Penalty cards in volleyball: yellow and red cards explained

Volleyball is a team sport but individual players can get a card. The referee can punish players or the coach if they don’t follow the sportsmanship rules.

Volleyball is not a contact sport so it is not possible to physically harm players of the other team (except if you throw the ball at them but this would be an act of aggression), so the implications of these cards are less severe.

Let’s take a look at the 4 types of cards that can be shown to players, from less serious to more serious.  The rules are the same for high school volleyball (NFHS), college volleyball (NCAA) and international volleyball matches (FIVB).

What does a yellow card mean in volleyball?

 A yellow card is the first warning. This doesn’t have any implications but can show players that they have to be aware of certain behaviors and shouldn’t repeat them. 

Below are some reasons why a player or coach can get a yellow card.

  • Having discussions with the referees
  • Shouting mean words at another person in the sports arena
  • Not giving the ball to the other team or slowing down the game unnecessarily. 
  • Touching the net 

Generally, a referee will talk to the captain if something is going wrong. This gives the player and team an opportunity to fix the behavior before they get a warning.  The team captain can then discuss this with the individual player.

In some instances, the coach will ask for a timeout so that they can talk to the player. If the player is not able to control their emotions, they might get substituted. A lot of high achievers are very driven and if they feel that the referee made a wrong decision, they might get out of control.

Some players work with a coach to improve their emotional control to make sure that they remain calm when things go wrong during the match. Players are under a lot of pressure and it can get to their heads. 

Coaches should always remain calm and it can say something about the coach if they get a lot of yellow cards. This is not how a leader should work and they can destabilize the team with their actions. Coaches have to think about the implications of their actions and a yellow card can indicate that they are budging under the pressure. 

Yellow cards just give a warning and don’t have any implications. They are written down on the match sheet and can lead to a red card if the behavior continues. 

2/ Red card in volleyball: meaning

If the behavior continues, the referee might issue a red card. This card has implications as it is recorded on the scoresheet and results in a loss of service and a penalty point to the other team.

This can lead to losing a set so should be avoided at all costs. The players can stay on the court. This is a big difference from other contact sports such as soccer. In these sports, you can hurt a player if you use disallowed movements.

A red card can also be issued without a yellow card if the player shows Rude Conduct. This includes ignoring the referee or using mean words. Celebrating a point too much can also lead to a red card as it is slowing down the game. This is partly subjective and the referee has to make a decision on what is a yellow card and a red card. 

If a team gets a red card, the captain can talk to the referee and the player to calm things down. The coach can consider substituting the player as further issues can lead to disqualification. 

Some coaches can get too upset when they feel that the referee made a wrong decision and start shouting. Referees generally don’t have a lot of patience for this and they might be stricter towards coaches as they feel that they have to lead the team. 

3/ Yellow and red cards together in volleyball

When Red and Yellow card is shown simultaneously, held together in one hand or separately in each hand, a player or coach has to leave the playing area for the rest of the set. After the set is done, the player can return if they calm down. It is often better to get this punishment than a red card as the player can just get substituted while the other team gets the serve when you get a red card.

These are serious offenses and will include behavior that seriously disrupts the game (such as kicking the ball at a player out of frustration) or very mean words. You can intimidate the other team but some words are just not accepted as they might be too hurtful.

Referees are paying more attention to these things than before as people have become more sensitive towards these issues.

When a player or coach receives this card he or she has to take a look in the mirror and think about what happened. Some players need coaching to make sure that they can control their emotions during a game.

It can take a lot of help before they are able to channel this energy in different ways. Respect towards the referee is important and some coaches spend a training session on this topic. 

The coach might also give the player punishment for this (such as running drills) to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. You are letting the team down and letting short-term emotions get above the long-term goals of the team. The other players on the team will be distracted from the game as well so this has to be avoided. 

4/ First yellow and immediately after this the red card

This expels the player from the rest of the match. This is the most severe punishment that a player or coach can get. It involves repeated aggressive behavior or aggression towards the referees.

These cards are rarely shown as volleyball players generally know what is acceptable and what isn’t. A coach will generally substitute a player before they can get this card and the referee can give a yellow card to warn the player that things are getting out of hand. 

In some instances, the player might even be excluded from the competition. This is often decided by the sporting committee or the organizers of the competition. Some behaviors are just unacceptable (such as attacking another player) and sportsmanship is essential.

Therefore they might want to show the player or coach that their behavior was wrong and give them some time to think about what happened. Professional players should be able to control their emotions and they should never get this punishment during their career. 

To conclude, the referee has several cards to punish a player that is not cooperating. These cards are generally less severe than in other sports but can lead to points for the other team.

A coach can get these cards as well. In general, a team should display sportsmanship style behavior and these cards should be avoided. Players should control their emotions. Arguing with the referee doesn’t add a lot of value as you probably are not going to change their mind and might get punished.

The rules are different in beach volleyball as players can get a maximum of 2 yellow cards per set or they might get expelled.

There are subtle differences between competitions though. In High School volleyball, cards are carried by both referees. In college volleyball, only the first referee carries cards.