Volleyball overlap rule – please teach players

OK coaches. Let’s talk volleyball overlap rule. We need to get things sorted out.

If we don’t accomplish anything else with our players, we should at least be able to teach them the rules of the game. Some of you out there are coming up a bit short in that regard. At least this is the case when it comes to the overlap rules. I keep coming across players who have some serious misconceptions.

It’s very simple folks.

Part 1 – A back row player cannot be closer to the net than the player immediately in front of them in the rotation. This means the player in 1 cannot be closer to the net than the player in 2. Same for the player in 6 and the one in 3, and for the player in 5 and the one in 4.

Part 2 – The middle player in a row must not be nearer to the left sideline than the left player or nearer to the right sideline than the right player. That means the player in 3 cannot be closer to the left sideline (looking toward the net) than the player in 4, or closer to the right sideline than the player in 2. Similarly, the player in 6 cannot be closer to the left sideline than the player in 5, or closer to the right sideline than the player in 1. The one exception is that if the player in 1 is serving. They are not technically in the court so there is no potential overlap.

See the diagram below for clarity.

Volleyball Overlap Rule

Volleyball Overlap Rule


See FIVB Rule 7.4. (page 26 of the linked PDF).

Why does this come to mind? Because when I coached in Sweden I found out at least some of my players didn’t know the rules. This is in a professional league! I had a sneaking suspicion based on some little things I saw in a couple matches. One practice solidified it, though. We’re talking players with many years of experience. My team had members who played in the top US collegiate volleyball conferences and players who have represented their countries at the youth levels.

I ran into the same issue when I was coaching in Exeter. Admittedly, the experience level there was considerably more diverse and limited.

I even ran into this issue in the early years of my coaching with another coach on the staff of the first NCAA Division I program I coached for. She had been an All-American in her playing days!

Please, please can we commit ourselves to teaching our players the rules properly?

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.


  1. Oliver Wagner says:

    That is the reason why refs don’t call rotational faults anymore: they don’t know the overlap rule either 😀

  2. I was under the impression if I pulled my 4 back into SR that she could not be behind either 6 or 1. If I understand your description correctly, that’s not the case. The only front row/back row overlap is the player directly in front of or behind you.

  3. Sean MacDonald says:

    I’m not endorsing a product but Rotate 123 has a good overlap rule visual on their website where you can drag players around the court and it will show where the overlaps occur and with which player. http://www.rotate123.com/learn#chap2

    • John Forman John Forman says:

      I haven’t used that feature, but I am a regular user of Rotate123 for bench stats during matches.

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