and bullet the ball downwards into the opposition's court, hopefully so quickly that they can't return it.

  • Stuff-block - a blocked ball that rebounds quickly to the floor.

  • Swing hitter - similar to an outside hitter, but whereas a swing hitter passes and hits, an outside hitter doesn't necessarily pass.


  • Tandem - a combination play where two hitters attack side by side, maybe one metre apart.

  • Time-out - a brief delay between rallies which can be called by either the coach or captain. Teams can use this time to break opposition momentum and regather their thoughts. Timeouts usually last 30 seconds.

  • Tip - an attack that is just pushed over the net by flicking the wrist. Usually results in the ball going over the top of the blockers and land just behind them. Also known as a dink or dump!

  • Tooling - when an attacker deliberately hits a ball off the block so that it ends up out of court, thereby winning the point. Cheeky!


  • Volley - using the fingers of both hands to rebound the ball. In truth it is catching and throwing the ball very quickly. Try putting your hands to together in a praying manner, then move the palms away so that only the finger tips remain in contact. Then rotate your hands above your head so that the palms are up. Finally move the fingers about an inch apart. This is the volleying position.


  • Wiping the block - see tooling.

So, you've made it to the end. Congratulations. Hopefully you've found what you were looking for, and become distracted and found some other volleyball knowledge in the process. Try taking another look through the volleyball Entries and see whether your new found volleyball mastery comes in handy. Enjoy!

1Don't worry, it's actually a rather short Entry.2The imagination of volleyballers knows no bounds.3Actually their imaginations have very small boundaries.4Like, funnily enough, a pancake.

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