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Rules of the Game: Volleyball and Beach Volleyball

The basic rules of volleyball and beach volleyball are the same, but team sizes, court size and scoring are different.

Whether at the beach or in your high school physical education class, just about everyone has been introduced to volleyball at one time or another. There are some differences between Olympic volleyball and beach volleyball.

In both sports, each team can hit the ball a maximum of three times before it must make it over the net. The teams rally the ball back and forth until one or the other allows the ball to land on the court or when a team makes an error like hitting the ball out of bounds.

Regular volleyball has six people on the court for each team (three in the front row, three in the back), is played indoors and the court is bigger. Beach volleyball is usually played outdoors on the sand, the court is smaller and each team consists of two players.

A six-person volleyball match is the best of five sets. The first four sets are played to 25 points and the fifth set is played to 15 points. A team must win by two points and there is no limit to how high scores can go to achieve that.

You may see a player wearing a different colored uniform that the other members of their team. That's the libero, a defensive player who can replace anyone in the back row.

A round robin format will whittle 12 teams down to eight for the elimination round matches.

Beach volleyball is the best of three sets. The first two sets are played to 21 points and the third is to 15 points. Before the serve, watch the player in the front holding fingers behind their back. They are signaling a strategy to their partner who is serving.

Twenty-four teams will be involved in pool play, with the final 16 advancing to a single-elimination tournament until the semifinals.

Fun fact: Beach volleyballs are inflated to 30% lower air pressure than in regular volleyball. This makes them softer and causes them to move more slowly.

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