Sitting volleyball: everything that you need to know about this sport on the Paralympics

Sitting volleyball is a sport that is part of the Paralympics (the Olympics for people with a physical or intellectual disability). Other muscles are used as players crawl over the court. It allows more people to play volleyball and can be a lot of fun. The net is lower than in standing volleyball so that everyone has a chance to push the ball over the net. This sport is actually quite new and was only added to the Paralympics in 1958. For women, it was only added since 2004 so the sport is still quite unknown. It was developed to allow veterans to participate in sports as well. At the moment clubs all over the world are popping up as more people get to know this variation of volleyball. Let’s discuss this in more detail.

Paralympic seated volleyball (or paravolleyball) rules

To make it fair, players need to have at least one buttock on the floor at all times. A short loss of contact with the court is allowed in two situations: when making defending in the back zone to save a ball and when blocking the ball in the front zone. Other than this the rules are the same as in standing volleyball. The goal is still to push the ball over the net and you score a point by letting it land inside the court of the other team. 

It is played with 6 players per team and there is also a libero (that has to wear another shirt). All the rules of standing volleyball apply, including rotating over the court. This allows volleyball players that had to deal with an injury that impacts their walking abilities to continue playing. 

Players are also using the same 5 basic volleyball skills: setting, spiking, serving, digging, and blocking. Given that the net is lower, it is still possible to block the ball. Players don’t have to serve as high as in standing volleyball as the net is hanging a lot lower. Digging can be done by crawling around or by scooting on your buttocks. 

Only 3 ball touches per team are allowed and each player has a unique function. Some players are going to focus on offense (the setter passes to the hitter who is going to attack). Other players are going to defend (the middle blocker wants to stop the ball at the net and the libero wants to dig to keep the ball in the air). All the players need to be able to attack and defend though so it is important they practice all of these skills. This allows coaches to use a variety of strategies. 

The same scoring system is used as in standing volleyball so the matches can last over an hour and be very intense. The ladies have to win 2 sets to win, men have to win 3 sets to be able to do this. 

Timeouts and substitutions are allowed as well and this allows the players to rest and have a drink. 

Some tournaments modify the rules to allow more people to play (for example, making the court smaller, giving more chances to serve, and shorter sets. This depends on the organizers of the tournament and what they decide. 

There are also rules about the level of disability of the players on the court to balance the teams. This is done based on the abilities of the players and is objectively measured using a system that the organizer of the Paralympics has proposed. 

Beach paravolleyball also exists and this is played in sand outdoors. The same rules apply to this as standing beach volleyball with the discussed exceptions. There are only two players per team. This is not an Olympic sport so far. 

Below you can see some epic sets and team play:

Team USA sitting volleyball

Volleyball is less popular in the USA than it is in a lot of countries. For example, there are professional countries in Italy, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea while there is none in the USA. This is also reflected in the popularity of sitting volleyball and there are not many clubs in the USA so far. 

The Paralympics is a competition in which the team is formed based on the nationality of the players. For males, the team from Iran is doing very well and they have won the majority of the Paralympics tournaments since the inception of sitting volleyball. For females, fewer tournaments were organized but the Dutch team has won the most medals so far. The women’s sitting team from the USA has already won 3 medals. The male sitting team from the USA has not won any medal so far. Hopefully, they will be able to change this in the years to come. 

At the moment there are teams in Florida, Carolina, Northern California, and in the GEVA region. These clubs welcome new players so it can be a great idea to contact them if you want to learn more about this sport. More regions should become active in the coming months and years as this sport is becoming more popular. 

At the moment this sport is being played in more than 60 countries and the USA is proudly one of them. Given their broad expertise with pro sports, we can expect that the male and female USA teams will perform well in the upcoming contests. There are also World Championship tournaments for this sport and it allows players to practice and get better. 

Players wear the same outfits and team colors as they would in standing volleyball. This means that the players of team USA mainly play in dark blue and white uniforms. These match very well together and players make sure that their other gear (shoes, knee pads and so on) match with these colors.

To conclude, we can state that there is a lot of overlap between seated volleyball and standing volleyball. The rules are the same. In seated volleyball, the players need to have one buttock on the floor at all times and the net hangs lower. Other than this, the same principles apply as in standing volleyball and matches can be very high-paced. This variation of the sport is still quite new and new clubs and teams are still being formed.