We all know that getting hit in the head is part of volleyball:
But what about intentionally headbutting the ball?
Can you use your head in volleyball? On purpose or by accident, using your head is a completely legal play in volleyball. In fact, you’re allowed to use any part of your body to play the ball, so long as the action itself is performed correctly.
If you’re still new to volleyball, there can be some confusion about how you’re allowed to play the ball.
You might hear people talking about ‘lifts’ ‘doubles’ or ‘carries’, but sometimes you’re just not really sure why the referee blew the whistle and your team is looking at you like you’ve done something wrong.
To help give you a solid foundation, this is another post in my series on ‘Basic Volleyball Contacts’.
Can you hit the ball with your head in volleyball?
What if it hits my head by accident?
Should I use my head in volleyball? And
What other contacts are allowed which you may not have known about.
First thing’s first.
Can you play the ball with your head in volleyball?
According to the official FIVB rules:
Section 9.2 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HIT
9.2.1 "The ball may touch any part of the body."
- FIVB-Volleyball Rules 2017-2020
Pretty clear, right?
That includes anything from your feet up to your head, so long as you don’t hold onto the ball for too long or make an illegal play.
To learn more about illegal plays in volleyball, I’d highly recommend reading my article on Illegal Volleyball Plays. I spent hours compiling the most extensive list on the internet of precisely which plays are illegal, why they aren’t allowed, and whether or not referees are actually going to call you on it. Check it out!
In fact, playing the ball with your head happens more often than you might think:
Even in high level volleyball.
Particularly when players are jumping high above the net in the blocking motion, it’s common for the ball to bounce off a head or two, then for play to continue on as normal.
What if it hits my head by accident in volleyball?
We’ve all seen videos of players getting six packed, falling to the floor and taking a moment to remember which way is up before getting on with the game.
So we know that getting hit in the head is part of the game.
But is it legal?
Again, it’s completely fine to play the ball off your head in just about in volleyball situation.
If an opponent hits the ball into one of your defenders heads, and the ball happens to bounce straight up on your side of the court:
That’s fair game (and a chance for your team to score a miraculous point).
Playing the ball with your head in volleyball, intentionally or accidentally, is a completely legal move.
Whether or not you should try doing it, however, is another story.
Should I use my head in volleyball?
I’ll hand it to you:
There may be some situations where using your head really is the only way to keep the ball alive.
I’m picturing a quick reflex: you’re at the net after blocking, and the ball is coming straight at your face… something like that.
In those rare situations, sure: headbutt the ball.
There’s one word in volleyball that stands out more than in other sports though:
Your team only gets three contacts to do something with the ball, right?
So each of those contacts should be aimed at putting your team in a better position to score the point.
Any time you don’t do your best to control the ball with a contact, you pretty much waste it.
In this way, using your head is rarely a good idea: we’re not playing soccer, here! You’re allowed to use your hands, so why not take advantage of that?
Which other contacts are allowed in volleyball?
For a more detailed breakdown on the legal and illegal plays in volleyball, take a minute to read my full guide here.
If you don’t have time for that, just remember that using any part of your body is legal, so long as you don’t:
Hold onto the ball;
Make two separate motions on the ball; or
Use more than 3 hits as a team before sending the ball back over the net.
Using your head in volleyball is a last resort, but it’s completely legal.
If you or your teammate gets hit in the head by accident--keep playing! There might be a chance to sneak a point against your opponent.