Beach Volleyball Rules vs Indoor Volleyball Rules

USA Volleyball Beach/Indoor Rule Differences

USAV has sanctioned the international FIVB smaller 8mx8m court.

Side switches occur within games. Wind, sun, and variable lighting on outdoor courts at night all point to the need for switching sides within games.  Rally games to 21 points or more switch on multiples of 7. Rally games to 15 switch on multiples of 5.

A block counts as a team contact in outdoors doubles and triples. O13.1.3 states For doubles and triples competition only: Blocking does constitute a team contact, and any player may make the second contact of the ball after the block. Indoors, the block is never considered one of the team's three allowable contacts.

Stricter calling of sets on the first ball. Outdoors, it is illegal to double contact the first ball if the ball is not hard-driven and if "finger action" is used. Indoors, it's now legal to double contact any first team contact, which has led to some ugly, yet legal handling of free balls and serves. To legally double a first ball with a “set” on the beach you have to be defending a hard-driven attack. That means, you're not receiving a serve. It also means you're defending an opponent's attack on a ball that's moving fast enough such that the referee can judge that you didn't have time to play the ball any other way. 
Outdoors, it is conceivable (but unlikely) that a serve could legally be "set" by the receiving team, however, this contact is judged with the same scrutiny as a normal set (not double contacted, etc.). Applicable rules: O13.4.2,I14.4.3.2. In fact, it better be absolute nectar, or expect to get called!

Restriction on setting the ball over the net. Indoors, there are no restrictions on this action. In fact, the term "set" is not even defined in the indoor rules. However, outdoor rules require a "set-over" to be perpendicular to your body. An exception is made for sets to a teammate that happen to get blown over the net:
O13.4.5 If the ball is intentionally set into the opponent's court, the player must contact the ball with two hands above his/her shoulders and set it directly forward or directly backward with relation to his/her body. O13.4.5 Commentary: A legal set directed toward a teammate that crosses the net because of the elements is not a fault, regardless of the player's body position.

No open hand tips/dinks.  This is a no-no outdoors. Alternatives include palms, heel of the hand, locked straight fingers (cobra), knurled fingers (poke), or the back of the hand. O13.4.6, I14.4

Legal to lift/push/carry a hard driven ball. Outdoors, it is legal to momentarily lift or push a "hard-driven ball" on the first team contact. This type of contact allows for overhand "beach digs" that would be ruled as lifts indoors. "Hard-driven ball" is defined as "an attack-hit or blocked ball traveling at a high rate of speed, as judged by the referee. Outdoor rule states "In that case, the ball may be momentarily lifted or pushed, provided the attempt is one continuous motion and the player does not change the direction of that motion while contacting the ball." As of 2004-05 and beyond, it is also legal to double contact such a hard-driven ball.  The spirit of this rule is to keep the ball in play longer. In doubles, obviously there is a lot of court to cover, so the rules give some leniency to allow for longer rallies.

No center line. There is no center-line in outdoor volleyball. You can penetrate under the net provided you do not interfere with your opponent. O15.2,I16.3

Lower ball pressure. Outdoor ball pressure is 2.5-3.2psi. Indoor balls are much harder at 4.3-4.6psi.

No penalty for serving out of order (doubles only). If an out-of-order server is discovered, no penalty is charged. The offending player continues serving, and that team's service order is simply reversed such that no one player serves 3 times in a row. O16.3.1.1

No antennas. Indoor rules strictly stipulate the use of antennas to define the crossing space over the net. Outdoors, however, antennas are rarely used except in pro competition. In the absence of antennas, the posts act as antennas for all purposes except player contact. O2.5, I2.3

Stricter screening rule (2's and 3's). Unlike the indoor rule (17.7) which prohibits only groups of 2 or more passive players from screening, the outdoor rule prohibits individual player screening as well. O16.7.1 states "On an opponent's request, a player must move sideways or bend over or down [to prevent screening]." In the pros, you will often hear the receiving team request that the blocker move left or right so they can have a clear view of the server. Of course, it's illegal for a single players to wave their arms, jump, or move with the server in both outdoor and indoor rules.

Match format. Currently (2004-05), USAV beach rules dictate a best of 3 match where the first two games are played to 21 points rally scoring switching every 7 points, and a deciding game if needed is played to 15 points rally scoring, switch every 5 points. No point cap, win by two.  You may see different formats depending on the tournament director.

Service tossing error (no longer a difference). This was new for 1997-98--no service tossing errors are allowed under outdoor or indoor rules.

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