Think of volleyball and you think of people running around a court, hitting a ball with their forearms, spiking it over the net with their closed fists, or open-handed smacks to pass it to their teammate. What you don’t think of is people using their feet…
But in modern volleyball competitions, it does happen!
And sometimes in some pretty spectacular ways, with a ball that looks like it is definitely going to touch the floor, only to be sent soaring back up for a teammate to finish the play.
In the past, contact with any part of the body below the waist meant the ball was out of play and the opposing team would win the point.
However, in 1993, the rules for all international volleyball competitions were changed to allow contact below the waist. This applies from the Olympics right down to local games. If you think the best way to save a ball is to kick it or do a leg dig, then that is totally fine and counts as a legal hit. In fact, you can use any part of your body to save the ball!
Under official volleyball rules, there are no restrictions on having your legs on the ground or kicking, as long as the contact remains legal overall – as in, it’s not a double on the 2nd or 3rd hit and it is not prolonged contact on any hit.
The rule was changed to give players the best chance to save the ball and the point.
Despite being changed nearly 30 years ago though, foot hits remain uncommon and highly controversial.
Among the many heated debates inspired by this style of play is that volleyball is designed for maximum control over the ball using the hands or arms. This high degree of precision is lost with foot hits, which are usually only employed as a last resort and out of desperation to avoid the ball touching the floor. That means balls hit with the foot are less likely to go where the player intends.
Some players disagree with this though, especially those that come from soccer playing backgrounds – keeping the ball off the ground is the most important thing, and if a foot hit is legal and possible, then that is fine.
Foot hits on the volleyball court are also likely to inspire a challenge from the opposing coach, as they are usually very quick and close to the ground, making it difficult to accurately judge in the heat of the game whether the ball has actually touched the ground or not.
Although they can look pretty amazing when they work…
Unlike in soccer though, the volleyball player cannot trap the ball with their foot but must hit it as per normal. Trapping the ball remains illegal and would be considered a fault, with the point awarded to the opposing team.
So, what does all this mean? Yes, you can use your feet in volleyball – but know the rules and be prepared for people not to like it!
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