Blocking in volleyball: roofing, blocking a serve, and reaching over the net

Blocking is a defensive move in volleyball whereby the ball is stopped just behind the net. This can result in spectacular rallies. Let’s take a look at how this is done below:

There are a lot of rules and nuances on these rules when it comes to blocking. Let’s take look at these so that you don’t make an error during the match.

What is roofing in volleyball?

Roofing is when an attack is stopped by a block and the ball goes immediately down in the court of the attacker. This means that the defenders did a great job. Not only did they stop the attack, but they also scored a point immediately. The other team didn’t even get a chance to keep the ball in the air.  This typically means that the middle blocker was able to stop the attack of a hitter as these are the main attackers and defenders close to the net.

When players block a ball, their hands go over the net. An attacker is trying to push the ball over it but then the ball hits the hands of the blocker. The word roofing is used as it seems that there is a proverbial roof over the net given that it was impossible to get the ball over it. 

If this happens a lot during a match, the setter can consider using another hitter or even to pass to another player on the court if the hitters are struggling. The coach will also often initiate a timeout to discuss this or one of the hitters might get substituted. If it happens a lot during a match, you can lose a lot of points rapidly as you are not only unable to attack but also get a point behind. In this way, you are going to lose the match and something needs to happen.

The blocker needs to get their timing just right to be able to roof. Blockers have to jump to get their hands over the net and therefore they have to start this a few seconds before the hitter gets the ball. It is not allowed to touch the net so if you jump too early, you are going to miss the ball.

It is also possible that multiple blockers work together to set a block. You can have a two or even three-person block. They have to be quite sure that they can stop the ball as a tip next to the block can let the attackers score a point quite easily.

Let’s take a look at some great blocks:

Can back row player block in volleyball?

No, this is not allowed and will result in a point for the other team.  Given the rotation, players in the last row can’t just move freely over the court and have to keep the correct position relative to the other players on their team. Back row players are therefore not allowed to come to the front row to create a block. Blocking close to the net if you are standing in the second row can lead to two errors: a position error and a blocking error. The other team will only get one point but this gives you an idea that blocking from the second row is not according to the rules in volleyball. 

Not only that, but it is also not very practical. Given that the ball is already coming down in the second row (as you are standing farther away from the net), the best way is to use a dig to keep the ball in the air instead of a block.  

There are already 3 players in the front row and they can work together to create a block. Therefore the players in the second row should focus on their duties and don’t try to help the players on the front row. 

The middle blocker, that is specialized in blocking often gets replaced by the libero when this player is standing in the second row. Middle blockers are often taller and less agile. The liberos are often smaller and are able to dive to keep the ball in the air. Given that you can’t block in the second row, middle blockers lose some of their usefulness int his position and are therefore often replaced by the libero for this part of the game. 

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

 Can you reach over the net in volleyball?

Yes, it is allowed to hold your hands over the net in volleyball but this is not always allowed. 

It is often done during the defense. A block can make it harder for the spikers to get the ball over the net. It is not allowed to touch the players on the other team or hinder them in any way (for example hold a hand in front of their eyes). You also have to wait until after their attack is done (typically after 3 touches) and a block is not allowed when other people serve. The hands of the blockers are often stretched out to make it as hard as possible for the attackers to get the ball over the net. Another blocking fault is blocking the ball outside the antenna.

When it comes to attacking, it is not allowed to hold your hand over the net when you touch the ball. The goal of this rule is to avoid dunking. This would make it too hard to defend and make it very easy to score points. 

 The players have to be careful when they do this as it is not allowed to touch the net. This will result in a point for the other team. Therefore it has to be avoided at all points. Players on your team can give you a small nudge if they see that you are about to touch the net to avoid it from happening. 

In beach volleyball, it is also allowed to hold your hands over the net. The same rules apply to touching the net and holding your hands over the net during an attack.

As you can see, there are a lot of nuances in volleyball rules and you have to be aware of them if you want to avoid faults. 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Are you allowed to block a serve in volleyball?

No, you are not allowed to block the serve in volleyball. This will result in a point for the other team. This is the case on all levels of volleyball, from local competitions to international events, this is a general rule that has been implemented. The goal of this rule is to make sure that the server gets a fair chance to get the ball over the net. Serving is not easy as you have to get the ball over the net but still inside the court of the other team. This requires just the right amount of force to get it done. If the ball would get blocked, it would be too hard to score with a serve. Especially in the past as players used to stand still when they served.

With the introduction of jump serves, players are able to hit the ball farther away and it is easier to get the ball over the net. If the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) concludes that it is too easy to score on a serve given the new techniques to perform one, they might allow blocking a serve in the future. At the moment this is not really being considered. The great thing about volleyball is that the sport evolves with the times, as the introduction of the libero shows. 

This is also not allowed in beach volleyball for the same reasons that it is not allowed in indoor volleyball. It will also result in a point for the other team. Given that this is an unforced error, it should be avoided at all costs.  Newer players might not know the rules but advanced players have no excuse for this mistake.

To conclude, we can say that blocking is quite complicated in volleyball and you have to take a lot of rules into account if you want to get it right.