Indoor vs Outdoor Volleyball

Volleyball is a very popular game played with passion across the world. One of the most appealing features of the sport is that it involves both athletic and strategic prowess. There are several international and domestic tournaments that keep the fans interested all throughout the year. Although the most popular format of the sport is played indoors in an arena, volleyball can also be played outdoors. In both cases, the essence of the game is the same. Both formats still involve a court, a net, players and of course, a ball. However, there are many differences between the two formats that make each of them uniquely interesting and challenging.

We will be talking about the difference between indoor volleyball and outdoor (or beach) volleyball. Let’s see how the two versions of volleyball differ.


  1. The court

When it comes to the volleyball court, indoor and outdoor volleyball differ quite a lot. Both the surface of the court and the dimensions are different in the two formats. The indoor volleyball court has a hard surface that can have a synthetic or a wood finish. The court surface is like a basketball court, however, in some facilities, concrete courts are used as well. On the other hand, outdoor volleyball is generally played on sand, and hence it is called beach volleyball. The sand surface makes it more difficult to move around and do quick maneuvers.

The courts of indoor and beach volleyball vary greatly in dimensions, as well. The indoor volleyball court is bigger compared to the beach volleyball court. The indoor courts measure 18m X 9m, whereas the outdoor courts are much smaller at 16m X 8m.

Another significant difference is that the indoor courts have an attack line 3m from the center line. The back-row players are required to stay behind this attack line while hitting the ball. However, in the case of beach volleyball court, there is no such attack line. In the case of outdoor volleyball, a player can hit the ball from anywhere if the ball is on their side.

There is a reason for a smaller court in the case of beach volleyball. It is difficult to move in the sand and the lateral distance covered is significantly reduced. Keeping the court small results in longer rallies and entertaining gameplay. Players can be barefoot on beach volleyball courts due to the sand surface. Indoor volleyball players must wear shoes at all times to play volleyball.

  1. The ball

There is a distinct difference between the balls used to play indoor and outdoor volleyball. The main difference arises because of the fundamental difference in the speeds of the two formats. While indoor volleyball is meant to be fast, outdoor or beach volleyball is supposed to be a game of precision rather than power. The ball used reflect these fundamental differences. The ball used in indoor volleyball is made of leather and is heavier. A heavier ball allows the players to generate more power behind their shots. The heavier balls move quick and make the game fast paced.

Outdoor volleyballs, on the other hand, are softer and lighter. The size of a outdoor volleyball is slightly bigger compared to an indoor volleyball. The lighter weight is ideal for the gameplay on the sand. The lighter balls stay in the air for a longer time allowing the players to move through the sand. Another reason for the balls being light is the fact that weather elements play a role in beach volleyball. Good players understand the influence of these weather elements and can take advantage.

  1. The teams

Volleyball is a team sport whether it is played indoors or outdoors. However, depending on the surface you play on, the team composition varies. The indoor volleyball team has six members while a beach volleyball team has two normally, but volleyball played outdoors is also played with six people many times. As there are six players, each player has a specific role in indoor volleyball. The specialized positions in indoor volleyball include:


The role of this player is to ‘set’ the ball for the hitters. Normally they will be waiting for other players to toss the ball to them so that they can set it up. There can be up to two players serving the role of a setter.


As the name implies their main goal is to hit and score. There are usually three hitters; one each on left and right side and on in the center.


A libero is a player that exclusively plays in the back row. The libero can be identified easily as he/she wears a different colored shirt. A team can have only one libero on their roster.

Defensive specialist:

The role of the DS is to play back row for a hitter. Many teams have more than one DS on their roster so that they can be substituted for hitters.

In the case of the beach volleyball team, there is no specialized position as such. Both the players can serve different roles at the same time. Most of the beach volleyball players can hit, block and dig and hence can serve many positions.

  1. Point system

There is a difference in the way points are scored between indoor and outdoor volleyball. An indoor volleyball match consists of a total of five sets, or games, as they are sometimes called. To win a set (or a game) a team needs to score at least 25 points with a difference of 2 points. To win a match, a team needs to win three sets. In the case of a 2-2 tie, a fifth set is played. However, the fifth set is played only to 15 points. As the game progresses, teams switch sides of the court at the end of every set.

In the case of beach volleyball, the match is played in only three sets. The team that wins two sets, wins. Each set is also shortened to 21 points. So, a team to win at least 21 points with a difference of 2 points, wins the set. The third set is played only if needed and is played to 15 points.

In both the indoor and outdoor versions of volleyball, the points are scored on a rally system. That means you don’t have to be serving to win a point. Hence, the team that wins a rally wins the point irrespective of which side served. However, in some indoor volleyball points can only be scored when serving.

  1. Attire

The attire deserves a special mention because of the recent controversy regarding beach volleyball. Although the indoor volleyball is played in shirt and shorts, beach volleyball is usually played in beach wear. The men often wear beach shorts while the women wear bikinis. Although there is no rule to wear a bikini while playing beach volleyball. Many women teams in the Olympics prefer to wear more conservative clothing. One of the most important parts of volleyball attire is shoes. Read some of our reviews of the top volleyball shoes here.

Final words

Both indoor and beach volleyball are very entertaining sports. If you live near a beach, beach volleyball can be a great way to get some exercise in the open weather. However, the indoor variety is just as entertaining, if not more. So, are you ready to play?!