If you’re new to volleyball, making your way around that large two-posted strip of netting can be a challenge.
Serving over it is hard enough, but what happens when you find yourself a little too close for comfort?
Can you touch the net in volleyball? Answering this in 2019, any time that you are playing the ball, you are not allowed to touch the net anywhere between the two antennae.
As it happens, contact with the net between the antennae and net posts is legal, so long as it doesn’t interfere with play--and the same is true for touching the net posts and pads.
That may sound simple enough, but in this post we’ll go into some detailed situations where the net touch rules in volleyball might seem a little murky.
We’ll find out:
When this rule was introduced;
What the previous rulings were (and in which competitions/countries); and
Situations where touching the net is okay.
We’ll also mention some of the basics, like ‘What is called when you touch the net in volleyball?’ and more specific cases like ‘Can your hair touch the net in volleyball?’
But first, let’s find out what the current ruling is and when it all started.
Can you touch the net in volleyball?
According to the FIVB 2017-2020 Rule book:
‘Contact with the net by a player between the antennae, during the action of playing the ball, is a fault.’
That isn’t just for the international tournaments, though. For domestic and more local rulings, the USAV follows the exact same wording:
Which is convenient for us (and it isn’t always that way!).
As you know, the net is set up between two net posts or poles. The height of the net, the width from the poles and all of these details have their own regulations to follow:
But for now, we’re just concerned with touching it.
The antennae are the thin red and white sticks which mark the playing zone. The ball needs to travel between these antennae for the point to continue, and the same is true for many actions happening in volleyball. Touching the net, included.
The width, if you’re interested, between antennae is precisely the width of the court: roughly 25.5 feet, or 9 meters.
So, to be clear, touching the net in the space that fills the gap between the net post and the antennae is technically fair game.
That being said, as we’ll discuss a little more later, this isn’t always how things play out in practice.
*Oh, and if you were wondering the official term for when a volleyball player touches the net, you can't go wrong with:
Net violation; and/or
Volleyball rule-makers don’t get too creative with these things, so 'net touch' is widely used as the standard.
Okay, now we know where we can’t touch the net. What about how?
What do they mean by ‘in the action of playing the ball’?
Here, there’s a slight difference between rule books. The main chunk is the same:
‘The action of playing the ball includes (among others) take-off, hit (or attempt) and landing safely, ready for a new action.’
- FIVB Rule book 2017-2020
But the USAV goes on to add:
‘Any player who is close to the ball as it is played, and who is him/herself trying to play it, is consider in the action of playing the ball, even if not contact is made with it.’
While this would probably be interpreted the same way by both referees, it’s good to know the official wording (especially if you ever want to dispute the call!).
Some examples of this would be:
Jumping to set the ball;
Attacking the ball, then following through into the net on your spike;
Touching the top of the net on a block move;
Touching the bottom of the net as you jump up to block or spike;
Touching any part of the net as you attempt to recover a ball close to the net; and
Landing in the net after a spike, block or set before the rally has finished.
Of course, there are several other examples, but these are the main ones to keep an eye out for.
And in answer to: 'Can your hair touch the net in volleyball?' we'll have to be a little bit realistic. In most situations, when your hair touches the net it won't really be noticeable and it won't affect the play much at all.
If you really get caught in the net while you're playing the ball though, then yes:
The referee will probably call you for it.
(That being said, if your hair is stuck in the net you probably have bigger problems to deal with than losing the point!)
You’ll notice that all parts of the net are strictly off-limits. Top-to-bottom, left-to-right, upside-down and all-around.
This wasn’t always the case.
In fact, this ruling was only introduced into the game in 2014.
Prior to that, there were a few experiments run by the big rulemakers in Lausanne…
Previous net touch rules in volleyball
If we rewind the rule book to 2010, we see a different story completely:
‘Contact with the net by a player is not a fault, unless it interferes with the play.’
- FIVB 2010
So, basically, any time a player touched the net, it was up to the head referee to decide whether or not this was ‘interfering with the play’.
Naturally, there was plenty of room for interpretation, but generally speaking referees would follow a pretty straightforward set of guidelines:
Any blatant pulling or touching of the net in the blocking or hitting actions; and
Any time a player landed violently in the net (which is just dangerous, if not specifically distracting).
Prior to the rule change from ‘interfering with play’ to ‘in the action of playing the ball’ (which is where things stand today), there were also experiments with net touch rules on different parts of the net.
I can remember, for example, when the rule included specifications like: ‘touching the top of the net is not allowed, but the rest of the net is okay.’
You can imagine the controversy that would cause.
"But ref, it was the bottom of the net?!" *Hanging from the top of the net tape*
Can you touch the top of the net? What about the bottom? What about the fifth square from the left, six squares high?
You can understand the confusion.
In essence, when we look at the old rules, the current ruling seems the most straightforward. It seems to simply be saying:
‘Just don’t touch the net, and we’ll all be fine.’
- Modern volleyball referees.
Which is a philosophy that we can all get on board with. But when you consider how recent these changes are (2014), let’s get you guys in on the action:
*What do you think the next change to this rule could be? Will they include the net post as out-of-bounds in the next update? Or maybe they’ll decide that even players who aren’t ‘in the action of playing the ball’ can still suffer from a net violation?
Leave a comment below letting us know what you think--who knows, in three years time you might be able to point people back here and say, “Aha! I knew it!”
When is it okay to touch the net in volleyball?
‘When the ball is driven into the net, causing it to touch an opponent, no fault is committed.’
- FIVB Rule book 2017-2020.
One of the more common, player-interest questions about net touches is, 'What happens when someone bumps the net into you?’
The answer is (thankfully) what you would expect. It’s not a fault, and play continues.
But according to the FIVB ruling, there are a few other circumstances when touching the net is supposed to be okay.
For example, if the ball is on the other side of the net, and you were to brush against the net while setting up to block--that would be fine.
As long as you don’t interfere with play, you’re golden.
The problem is, ‘interfering with the opponent’ is itself kind of a vague direction.
What if your opponent is distracted by you touching the net?
It might seem like a minor point, but I bring it up because it could be the next part of the rule to change. Ultimately, less confusion and simpler rules is what the game will move toward, right? Well, this seems like the only unnecessary point of confusion left to go, so let's see how long it survives..
Can you touch the net in beach volleyball?
While Volley-Pedia tends to focus on the indoor game, I’ll give a quick shout out to the beach community--if any of you are out there.
Mostly because, in this case, it’s incredibly simple.
While there are plenty of differences in the rules between indoor and beach volleyball, this one is a piece of cake:
The net touch rules are exactly the same as for indoor volleyball.
Just in case you don’t believe me, word for word from the FIVB Beach Volleyball 2017-2020 Rule book:
‘Contact with the net by a player between the antennae, during the action of playing the ball, is a fault. The action of playing the ball includes (among others) take-off, hit (or attempt) and landing safely, ready for a new action.’
- FIVB Beach Volleyball 2017-2020 Rule book
And yes: The USAV wants to include its own exception to the rule again.
‘Any player who is close to the ball as it is played, and who is him/herself trying to play it, is considered in the action of playing the ball, even if no contact is made with it.’
In almost all circumstances, touching the net will end in you and your team losing the point.
While you might have a case arguing with the referee when you touch the space between the post and the antennae, or when you’re not technically in the action of playing the ball:
Realistically, most referees will just make the call on the spot.
And to be honest, this is a good thing. Not touching the net is a practice of good control, and the rule itself saves a lot of injuries from people landing under the net and otherwise making wild, un-controlled plays.
We like the net rule, but we’re curious to hear your thoughts, too.
Leave a comment with what you think of the current ruling, if you’d like a return to the old rule books, or what you think the next change in the rule books might be.
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Stay out of the net!