Volleyball Rule Changes

Here are some rule changes for the 2021 volleyball season. Also, the differences in rules among USAV, NFHS, NCAA, and FIVB.

Major Rule Differences Among – NCAA/USA VOLLEYBALL/NFHS

Here are some of the biggest differences among the NCAA/USA VOLLEYBALL/NFHS organizations.

1) Rosters

In the NCAA, rosters aren't used. The designated coaches must be listed on first set lineup sheets.

In USAV, rosters are used at the discretion of the tournament, based on the specific Competition Regulations. When rosters are used, all team members, including managers, trainers, etc. are listed on roster. If a player isn't listed on the roster, then that player can't play.

In NFHS, all the teammates must be listed on the roster. The team does have the option to add teammates to the roster, but the result would be a loss of rally and a point to the opponent.

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2) Non-disruptive coaching – ball in play

For the NCAA, non-playing team members are required to stay at least 1.75 meters from the court and completely outside the substitution zone. 

For USAV, the coach may stand or walk within free zone in front of team bench from the extension of the attack line up to and including the warm-up area, no closer to the court than 1.75 meters from the sideline and its extension, without disrupting or delaying the match.

A team may have one assistant coach at a time stand to instruct players on the court, with the same location restrictions. 

For NFHS, the head coach may stand in the libero replacement zone at least 6 feet from the sideline to coach. If a team member on the bench is assessed a red card for unsporting conduct, privilege is lost for the match.

Assistant coaches shall remain seated on the bench except for the provisions in Rule 12-2-5.

3) Non-disruptive coaching – ball out of play

For the NCAA, only one coach at any time may address the official to clarify a non-judgment ruling or confirm TO/sub information. Coaches may not delay the resumption of play to discuss a judgment decision.

Coach(es) must not enter the substitution zone to address judgment decisions at any time.

For USAV, during a dead ball, the coach may stand or walk within free zone in front of the team bench from the extension of the attack line up to and including the warmup area, without disrupting the match.

One assistant coach at a time may stand to instruct players on the court, with the same location restrictions as the head coach and without disrupting the match.

For NFHS, during a dead ball, the head coach may stand in libero replacement zone to instruct players. Privilege is lost for the match if any team member on bench is assessed a red card for unsporting conduct.

Assistant coaches shall remain seated on the bench except for the provisions in Rule 12-2-5.

4) Designated coaches

For the NCAA, all coaches must be designated on the first set lineup sheet. Also, any coach may instruct players or request interruptions or a lineup check.

For USAV, the coach signs the lineup sheet. Only the coach (or game captain) may request interruptions. Assistant coaches may not intervene in the match.

For NFHS, specific designation not addressed, but the head coach must attend the pre-match conferences.

Only the head coach may request timeouts, substitutions, and lineup checks, and has the privilege to stand during play.

5) Jewelry during play

For the NCAA, jewelry is not allowed (exception – medical/religious identification may be removed from chain and taped or sewn under the uniform). A delay sanction is assessed if jewelry removal delays the match.

For USAV, jewelry may be worn provided its nature does not present a concern for safety, such as extremely long necklaces and/or necklaces with large medallions, or large hoop earrings.

For NFHS, jewelry is not allowed (exception – medical or religious identification may be worn and taped to body). An unnecessary delay is charged for jewelry discovered during play. Also, body paint or glitter prohibited.

6) Coin toss and choice of playing area

For the NCAA, any team representative may attend pre-match and deciding set coin toss. The home team designates their playing area for the first set one hour before the match. The pre-match coin toss is for serve/receive only, and is called by the visiting team representative. The deciding set coin toss is conducted near the scorer’s table by the second referee; the toss is for serve/receive or playing area and is called by the home team representative. The second referee communicates the results of the toss to the first referee by extending an outstretched arm on the side of the team to serve first and giving the appropriate signal indicating if teams will remain on their sides or change courts.

For USAV, team captains must attend both the pre-match and deciding set coin toss. Both pre-match coin toss and deciding set coin toss are for serve/receive or choice of playing area. Deciding set coin toss is conducted near the scorer’s table by the first referee, or the second referee if designated.

For NFHS, the head coach and captain(s) must attend the coin toss. The home team selects playing area/bench for set upon entering the facility. The pre-match coin toss is for serve/receive only. The deciding set coin toss is conducted at the official’s table by the second referee; the toss is called by the home team playing captain and is for serve/receive or playing area. The second referee communicates the results of the toss to the first referee by extending an outstretched arm on the side of the team to serve first and giving the appropriate signal indicating if teams will remain on their sides or change courts.

7) Changing courts in a deciding set

For the NCAA, teams change courts when one team has scored eight points.

For USAV, teams change courts when one team has scored eight points.

For NFHS, teams do not change courts during a deciding set.

8) Lineups due for first set

For NCAA, at the three-minute mark on the countdown clock timing the warm-ups. Two minutes before end of timed warm-up period.

For USAV, if one Libero is used, Libero number must be entered on lineup sheet for each set. If two Liberos are used, Libero numbers are entered on lineup sheet for the first set and are designated for the match.

For NFHS, two minutes prior to end of timed warm-up period. If used, the libero’s number must be marked on lineup sheet for each set.

9) Lineups due for subsequent sets

For NCAA, at least 30 seconds before the expiration of the interval between sets.

For USAV, at least 30 seconds before the expiration of the interval between sets.

For NFHS, no later than one minute remaining in the timed interval.

10) Length of timeouts 

For NCAA, the default is 75 seconds. Coaches may agree to modify length to 60 or 90 seconds. Warning whistle is blown 15 seconds before end of timeout period.

For USAV, 30 seconds. No warning whistle is blown before end of timeout period.

For NFHS, 60 seconds. Warning whistle is blown 15 seconds before end of timeout period.

11) Maximum team substitutes   

For NCAA, fifteen (15) team substitutions per set.

For USAV, twelve (12) team substitutions per set.

For NFHS, eighteen (18) team substitutions per set.

12) Number of liberos allowed 

For NCAA, one libero may be designated for each set. 

For USAV, up to two Liberos may be designated for each match. If two Liberos are designated on the first set lineup sheet, they are designated as Liberos for the entire match. If one Libero is designated on the first set lineup sheet, the team may change the designated Libero or choose not to use a Libero for any subsequent set. If no Libero is designated on the first set lineup sheet, the team may designate a single Libero or choose not to use a Libero for any subsequent set.

For NFHS, one libero may be designated for each set.

13) Libero service restrictions 

For NCAA, the libero may serve in one rotation in a set. 

For USAV, the libero may serve in one rotation in a set. If two Libero's are used, either Libero may serve in one rotation in a set.

For NFHS, the libero may serve in one rotation in a set.

14) Toss for service

For NCAA, one toss for service after the service is authorized. Ball must be tossed or released before contact. Time allowed for service contact – 8 seconds.

For USAV, one toss for service after the service is authorized. Ball must be tossed or released before contact. Time allowed for service contact – 8 seconds (exceptions for 14 and under divisions – 2 tosses and 5 seconds allowed after each service authorization).

For NFHS, after the ball is released for service, it may be caught or allowed to drop to the floor to allow a re-serve. Only one re-serve per player, per term of service. Ball does not need to be tossed/released before contact. Time allowed for service contact – 5 seconds.

15) Attacking the serve 

For NCAA, cannot attack the serve if the ball is in the front zone and entirely above the top of the net.

For USAV, cannot attack the serve if the ball is in the front zone and entirely above the top of the net.

For NFHS, cannot attack the serve from in front of or behind attack line, if the ball is entirely above the top of the net.

16) Net contact 

For NCAA, contact with the net or antenna is not a fault unless it is made while playing the ball or it interferes with play. A blocker/attacker has completed their action when they transition to the next action.

For USAV, contact with the net by a player between the antennae, during the action of playing the ball, is a fault. The action of playing the ball includes (among others) take-off, hit (or attempt) and landing.

For NFHS, contact with the net, net cables, or net antennas is always a fault, except contact by loose hair or the force of a ball hit by the opponent pushes the net or net cables into player.

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17) Contact with net, post or cables outside the net

For NCAA, players may touch the post, ropes, or any other object outside the antennae, including the net itself, provided that it does not interfere with play or is not used as a means of support while contacting the ball.

For USAV, players may touch the post, ropes, or any other object outside the antennae, including the net itself, provided that it does not interfere with play.

For NFHS, contacting the net or net cables is a net fault. Dangerous contact with or gaining an advantage from the standards or referee platform is a net fault.

18) Crossing the center line 

For NCAA, player can touch opponent’s court with feet or hands, provided some part of extremity is on or above the center line. Players may also touch the opponent’s court with an entire foot or hand or any other body part(s), provided the encroachment does not present a safety hazard, does not interfere with the opponents, and some body part is on/over the center line.

For USAV, player can touch opponent’s court with feet or hands, provided some part of extremity is on or above the center line. Players may also touch the opponent’s court with an entire foot or hand or any other body part(s), provided the encroachment does not present a safety hazard, does not interfere with the opponents, and some body part is on/over the center line.

For NFHS, player can touch opponent’s court with feet or hands, provided some part of the extremity is on or above the center line. Contacting the floor across the center line with any other part of the body is illegal.

19) Illegal attack signal 

For NCAA, place the arm on the offending team’s side to the side of the body at head height, elbow bent at a right angle, and then make a forward and downward motion with one arm from the shoulder with the forearm and hand. Indicate the player at fault if necessary by pointing with an open hand.

For USAV, completely extend one arm and hand straight up from the shoulder and then bend the arm at the elbow to lower the forearm and open hand in front of the face to about chin level.

For NFHS, place one arm on the offending team’s side to the side of the body at head height, elbow bent at a right angle, and then make a forward and downward motion with one arm from the shoulder with the forearm and hand. Two motions are sufficient.

20) Second referee “ready” signal

For NCAA, indicated by extending one hand/arm toward first referee and making eye contact. 

For USAV, indicated by holding both hands in front of body at head height, palms toward first referee.

For NFHS, indicated by extending one hand/arm toward referee and making eye contact.

21) Signal for 3rd and 4th team contact by same player

For NCAA, signal “four hits.”

For USAV, signal “double contact.”

For NFHS, signal “four hits.”

22) Line judge position during timeouts

For NCAA, both line judges take a position straddling the second hash mark of the attack line extension.

For USAV, at mid-point of each end line. 

For NFHS, at intersection of the attack line and the sideline on the first referee’s side of the court.

› Significant Rule Changes


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