Line judge or linesman in volleyball: what is their role?

As a new volleyball player, you should be aware of the linesman. Line judges are responsible for calling block touches and judging if the volleyball has crossed the boundary of the sidelines. They also see whether the ball has landed inside, on it, or close to the ending nearest them. 

Line judge signals in volleyball:

The primary responsibilities of line judges include judging and giving the correct signals to communicate with the match officials. They understand which line is being used and look for foot faults carefully. 

They use the ‘IN’ signal whenever it lands inside the court. This happens even when a part of the ball touches the line. That’s because the lines are also a part of the volleyball court. 

Whenever the ball touches or goes over the antennae, they give the ‘OUT’ signal. It is out even if the ball touches the body of the net. 

They use the ‘OUT’ signal if the ball lands on the ground outside the court (if it wasn’t touched by a player on the same side of the court).

If a ball lands out-of-bounds after contacting a player (after the first contact), they give the ‘touch’ signal. 

Line judges are members of the officiating team. As a player, you must never harass any linesman. It is unacceptable in volleyball. 

Volleyball line judge flags

You have seen line judges giving signals using the flag they hold. It’s a red flag between 12 × 12 inches (30.48 cm) to 16 × 16 inches (40.64 cm) in size. Though the line judges use a few hand signals, beginner players need to know the flag signals first. Using the official flag signals, the line judges indicate the nature of the fault they are calling out. As a player, you should not be confused about what they mean when giving specific signals with their flag:

When they are pointing towards the middle of the court with the flag down, it means ‘INBOUNDS.’ 

  1. When they extend an arm and raise the flag, it means ‘OUT-OF-BOUNDS.’
  2. If you see them raising the flag over their head and waving it, it means they are ‘OBTAINING FIRST REFEREE’S ATTENTION.’
  3. When they bring the flag in front of their body to their shoulder level and keep the other hand’s open palm on the flag, it means ‘TOUCH.’
  4. If they point towards the antennae while waving the flag over their head, it means ‘ANTENNAE VIOLATION.’
  5. If they are waving the flag over their head while pointing to the service area with their index finger, extending their arm at shoulder height, it means ‘FOOT FAULT’ or ‘SERVICE LINE FAULT.’
  6. When they raised both their arms and crossed them in front of their chest with palms facing their bodies, it means ‘VIEW OF PLAY BLOCKED.

Volleyball line judge rules

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

There are some rules that line judges must remember and follow while determining faults. It would be best if you also kept these rules in mind to understand why the line judge is displaying a particular decision:

Rules for Inbounds and Out of Bounds

  • A ball is ‘in’ when it lands on an area inside the court. This includes any part of the ball.
  • A ball is considered ‘out’ when it lands complelty outside the boundary line. A player must not have touched the ball on that half of the field, and neither it has come in contact with any part of the sideline or end line.

  • The ball is also ‘out’ if the ball crosses the net through the antennas and has touched anything except the net apparatus. It can be anything that has caused it to be out of play, like overhead obstruction, or the floor in the opponent’s free zone. It can also be the bleachers, non-player, bench, overhead obstruction, wall, divider curtain, etc. 
  • Line judges allow the following: the ball touches the referee, crosses the net cable completely, or goes under the net.

Rules for Antenna Faults

  • An antenna fault is declared if the ball touches an antenna, the net outside it, the referee stand or any cables, straps, or net posts. 
  • When a ball (including a served ball) goes outside or over the antenna and goes to the opponent’s side, it is an antenna fault.

Rules for Foot Fault or Line Violation

  • When the server has touched the ball for service, the server must not touch the court or end line. The server should be in the service zone to start. It is a foot fault if the server contacts the floor outside these short lines during service contact. A server must not contact the end line, court, or service zone during the takeoff point.

Rules for Touches

  • A touch is when the ball ends out of bounds.

Duties of line judges in volleyball 

Even before the match and during position time, there are some duties that line judges have to carry out. New players need to know what are their key responsibilities during the game. Their main duties are:

  • Using flags while performing their functions and maintaining the signal for some time.
  • Judging whether the ball is ‘in’ or ‘out’ when close to their lines.
  • To signal the touches of the ‘out’ balls.
  • Calling out when the ball touches the antenna.

  • To signal that the served ball has crossed the net.
  • Indicating when a player has stepped outside the court during the service hit.
  • Calling out the server’s foot faults.
  • Indicating if a player has come in contact with the antenna on their side of the court while playing the ball or has caused any interference in the play.
  • To signal when the ball has touched the antenna on their side or has crossed the net and gone to the opponent’s court.
  • Repeating their signal if requested by the first referee.

In volleyball, the line judges work as assistants of the first referee. Both the line judges stand at opposite corners while carrying out their duty. So, you will find a linesman standing to the referee’s right (on the same side of the volleyball court) and the other standing diagonally opposite. There might be two to four linesmen, depending on the game. They might be standing on two or all the four corners of the court.