Indoor vs. Beach Volleyball: Understanding the Key Differences

13 November 2023by kontra

Court and Equipment Variations

Court Size and Surface: One of the most noticeable differences is the size and surface of the court. Beach volleyball courts are smaller, measuring 16m x 8m, compared to indoor courts which are 18m x 9m. This difference is due to the difficulty of moving in sand, which slows down players. Moreover, beach volleyball is played on sand, where players often go barefoot or wear sand socks, while indoor courts are typically synthetic or wooden, requiring shoes​​.

Ball Specifications: The balls used in each version also differ. Indoor volleyballs are heavier and smaller, facilitating quick and powerful shots in a predictable indoor environment. Beach volleyballs, on the other hand, are slightly larger and designed to withstand various outdoor conditions like sun, heat, and rain. They feel lighter and tend to float more in the air, which is crucial in the sandy environment of beach volleyball​​​​.

Gameplay and Player Dynamics

Player Positions and Team Size: Indoor volleyball features six players per side with specialized positions and the opportunity for substitutions. This specialization maximizes the 3-contact cycle, allowing for precise ball control and power. Beach volleyball typically involves teams of two, demanding versatility and creativity from the players. There are no specific positions or rotations as in indoor volleyball, and players must cover the entire court​​.

Game Structure and Scoring: Indoor volleyball matches are played over five sets, with each set going to 25 points. Beach volleyball, in contrast, is played over three sets, with each set going to 21 points. This difference in game structure demands different pacing and strategies for each sport​​.

Technical and Strategic Differences

Movement and Athleticism: Indoor volleyball is characterized by quick, precise movements and controlled passing and hitting. In contrast, beach volleyball requires more improvisation and athleticism due to the larger playing area and the challenges of moving in sand. Players in beach volleyball need to be adept at adapting to these unique conditions​​.

Techniques and Skills: Indoor players often rely on specialized roles, like blockers, to set up successful attacks. Beach volleyball players, however, need to be more versatile, covering a larger area of the court and demonstrating quick reflexes. The serving, passing, and hitting techniques vary between the two sports, with underhand serves being more common in beach volleyball due to the need for adaptability and precision in different environmental conditions​​.


Understanding these key differences between indoor and beach volleyball is crucial for players transitioning between the two or specializing in one. Each version demands unique skills, strategies, and physical attributes. Whether it’s adapting to the sandy terrain of the beach or the controlled conditions of an indoor court, volleyball in any form requires dedication, skill, and a deep understanding of the game’s nuances. For those looking to excel in either or both forms of volleyball, recognizing and respecting these differences is the first step towards mastery.

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