Substitutions in volleyball: everything that you need to know

Volleyball is a very intense sport. Matches can last more than 1 hour and players have to run a lot. After a while people get tired. Luckily it is allowed to replace players during the match. This makes sure that players can rest for a while if they are tired of playing. Let’s take a look at how this works in practice.

How many substitutions in volleyball?

International tournaments such as the Olympics allow up to 6 substitutions per set. This is often taken over by national regulations as well. In college volleyball, in the USA fifteen substitutions can be made per set, only the head coach can ask for one. In High school volleyball, only twelve substitutions are allowed per set. 

Volleyball teams consist in general of 12 players in total, of which 6 can play at the same time. This means that every player on the team can be replaced during the set given the substitutions rules. 

The number of substitutions has a big impact on the match. Not only does it affect if tired players have to keep going, but it can also have an impact on the team strategy. In a 6-2-2 strategy, players are getting substituted the whole time. This is not possible if you only have a limited set of replacements. 

One player has a special status in a match. The libero can replace any back-row player at any point during the match and this doesn’t count as a substitution. It is a defensive player that will help with digs and passes.

This lets this player get in and out of the game at multiple points during the match. Typically the libero will replace the middle blocker as this player is less agile than a libero. To make it clear for the referee that this player is on the court, he or she has to wear another colored shirt. 

In beach volleyball, there are no substitutions allowed and the two players have to keep attacking and defending during the whole match. This can make this sport very intense as you have to deal with the sun and a very fast-paced game. Beach volleyball players are often exhausted at the end of the match and start making mistakes because of this.

What is an exceptional substitution in volleyball?

In some instances, a player is unable to continue a rally. For example, they could be injured, get a cramp or get very tired. The referee might interrupt the rally to make sure that the player is OK.

Sportsmanship dictates that players take care of each other so if someone is potentially injured, the referee can decide to pause the game.

If the player is unable to continue, it is allowed to substitute the player if the team has enough substitutions left. Coaches have to make sure that they don’t use all the substitutions during a set. If a player gets injured and there are no substitutions left, the team might have to stop the match and they will lose.

Therefore most coaches don’t use all of their allowed substitutions during a set as they want to avoid losing because a player got injured. 

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This doesn’t happen too often during a match. Volleyball is a non-contact sport so you don’t run into players of the other team. It is possible that a player gets hit by the ball in the face or that they run into a team member.

Running can also lead to injuries or players can hit the ball in the wrong way. Injuries happen during volleyball and from time to time it is necessary to replace a player when he or she can’t continue. It is annoying if you have to lose a game because you are not able to replace that player anymore but it is part of the game and coaches have to anticipate for this scenario. 

You will almost never see an exceptional substitution in professional volleyball as coaches plan ahead. After a long match, it is possible that two or more players get injured and this can lead to challenges for the coach.  

Who authorizes volleyball substitution??

This depends on the level of volleyball. In lower-level volleyball games, there is only one referee and he or she has to authorize the change. In professional games, you have multiple referees and they can work together to make sure that the team doesn’t use too many substitutions or that players that are not on the starting lineup join the match. 

In high school volleyball, only the coach can ask for a substitution. In college volleyball, it is possible that the captain of the team also asks for this. You have to wait until the rally is done before you can ask the referee as you might distract him or her otherwise. Be sure to speak up so that the referee hears you. The audience might make a lot of noise and the referee can be distracted by this. 

The libero doesn’t need permission to join the match again. This is why this player is wearing a special shirt so that the referee can see that it is a legal substitution and the libero isn’t doing anything that is not allowed by the rules. Liberos can only stand on the list line on the court so they can’t replace players that are standing on the first line (behind the net). 

When can you make substitutions in volleyball?

Substitutions can only be made when the ball is dead. This means that the rally is done or that a new set is starting. Both teams can substitute at the same time. The referee has to indicate with a hand signal that it is allowed to change players. For example, when a player is injured, the referee might check what is going on for allowing the substitution.

The referees also check if a substitution is allowed before approving it. This makes sure that teams don’t change too often during a set. It is important to keep track of this so that one team doesn’t gain an unfair advantage. 

After a timeout, only one substitution is allowed per team. This makes sure that there is not too much chaos after the timeout is over. 

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The player that is going to enter the court has to wait until the other player is outside the court. Otherwise, there could be 7 players on the court instead of the 6 that are allowed. Some referees are very strict with this and can even award points to the other team if you don’t time this correctly.

Therefore it is important that you wait in the designated area if you are going on the court. Check with the referee to make sure that you are allowed to enter the court before doing so.

Coaches often wait until a player is tired to replace him or her. Once they notice that a player is making unforced errors, they start replacing them. It is also possible that the coach wants to execute another strategy and needs another type of player.

In some instances a defender is struggling against a specific attacker, this can also be a great reason to replace a player so that they don’t match up anymore. 

Players on the bench have to try and stay warm. In a lot of competitions, they have to sit on the bench. Only in high school volleyball in the USA players are allowed to run around during a timeout. Being prepared when you have to enter the court is essential.

Illegal substitution in volleyball

An illegal substitution in volleyball is when a new player enters the court without the permission of the referee. The referee whistles and gives with a hand signal permission. This is done when the rally is over so that the game is not interrupted. This could result in a warning or give the serve to the other team.

Some referees are very strict and expect that you wait until the other player has left the court before the new one enters. If you are not careful, you might get a warning for this as both players might be on the court if the player that enters the court is too eager to join.

It is also possible that a team has used all of their substitutions and tries to change. This should be remarked by the referee before the player enters the court. If it is only noticed after a while, the ref could pause the game and give the service to the other team.

A final way of illegal substituting is using a player that is not on the lineup sheet. This is not allowed and the referee will remove this player from the court. If players don’t show up on time, they are not able to join the match. This is the main purpose of the lineup sheet and makes sure that games remain fair. Otherwise, teams could call up other players if they are losing.

Not everyone can ask for a substitution. It is generally the head coach that verbally asks for this but in some games. In college the captain can ask for this as well according to NCAA rules.

A substitute entering the substitution area also constitutes a request. If another player asks for a substitution, the referee should deny it as they are not allowed to do this according to the rules. The goal is to avoid confusion.

To conclude, we can state that substitutions are very important in volleyball. They can completely turn a match around and have a big impact on the strategy. The amount of strategies depends on the level that a team is playing in.

Junior teams want to give everyone a chance to play and they allow more substitutions. More advanced competitions want to push players harder and they offer fewer options to replace players. This can result in mistakes as people get tired after a while and they might be unable to run or dive to keep the ball in the air.