Indoor and outdoor volleyball, which is more often called beach volleyball, are both based on the same idea of bouncing a ball over a net and trying to score by ensuring the other team can’t return the ball.

However, although these two games share the same base idea, they’re actually very different.

Indoor vs Outdoor Volleyball

Team Size

One of the biggest differences between indoor and outdoor volleyball is the size of the teams.

Beach volleyball is played with two players on each team, and the teams cannot substitute any players. Teams for indoor volleyball have six players on each side, and there can be up to six people on the bench.

Each team can substitute six players over the course of the game.

Outdoor or beach volleyball tends to be a casual sport outside of professional games, so, although it’s normally played with pairs, it’s not unusual to see a game between just two people or teams with three, four, or even more people.

indoor volleyball game

Ground Medium

Aside from the fact that indoor and outdoor volleyball are played in two different settings, the floor of the court is also different.

Indoor volleyball is played in a gymnasium, and the floor of a gym is usually made from maple planks, although some floors are made of rubber.

Outdoor volleyball is played on a thick layer of sand. The sand must be at least 9 inches deep, and it needs to be free of any sort of debris, such as rocks, shells, or sticks.

Sometimes, the sand is periodically wet to keep it cool.

beach volleyball court

Court Size

Because there are more players on each team, indoor volleyball courts are slightly larger than outdoor courts.

An indoor court is 18 meters or about 59 feet long and 9 meters or about 29.5 feet wide. Outdoor courts are 16 meters or about 52.5 feet long and 8 meters or around 26 feet wide.

The smaller size of an outdoor court helps the two-player teams cross the court quickly to make return hits.

However, it also means that anyone hitting the ball over the net must be very precise with their aim so as not to hit the ball out of bounds.

players on an indoor volleyball court

Net Size

For both indoor and outdoor games, the net must be 7 feet, 11 5/8 inches high for a men’s game, and 7 feet, 4 1/8 inches high for a women’s game.

The volleyball net is also the same size in both sports. It is 32 feet long and 39 inches tall. The net will overhang the edges of the court slightly, which helps to prevent fouls.

volleyball net

Indoor vs. Outdoor Volleyballs

Even the balls that are used for indoor and outdoor volleyball are a little bit different. Indoor balls are heavy and a bit harder than beach volleyballs.

This added weight makes them move faster and helps players control their aim when they serve or hit the ball. Indoor balls are also molded, and the panels of the ball are glued to the ball’s inner lining.

The balls are usually made of leather. The material and construction make the ball more durable so it can stand up to being hit or served repeatedly. This durability also helps when the ball hits the floor.

volleyball in mid air

Outdoor volleyballs a slightly larger than indoor volleyballs. Outdoor balls are handstitched, and they are often made of cloth, so they’re not quite as durable as indoor volleyballs.

They’re also softer and lighter. Because they weigh less than an indoor volleyball, they don’t cut through the air as effectively, and this helps them stay in the air longer.

This is crucial for a game with only two players per team, as it helps to ensure that each player has enough time to get to the ball and make a pass.

white beach volleyball

Rules

The rules and scoring of indoor and outdoor volleyball also differ. In an indoor volleyball game, some players must hit the ball from behind a specific line, called the attack line, which is about 10 feet from the centerline.

In beach volleyball, the players are free to move around their side of the court to return the ball to the other side.

Indoor volleyball games consist of six sets, and during each set, a team must reach 25 points. The team that wins the most sets wins the game. Sometimes, a tie-breaker set is required, and this set only goes to 15 points.

Outdoor volleyball games consist of three sets. The first team to win two sets wins the game. The first two sets are played to 21 points, and the third set, if necessary, is played to 15 points.

In both indoor and outdoor volleyball games, each team must win their set by at least two points. This means that some sets can exceed a score of 21, 25, or 15 points, depending on which game is being played.

Digital led volleyball scoreboard
Digital led volleyball scoreboard

Beach volleyball, although it seems like a carefree sport, is quite competitive, and the rules are sometimes even stricter than in an indoor game.

For example, the rules regarding double touching, or hitting the ball twice during the same volley, are much more stringent, so less double touching takes place in a beach volleyball game.

Outdoor volleyball players are also not allowed to hit the ball with soft fingers, and they can’t tip the ball over the net.

Footwear

Since it’s played in the sand, beach volleyball players play the game barefoot. For an indoor game, however, shoes with thick soles and good traction are a much better option.

male beach volleyball player

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