Outdoor Volleyball Vs. Indoor Volleyball – Key Differences

All available volleyball variations can be divided into indoor and outdoor categories. If you are one of those people who think volleyball is volleyball, whether indoor or outdoor, then you are wrong. Along with some visible differences, such as court surface and costumes, there are many other differences between both types. In this article, we have curated information to provide our readers with enough knowledge to differentiate between the two and understand the settings’ pros and cons. So, keep reading till the end to clarify the misunderstanding and polish your volleyball knowledge.

The primary difference in both types is understandable by the names themselves. Indoor volleyball is played in enclosed areas such as gymnasiums or indoor stadiums specially designed for this sport. On the other hand, outdoor volleyball is played outside in open spaces without walls or roof coverings, which is known better as beach volleyball. Apart from this, there is another visible difference in the court surface. The indoor court is primarily wooden, while the outdoor court is prepared with sand.

Differences in court dimensions

As per the dimensions set by FIVB, the indoor court must be rectangular with a length of 18 meters and a width of 9 meters. It should be surrounded by a free zone of 3m wide on all sides, which is included in the playing area. On the other hand, beach volleyball is less in length and width than indoor court by 2m and 1m, respectively. The length of the court is 16m, and the width is 8m. It also has a free zone of 3m width on all sides.

Line markings

The indoor volleyball court is divided into different areas by boundary lines, center lines, and attack lines. Every line is marked with a bright color that contrasts with the color of the court surface. The boundary line is formed by sidelines and end lines that determine the playing area of the court. A center line divides the court along the length into two halves of 9m each and is marked just below the net. Attack lines are drawn at 3m from the center line that divides each side of the court into the front and back zones.

In outdoor volleyball, there are only sidelines and end lines marked with ribbons made of durable material and contrasting color as the sand. The width of every line is 5cm. As there are fewer players in outdoor volleyball, there is no need for attack lines or dividing the court into front and back zones.

Nets and posts

Volleyball nets are set just above the center line of the court. For both types, net height is calculated from the center line, which is 2.43m high for men and 2.24m high for women. This height can differ for players from different age groups. In indoor and outdoor volleyball, the width of the net is the same as 1m, but the indoor net is 9.5-10m long while the outdoor net is 8.5m long.

The net is attached to the posts via ropes to keep it in place. The posts are wireless metal poles secured to the ground and padded to ensure players’ safety. The height of these posts is the same in indoor and outdoor courts, which is 2.55m. Posts are placed on the ground at a distance between 0.50 and 1m from each sideline in indoor courts, while in outdoor courts, this distance is between 0.70 and 1m.

When can you play?

The playing environment and seasonality are other significant differences between indoor and outdoor volleyball. The indoor one, played in enclosed areas, is independent of weather conditions. So, no matter if it is raining or there are unbearable heat waves, the game can be played. The indoor setting is air-conditioned, and every element is taken into consideration as long as it can affect players and fans. Thus, it is suitable for every season, whether summer, winter, spring, or autumn.

On the other hand, outdoor volleyball is hugely impacted by changes in weather. Sudden changes in mother nature’s mood can cancel the game instantly. Even if there are no severe changes in weather, players still need to deal with the hot sand and heat waves while ensuring not to let it impact their performance. If nothing else, winds will disturb the gameplay by affecting the ball’s direction in the air. Thus, it is suitable for sunny days in summer with clear weather conditions.

Differences in equipment

A lot of equipment is used both indoors and outdoors, but some of those change with changes in game settings. For instance, the net used in outdoor volleyball is a bit smaller in length than indoor volleyball. Also, as the outdoor nets are often fixed permanently, they are made of resilient material to deal with rain, heat, and other weather conditions and last longer. Still, indoor nets last longer than outdoor ones as they can be well-maintained and protected from outside elements.

Volleyball balls

The ball is the primary equipment required in volleyball. Though all the volleyballs are made of high-quality natural or synthetic leather, there are differences in the outer coverings. Each volleyball is constructed based on three elements, the outer shell, core, and panels. The panels are glued together in indoor balls to provide a smooth finish, while in outdoor balls, these panels are stitched together for a strong result.

Another difference in the construction of the balls is that indoor balls are heavier than outdoor balls. The reason is that it is already difficult for players to keep up their stamina and move quickly on a sandy court. A heavier ball will only make it more difficult for them to play the sport. Also, indoor balls are hard and smaller in size, while outdoor ones are bigger and softer, providing the players the advantage of lower velocity.

Players’ costume

The impact of jumping on a hard court is enormous; thus, indoor volleyball players are often seen in multiple protective gear apart from their jerseys, shorts, and shoes. The gear may include knee pads, ankle bands, or hip pads. There are a lot of things to consider before selecting that outfit. The material should be suitable, and the size should be perfect; the numbers should be printed following the rules and much more. In the case of shoes, cushioning, traction, lockdown, etc., are essential considerations.

In outdoor volleyball, players must be dressed in lightweight clothes, such as shorts or tight-fit leggings, as per the team’s decision. There is a choice for players to have shoes on, play barefoot or wear socks. Other costume elements may include sunglasses, caps, etc., for sun protection.

Number of players per side

Team size is a big difference observed in indoor and outdoor volleyball. There are six players in indoor volleyball present on the court during a set. Another six wait outside the court and can be substituted against active players. With each set, up to six players can be substituted in indoor play. As there are many players, the team gets the advantage of expertise. The players with expertise in different skills are placed accordingly at different positions on the court.

There are only two players on the court in outdoor volleyball without any substitute. They both are responsible for everything, including digging, hitting, and blocking. As there is no choice of sharing the skills among many members, tall players are preferred in outdoor volleyball as they do not have limitations with essential skills such as blocking.

Scoring differences

Indoor volleyball is played in five sets that make one match, and the team to win three out of five sets wins the match. The score required to win a set in indoor volleyball is 25 with a two-point lead. In case the two-point advantage is not achieved, or there is a tie, the fifth and the tie-breaker set is played to 15 points to decide the winner. While in outdoor volleyball, there are only three sets in a match. The team winning two sets wins the match. The first and second sets are played to 21 points, and the third tie-breaker to 15.

Do rules change?

Though the scoring in both volleyball types does not seem very different, a few rules differ significantly in scoring points. In outdoor volleyball, players are not allowed to use open hand tips for anything, including hitting or blocking. The reason is that outdoor volleyball is lighter in weight than an indoor one, making it very easy for players to score points just by using their fingertips to hit the ball. Another big difference is that beach volleyball players can cross under the net if it does not disturb the opposite team’s play. Also, the players can hit the ball out of the net, which is quite the opposite of indoor volleyball.

Final thoughts

With all the differences between indoor and outdoor volleyball, the game allows people to pick the types that suit their playing environment and choices. The critical differences observed in indoor and outdoor variations are shared above, but these are not fixed. Based on changes in the level of the game and age groups of players, things keep changing in official settings. For recreational purposes, rules are in your hand and can be adjusted per personal preferences. So, while understanding all the significant differences, choose your favorite sport and have fun.