Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Volleyball: Things to Know Before You Hit the Court

The true volleyball meaning and purpose are to help you become a physically fit, confident, and balanced person who can make quick decisions, play well with others, and know how to achieve their goals effectively. If you enjoy playing indoor volleyball but feel the occasional need to change the scenes a bit, consider switching to an outdoor location.

Differences between indoor and outdoor volleyball are in quite a few ways, so make sure you know all about its rules and features before you enter your first outdoor competition. Here is a detailed overview of the two volleyball types, featuring each’s main differences and unique characteristics.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Volleyball Buyer’s Guide: Things to Know before Switching Surfaces

Millions of people worldwide – adults and kids alike – share the same passion for non-contact, fun sports games that can be enjoyed all year round, one such activity, in particular, being volleyball. Not only does this sport enhance your physique by helping build up significant strength in your upper body, arms, and shoulders, but it is also a great way to relax a bit and take your mind off a tedious routine for a while.

How does volleyball work to benefit its players?

There are many good reasons to pick up volleyball as your sport of choice. Some have to do with improving your physical fitness or stabilizing mental health, while others deal with refining your social and communication skills.
Here is some more information on why volleyball might be the very thing your life needs right now:

  • The volleyball game improves your muscle tone and strength and helps burn calories in the healthiest way possible.
  • Volleyball enhances your motion coordination, balance, and overall reflexes.
  • It is a superb way to promote your physical endurance and stamina.
  • This sport benefits your mental wellness and emotional health.
  • Volleyball is an excellent bonding activity that brings families and friends closer to one another.
  • This sport promotes teamwork, communication, self-discipline and develops other crucial social skills.
  • Volleyball is a good fit for people of all ages and levels of expertise.

Whatever helps motivate you to try volleyball – whether it is the sense of competition, the pursuit of good health and attractive looks, or the desire to clear your head – this is a wise decision you will not regret any time soon.

more people playing volleyball

However, before you set off to hit the court, there are a few aspects of the game to memorize. Read more about the different types of volleyball, its basic rules, gear, and locations to make sure you feel like a pro during your next match!

What is the difference between indoor and outdoor volleyball?

First things first, volleyball is not a game reserved solely for indoor spaces like gymnasiums. Naturally, in winter, that is where you will be playing it, but in summer, when the weather is good, there is no reason why you cannot take the match outside and enjoy some fresh air and warm breeze while having the time of your life.

There are differences between indoor volleyball and its outdoor version, sometimes called beach or sand volleyball. These differences are not essentially game-changing but can confuse someone who has never played the ball before. Let us look at some of the things that vary across the different types of volleyball. They include the size of a volleyball court, the number of players allowed on one team, the types of volleyballs, outdoor and indoor volleyball scoring systems, and the approved game standards.

Court size

The outdoor volleyball court size is different from the size of an indoor court. A typical beach court is 52.5 feet by 26.2 feet (16m*8m), a smaller area than the 59 ft.*29.5 ft. (18m*9m) of indoor volleyball surface.

The dissimilarities dictate the need to have a smaller beach volleyball court in the surface quality. Most indoor matches take place on volleyball courts featuring specialized hard flooring that enables the players to move quickly and maneuver with ease. However, outdoor volleyball is often played on sand, which provides much less traction and makes running and jumping more complicated and risky.

Players per team

Another crucial difference between beach volleyball and indoor volleyball is in the number of players allowed on each team.

To cover the larger indoor volleyball court area effectively, each team usually has six players on it. However, the indoor volleyball standards allow the match to be played by as few as three people on each side of the net. In indoor volleyball, each player is assigned his or her unique position on the court but is also expected to perform several complex switches and active rotations during the match.

A sand volleyball team usually has two players to cover the right and the left sides of their part of the court. Due to the limited number of players here, the participants do not have designated positions and need to be equally skilled at hitting, digging, and blocking. At beach volleyball tournaments and competition-level events, players might be assigned a specific function of only searching or only blocking; however, both are still required to hit when appropriate.

Types of volleyball

The ball is one of the central aspects in which the two types of this popular sports game differ significantly.

Indoor volleyball. Since it is a game where the speed of movement and the power of impact are the two most critical factors, indoor volleyball demands that its balls are heavier than their outdoor counterparts and can move faster when hit. Balls for indoor volleyball matches are molded, meaning that their separate panels are glued to an inner lining to create what seems like a uniform, seamless surface.

Outdoor volleyball. The beach volleyball size is larger than that of the indoor volleyball equipment. These balls are lighter in weight and have a rough-textured surface. Unlike molder indoor volleyballs, their panels are stitched together, creating visible seams on the ball. It is done to make the sports gear more durable to withstand lengthy exposure to extreme elements, such as hot sand, damp ground, rain, and strong wind.

What are volleyballs made of?

Indoor volleyballs are typically made of quality leather since this volleyball material is highly durable and can last for a very long time. Beach volleyballs make use of composite materials, as they need to be lighter and more resilient to damage caused by weather. Rarely, you can find a leather volleyball made in strict adherence to the best outdoor volleyball standards; however, these balls cannot resist water very well and should be kept away from it if used outside.


Score-keeping rules

In indoor volleyball, a match is played in the best-of-five-set format, meaning a team has to win 3 out of 5 sets, scoring 25 points in each and leading by 2 points. The fifth game is played in the event of a tie, and the first team to score 15 points in a tiebreaker set is declared victorious. The two-point lead is a critical condition, so no team can be announced the winner until such an advantage is achieved.

A sand volleyball match employs the best-of-three set format. The first two games are played to 21 points and require the winning team to lead by 2 points. If there is a tie, the third set is held to break it. There is no scoring cap here, and the final game continues until one of the teams earns at least 15 points and gains the mandatory 2-point margin.
In indoor and outdoor volleyball, teams must switch court sides after the completion of each game.

Ball touching

How players are allowed to touch and handle the ball is different in beach volleyball and its indoor version. Indoor volleyball players can block the ball and not have it counted as an allowed hits, while sand volleyball rules regard a block as one of the three hits allowed for each team.

Unlike beach volleyball, this game’s indoor type allows open-hand tipping where the player sends the ball over the net just slightly, using their open hand instead of knuckles.

Beach vs. Indoor Volleyball Frequently Asked Questions

If you are thinking about switching from indoor volleyball to sand volleyball or vice versa, you might be wondering how these two game types are different from each other. Below is a short Q&A section that contains helpful information on the subject:

What is the biggest rule difference between indoor and beach volleyball?

Rules in indoor and sand volleyball vary greatly. For one, beach volleyball is played by teams of two, while a standard indoor volleyball match will feature up to six players on each team.

Furthermore, there is an essential distinction in the number of sets played and the number of points each set is played to. Instead of a three-set match in sand volleyball where each game but the last one is played to 21 points, indoor volleyball will employ the best-of-five-set format and require a team to score at least 25 points to become the winner.

Also interesting is how the participating teams switch sides during the match. In indoor volleyball, teams change sides after every game; however, in a typical beach volleyball match, such a change occurs every seven points.

Finally, indoor volleyball rules only allow one timeout and zero substitutions per set, whereas, in beach volleyball, a team can request two timeouts and up to 6 substitutions during each game.

Are there different types of volleyballs?

There are different types of volleyballs available for the beach sport and its hard-court version. Brightly colored outdoor volleyballs are larger, lighter, and made of weatherproof composite materials. Molded indoor volleyballs are smaller, weigh more, and are traditionally made of leather.

Not all indoor volleyballs are the same, though. Thus, youth indoor volleyballs are smaller and slightly lighter than standard indoor volleyballs to make it easier for kids to handle them.

What is the best outdoor volleyball?

When choosing the best outdoor volleyball, you have to consider a few crucial parameters, such as which outdoor surfaces the ball will come in direct contact with, how light and soft you want or need it to be, etc. These factors may affect your gameplay and performance, so overlooking them can be a big mistake.

The best beach volleyballs will be hardwearing, yet gentle to the touch, made of textures that can improve its handling and playability. These balls need to retain their shape well and not fade readily even after some period of heavy-duty exploitation. You will also want your volleyball to offer you just the right amount of bounce and ease of control.

Picking the perfect volleyball takes time, consideration, and trial. Ultimately, it all comes to what feels best and right to you. When shopping for your next beach volleyball, make sure to look into such trusted brands as Mikasa, Spalding, Molten, Wilson, and Tachikara.

Is beach volleyball harder than indoor?

Even though beach volleyball is not harder per se, it is more challenging in terms of the conditions that such games are held in. While indoor volleyball matches occur in a comfortable and controlled environment, sand volleyball players on a beach court have to encounter the elements like a strong wind, drizzling rain, or heat all the time. The weather is a crucial aspect to be considered here as it can either help or hinder your play.

Also, with fewer players on each side of the net, beach volleyball requires more coordinated teamwork. Both players on the team need to be equally good at digging, blocking, and hitting as, unlike indoor volleyball, there are no designated positions here.

Play Hard, Play Fun

Indoor volleyball is a power and control game, while its beach version is more about versatility and quick thinking. Both types of the game require a certain degree of talent and determination. However, volleyball is primarily an engaging and entertaining sport, so make sure you have fun playing it, whether it is on a beach or a hard court. What type of volleyball do you prefer? Which one is a more complex game? Get back to us in the comments, and feel free to share this post with your friends if you find it useful!

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