How to use your feet in volleyball: (AVOID a foot fault!)

Footwork is essential in volleyball. It can make it a lot easier to catch or pass the ball. However, you also have to mind your feet while playing so that you don’t make a violation. This would allow the other team to score a point just because your foot is in the wrong position. Therefore it is essential that you know the rules and what you can and can’t do with your feet during a volleyball match. Let”s study them in more detail so that you know what is allowed and what is not.

Rules line under the net: is a foot under the net allowed?

A line under the net indicates the end of the court for each team. In indoor volleyball, you are allowed to set your foot under the net but there are certain limitations. A part of your foot should be in contact with the line under the net. Make sure that this part is big enough to avoid discussions with the referee. You can’t set your foot over this line. Furthermore, you can’t disturb the other team while doing this. For example, you can’t touch the other players or net. Both the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) allow this and therefore it is a common rule in a lot of national and international tournaments worldwide.

Let’s look at this nuance in the video below:

If your foot is not on the line under the net or you are hindering the other team, you are making a foul. This will result in a point for the other team.  It can be hard for the referee to see this as a lot of things are going on during a rally. The other team can notify the referee but if he or she didn’t see it, there shouldn’t be a fault. Be careful with this though as it is a stupid way to lose points.

If the ball is between the pole and the antennas and inside the court, players can go over the middle of the court as well to pursue the ball. This is called the pursuit rule and the goal is to continue rallies. You have to pass to your own team. This is not allowed in every tournament as you need a big enough sports arena to be able to do this. We will discuss this in more detail below.

Can you go under the net in volleyball?

There is a line under the volleyball net that can’t be crossed. In general, players can only set a foot on the line and can’t go over it. This would be a foot fault and the referee would call this out. The same is true about a hand or other parts of the body. You can hold it above the line but can’t go over it. You don’t have to touch the line when you go with your hand above it. It is only when your feet go above the line that you have to touch the line. I would avoid going above the line as it can lead to a lot of discussions. Volleyball is a fast-paced sport and the referee might incorrectly think that you went over the line. There is a limit to the amount of information that humans can process. This is also why in some sports they use cameras and replays to check if the ball was over the line.

However, in beach volleyball the rules are different. It is allowed to set your foot over the line under the net provided that your team is attacking. You can’t interrupt the other team when you are doing this. This can result in spectacular rallies but should be avoided as you are losing a lot of time diving under the net. Therefore it should only be done if the ball is close by the net. To score a point the ball has to over the net anyway. The net might interfere with your pass if you are going under it so it is not recommended to do this often.  

Photo by Josh Duke on Unsplash

There is another exception to this rule and this is if a player intercepts the ball outside the antennas (so between the poles and the antennas). If the ball is there, players can go over the middle of the court as well to pursue the ball. This is called the pursuit rule and the goal is to continue rallies. You have to pass to your own teams and it should be outside the antennas. This is not allowed in every tournament as you need a big enough sports arena to be able to do this. Therefore you won’t see it often in college or high school volleyball leagues. Given that this part of the net is rather narrow, it will almost never happen that players are able to get the ball there and continue the rally.

As you can see below in the area between the poles and the antenna, there are different rules and you can even touch the net there, as can be seen in the video below. Once again, this almost never happens and is a nuance on the rules that not a lot of players or coaches know about. This explains why some players act confused when the referee allowed the game to continue. It doesn’t happen often and this is why referees have to take a course so that they know all the small nuances of the rules.

To conclude we can state that it is essential to have good footwork in volleyball. This allows you to catch the ball earlier or jump higher. There are a lot of drills to make your feet and legs more agile (for example running on a sports ladder). It is also important to use your feet in the correct manner or you will get a fault. The players are allowed to touch the ball with their feet. This doesn’t happen that often as it is hard to do so. Furthermore, indoor volleyball players can set their feet on the line under the net but are not allowed to set their foot over it.