Beach Volleyball vs Indoor Volleyball: What Are the Differences?

beach volleyball vs indoor volleyball

Volleyball has two major forms: beach volleyball and indoor volleyball. At a glance, they might seem quite similar, but the two have distinct characteristics, rules, and strategies. Let’s look into the specifics of each to better appreciate their unique attributes.

Beach vs Indoor Volleyball

1. Playing Surface

The most apparent difference is the playing surface.

  • Beach Volleyball: Played on sand, which makes movement more challenging and requires players to develop strong legs and stamina. The unpredictable nature of the sand can also affect the ball’s trajectory.
  • Indoor Volleyball: Played on a hard court surface, which provides a stable ground and allows for faster movements and jumps.

2. Team Size

  • Beach Volleyball: Each team consists of just two players. There are no specialized positions other than a server and receiver. Both players need to be versatile, as they’re required to serve, hit, defend, and set.
  • Indoor Volleyball: There are six players on each team, with specialized positions like setters, outside hitters, middle blockers, liberos, and more. Each position has a specific role and responsibility on the court.

3. Scoring System

Both games use a rally scoring system, where a point can be won by the serving or receiving team.

  • Beach Volleyball: Matches are played best out of three sets. The first two sets go up to 21 points, and if necessary, the third set goes up to 15. A team must win by 2 points.
  • Indoor Volleyball: Matches are usually played best out of five sets. The first four sets go up to 25 points, and if a fifth set is needed, it goes up to 15. A team must win by 2 points.

4. Attire

  • Beach Volleyball: Players typically wear bikinis or tank tops and shorts due to the heat and to facilitate movement in the sand. And usually play barefoot.
  • Indoor Volleyball: Players wear jerseys and spandex shorts, along with, elbow pads and knee pads to protect from frequent dives and falls. And they wear volleyball shoes for footwear.

5. Technical Rules

  • Beach Volleyball: Players aren’t allowed to “open hand tip” or “dink” the ball over the net. Also, setting standards are stricter; rotational handling of the ball can result in a fault.
  • Indoor Volleyball: Players can use an open hand tip to send the ball over the net. Rotational handling of the ball during a set is generally more lenient.

6. Ball

  • Beach Volleyball: The ball is slightly larger and softer than its indoor counterpart. It’s designed to handle outdoor conditions and can be easier on the arms when serving and spiking/hitting.
  • Indoor Volleyball: The ball is lighter and made of leather, making it more suitable for the indoor environment.

7. Strategy & Gameplay

  • Beach Volleyball: Due to fewer players and the challenge of sand, strategies lean towards placing shots rather than power hits. Players must also serve strategically, as there’s a lot of court to cover with only two players.
  • Indoor Volleyball: With more players and a stable surface, the game is faster, and strategies often involve powerful spikes, blocks, and quick sets.

What Is The Governing Body for Beach and Indoor Volleyball?

The primary governing body for both beach and indoor volleyball on a global scale is the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB). Established in 1947, the FIVB oversees international competitions, establishes the rules of the game, and promotes the sport worldwide. This includes major events such as the Volleyball World Championships and the volleyball competitions in the Olympic Games for both indoor and beach categories.

Why Play Beach Volleyball Instead of Indoor Volleyball?

  1. Full-Body Workout: The sand resistance in beach volleyball means players get a more intense workout, especially for the legs.
  2. Improves Versatility: With only two players, everyone has to do everything – serve, dig, spike, set. This improves all-around skills.
  3. Enhanced Ball Control: Playing in the sand requires players to develop better ball control, as they often have to produce accurate sets or shots from imperfect positions.
  4. Less Impact: The soft sand reduces impact, which might be easier on the joints compared to the hard surfaces of indoor courts.
  5. Outdoor Experience: Many players enjoy the sun, fresh air, and beach atmosphere.
  6. Strategic Play: The game often leans more towards strategic placement of shots rather than raw power.
  7. Social Aspect: Beach volleyball has a laid-back, social vibe, especially in casual play. It’s easy to set up a game with just a few friends.

Why Play Indoor Volleyball Instead of Beach Volleyball?

  1. Faster Play: The hard court allows for quicker movements, faster-paced rallies, and more explosive jumps.
  2. Team Dynamics: With six players, there’s a strong emphasis on team coordination, specialized roles, and strategy.
  3. More Intense Attacks: The stable ground and more players allow for powerful spikes and intricate plays.
  4. Variety of Positions: Players can specialize in certain positions, such as setter, outside hitter, or libero.
  5. Weather Independent: Indoor volleyball can be played year-round, unaffected by weather conditions.
  6. Greater Accessibility: Not everyone has easy access to a beach or sand court, but many schools and sports facilities have indoor courts.
  7. Structured Play: With more rules regarding rotations and positions, indoor volleyball offers a more structured playstyle.


While beach volleyball and indoor volleyball share the foundational principles, their differences create unique challenges and strategies that cater to different skill sets and preferences. Whether you love the sun on your back and sand between your toes or the thrill of a fast-paced game on a hard court, volleyball offers something for everyone.

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