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Water Volleyball 101: 13 Things You Need to Know (Basic, Rules,…)

Water volleyball is a sport that everyone knows about, right? Two teams of people in a pool playing the same game that is played on a court, except that the players are dressed in swimwear. Is there more to know about water volleyball?

Water volleyball (aka pool volleyball) is a fun sport that shares some similarities with traditional volleyball, including the objective and rules. Compared to regular volleyball, in water volleyball, there is a lower risk of injury. Also, because it’s played in a pool (usually a place to have fun and relax), there is more flexibility with gameplay.

Let’s dive in and explore this fun sport.

1. The Number of Players Is Different

In water volleyball, teams can consist of 4 players on each side—called a 4 by 4. If you want to crowd the pool, then you can have 6 players or a 6 by 6. Also, if you plan to play a co-ed game, the teams are usually two men and two women (or three and three).

If four people are playing, then two will be on the net and the other two in the back. With six players, the setup will be the same as in court or beach volleyball.  

If you can only find five other players, that’s okay. Water volleyball is a flexible game.

2. More People Can Play It 

It might not make sense to say that there are fewer players, but more can play, so let’s explain.

Court or beach volleyball can take a toll on a player’s back, knees, and ankles. These are among the most common injuries in volleyball. As a person ages, backs and knees do not work as well as they once did. However, because water exercise is easier on the joints, even people in their 60s and 70s can play water volleyball.

Water Volleyball is becoming a popular sport among the elderly, with more athletic clubs and YMCAs offering water volleyball teams. So, check out athletic clubs, YMCAs, or pools in your area to see what they offer.

3. The Rules Are Similar But Not the Same As Regular Volleyball

As you compare the rules for the games, you will see many similarities, as well as a few differences.


Court Volleyball

  • The team that wins 3 out of 5 games wins the match.
  • In the 5th game (if needed), the first team to reach 15 wins.
  • The winning team must have a 2-point advantage.

Water Volleyball

  • Best two out of three.
  • The winning score can be 11, 15, or 25 points depending on what players decide.
  • The winner must have a 2-point advantage.


Court Volleyball

  • Fixed to 6 players, with three on the front line and three on the backline.

Water Volleyball

  • Anywhere from 2 to 6, depending on the size of the pool and number of players.


Court Volleyball

  • When the ball hits the court.
  • If a team hits the ball more than three times in a row, point for the other team.
  • Double-hit is a point for the other team.
  • Two players may touch the ball at the same time.

Water Volleyball

  • When the ball hits the water after going over the net.
  • Double-hit is a point for the other team.
  • Ball touches the net and doesn’t go over.

Court volleyball has many intricate rules that do not exist in water volleyball and don’t need to be charted.

4. The Court Has Official Dimensions

Believe it or not, there are court dimensions you must incorporate if you are going to play “officially.” An ideal court is 30 x 60 feet, and the net should be 24 feet long and hang 1 foot above the water. Hopefully, the pool you are playing in is no deeper than four or five feet.

You should adjust the court to accommodate the strength and ability level of the players. Players who are not in good cardiovascular shape might enjoy playing in a smaller space.

Of course, you can’t do much about the size of your pool. If it is 20 feet wide, then your court will be 20 feet wide.

5. Water Volleyball Has Its Own Ball

Although you can play with anything from soccer balls to volleyballs, we recommend that you get a ball specifically made for water volleyball. The reason? You want a waterproof ball, and volleyballs and soccer balls are often not. 

We recommend the GoSports Water Volleyball 3 Pack, which you can find on Amazon. It is the official 8-inch size and has a soft outer layer. Plus, with three balls, you can keep playing if a ball flies out of the pool.

Of course, in a pinch, you could use a beach ball or even a soccer ball.  

6. It’s Great Exercise

This goes without saying, but we thought we would say it anyway. Volleyball on land is good exercise. Add the resistance of water, and you have a low-impact, safe game that will definitely wear you out.  

7. Water Volleyball Goes by Different Names

Some people call it pool volleyball because that is where it is usually played. However, as long as you have a body of water of the appropriate depth and size, and you can figure out a way to put up a net, you can play it in a pond or lake. All the splashing that happens might be why some people call it splash volley too.  

In Germany, it is called Wasser Volleyball. The Italians call it Acqua Pallavolo. Brazilians play Aqua-Volei, and in Spain, they call it Voleibol Acuatico.

8. Biribol Came Before Water Volleyball

In the 1960s, a Brazilian Professor, Dario Miguel Pedro, developed a game that looks like water volleyball. Unlike the loose set of rules of water volleyball, Biribol has become a popular sport in Brazil, with a Brazilian National League and teams in several major Brazilian cities. 

When someone writes the history of water volleyball, Biribol should be mentioned as the original Aqua-Volei.

9. Water Volleyball Is Not an Olympic Sport

Whether for good or bad, water volleyball is not recognized as an Olympic sport. We think it might actually be a good thing. Because it means that the sport is not tied down to official rules. It’s a competitive game, but it is only a game.

10. Water Volleyball Is Not Water Aerobics or Water Polo

Although all three are water activities, they are not the same. Water aerobics is a great way to get some exercise. Older adults, especially, benefit from being able to exercise in water, where the buoyancy allows them to utilize their muscles without having to put as much strain on joints and bones that are not as strong as they once were.

However, aerobics is exercise, not a game.  

Water polo is a game played in the water, but the objective is to get your team’s ball into the other team’s goal. In that way, it is similar to soccer or basketball. However, because the game is played in a deeper pool so that the player’s feet do not touch the bottom of the pool, it is a more demanding game.

11. It’s a Great Pick-Up Game

It is not difficult to find a couple of people to play with if you are a member of a club with a pool. The water tends to act as an equalizer so that players of different skill levels can work together as a team. Because the rules are not set in stone, you can easily play a game with two or three players on each side.

12. Several Colleges Have Water Volleyball Teams

Along with athletic clubs, YMCAs, and local leagues, water volleyball is played in several colleges. Some of these are Iowa State University, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, University of San Diego, California, and Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina.

Of course, since it’s a great pick-up game, students at most colleges can play a game when the pool is free.

13. It’s Fun

We saved the best for last. Imagine a game you can play in the water, where it is hard to get hurt, the rules are straightforward, and everyone is already in a good mood (water does that).  

Bottom Line

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to all things Water Volleyball. Although it is not recognized as an official sport, neither are sack races, and they are both fun. The rules are straightforward, and since the impact on the joints is low, it’s a good sport for those who can no longer play court or beach volleyball.

And just remember, it’s only a game.