Beach Volleyball vs. Indoor Volleyball: What’s the Difference?
Beach volleyball became popular in the 1920s in Santa Monica, California. While the sport originally followed the rules of indoor volleyball, overtime the game has evolved to be its own sport.
Beach volleyball originally consisted of six players on each team, just like indoor volleyball. In the 1920s, players at the Santa Monica Athletic Club began to experiment with different numbers of players. Eventually, two players on each team became the formation that was followed by professional beach volleyball.
There is no bench in beach volleyball and no substitutions. Indoor volleyball allows for up to twelve substitutions per set and allows teams to have a bench. Beach volleyball keeps the two starting players on the court for the entire game. The two players alternate serving each time the receiving team scores a point, whereas indoor volleyball has a system of rotations for the six players on the court.
Court Size & Equipment
One main and obvious difference between the two games is that one is played on a gym floor and the other is played on beach sand. Due to the increased difficulty of moving through sand and the smaller number of players in beach volleyball, the court is smaller. A beach volleyball court is two meters shorter and one meter narrower than an indoor court. While it may be easier to cover the space of this smaller court, it increases the difficulty of shot placement.
The net height for both indoor and beach volleyball is the same.
The next main difference is the size and weight of the balls. Beach volleyballs are softer and lighter than indoor volleyballs. This size change allows beach players to be able to close distances while the ball is in the air.
Scoring & Rules
Beach volleyball sets are played to 21 points, while indoor volleyball sets are played to 25. The tie-breaking set in both games is played to 15 points. Games in beach volleyball are best of three, while indoor games can go to five sets. In both games, the winning team must win by a lead of at least two points.
One major rule difference is that beach players are not allowed to tip the ball over the net, a shot in indoor volleyball that is termed “dinking.”
Indoor volleyball consists of six unique player positions. Beach volleyball only has two different positions: the blocker and the defender. The blocker guards the net and tries to block the opponent’s spikes. The defender is responsible for guarding the rest of the court and digging out spikes or other shots in open areas of the court. Teams in beach volleyball usually use both players as the blocker and defender, depending on what side of the court they are on.
Shots & Point Scoring__
In indoor volleyball, a spike is usually used to conclude a rally and win a point. Because of the large amount of open space on a volleyball court, players are able to score points on a variety of shots.
A roll shot is when a beach player loops the ball over the net and the blocker with a lot of topspin. This spin gives the shot a fast downward trajectory, making it difficult for the defender to get there in time and keep the rally alive. A cut shot is when a beach player hits the ball across the court, but close to the net. This shot is difficult to read and therefore difficult to dig. A pokey is when a beach player hits the ball with their knuckles into open space.
In indoor volleyball, players are not allowed to touch the ball two successive times. In beach, players can touch the ball twice in a row, but only if the first touch was an attempted block.
While indoor volleyball players do not have to worry about weather, beach volleyball’s playing conditions can change based on the weather. However, a match will not be played if the weather conditions present risks of injury to the players or have an impact on the results of the match.