If you’ve looked closely at a volleyball court, you’ve noticed the lines that make up the long, rectangular shape. Each line comes with its own set of rules that players need to follow, like staying outside the lines during a serve or staying inside during plays. But if you look closely, you may notice one more line that you didn’t before: the centerline.
The centerline may be easy to miss because it’s underneath the net, but it’s equally important in the course of a match, and players need to be aware of the rules around this boundary.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the centerline and how to play without suffering from centerline or net violations. Once you read through these must-know facts, you’ll be more than ready for your next match.
What Is a Centerline?
A volleyball court is made up of four types of lines, and each carries its own set of rules. On any court, you have:
- Serving lines — The two back edges of the rectangle.
- Sidelines — The rectangle’s boundaries length-wise.
- Attack lines — Divides the front row and back row players with one on each team’s side.
- The centerline — Is in the middle of the rectangle and divides the two teams.
Above the centerline hangs the net. This division always cuts the rectangle perfectly in half, leaving equal room for both teams.
In sports like soccer or football, the centerline is meant to be crossed. When one team enters the other team’s side, they’re on offense, so a goal is to make it to the other team’s side and score from there. However, similar to tennis, a volleyball player will never cross the divider and must score while remaining on their half of the court.
The Centerline Is Located Where on a Volleyball Court?
The easiest way to spot this boundary is by looking at the net. The boundary is always directly under the net, though it comes with slightly different rules about violations than the net boundary itself.
It’s important to note that rules may slightly vary depending on what league you’re playing in. For example, a local high school league’s rules about touching or crossing the boundary may differ from international rules. This is even more extreme in beach volleyball where there is no centerline. It’s essential to take a close look at your league’s particular rules before you start playing.
However, we’ll be covering the rules of indoor volleyball as dictated by the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, the organization with the most commonly adhered to rules in the sport.
According to the FIVB, the six players on a volleyball court must remain on their own side of the middle boundary during play. However, that doesn’t mean contact with the line is completely off-limits.
Beyond the Centerline
While a player can’t completely cross the line, contact is common and not illegal. Here are some ways you can touch the centerline:
- Part of the foot is on or above the line. For example, the ball of the foot has crossed, but the heel remains behind the line.
- Hands may cross without interfering with play.
- Feet may cross completely if the ball is out of play. However, players must return to their side before the following serve.
In addition to knowing what you can do, here are some things you can’t do:
- Cross a hand over the centerline that interferes with a play. For example, let’s say your hand crosses over the net, blocking a player on the other team’s attack. This would result in a lost point for your team.
- Having one foot completely over the edge. This is true even if only the ball of your foot crosses. If you don’t have a heel on the ground, behind the line, this will be considered a violation. Be especially careful with this during a pivot away from the net — as you turn, your heel may come up, leaving only the ball of your foot on the ground and over the line.
As you continue playing the sport, you’ll develop and improve your spatial awareness. Better spatial awareness will allow you to be aware of the boundaries without needing to stare at the ground. After all, the ball is in the air!
Spatial awareness is also important throughout any match because whether you’re serving, playing on the back row, or near the middle boundary, you must ensure you’re following the boundary rules to avoid violations and penalties to your team.
Lines on Volleyball Court
The center boundary isn’t the only line on the court, and the rules of the other lines are just as important. Here are some basics you should know about the other lines:
- Serving — The player serving must be behind the line and the foot can’t make contact with the boundary until after contact has been made with the ball with the serving hand.
- Attack — This is 10 feet from the centerline, dividing each team’s side. A back-row player cannot attack the ball (hit it strategically across the net) unless behind this line.
- Side — These set the boundary length-wise, and players cannot hit from outside these lines. These lines are also marked on the net, so if a ball hits the net but outside the lines, it is a violation. A ball may touch the line but not outside of it.
What Is a Net Violation in Volleyball?
A violation occurs when a player does something illegal in making contact with the net. If this happens, the other team will gain possession of the ball.
Here are a few examples of what you can or can’t do in volleyball with the net, which may differ from centerline violations.
Can You Go Under the Net in Volleyball?
When you go under the net, you are crossing the centerline. Here is where net violations and centerline violations overlap.
There are only two body parts that may go under: hands and feet.
A foot may go under the net only if part of the foot is still behind the boundary.
A hand may go under the net entirely, but not if it interferes with a play.
To avoid any violation regarding going under the net, try to maintain your spatial awareness. Avoid crossing as much as possible, especially when the other team has the ball, as this could result in a point for the other team.
Can You Touch the Net in Volleyball?
Players are allowed to make contact with the net. However, if contact results in a hand or foot crossing the boundary and interferes with a play, this will result in a violation.
Can You Reach Over the Net in Volleyball?
When one team has the ball, they may only hit it three times. If that team has used these up, you can block the ball by reaching over the net. You can also reach over if there are no players in the vicinity. Basically, this move is only allowed when the other team has no chance of making a play, and you’re not interfering.
However, if you do reach over and touch another player, this will be a foul on you.
The Bottom Line
Violations can quickly take a strong team to a losing one, and there are many ways you can force a violation when you’re around the centerline and net. Learn the rules, stay on your side, and you can look forward to a clean game.