Peak Sports Mailbag: Week 8

Ask and answer both SFU and non-SFU related sports questions. This week: volleyball

Photo credit / Amazon

By: Juztin Bello, Copy Editor

Hello readers of The Peak sports section,

My name is Juztin Bello and I’m this week’s host for the Peak Sports Mailbag. Our topic this week is volleyball. 

Thanks so much to all of our readers for submitting their volleyball-related questions, and my apologies if your question didn’t make it into this week’s edition. Usually, the Mailbag host will only answer three questions. Don’t worry though, as all questions submitted count for an entry into the raffle draw whether or not they are addressed in the Mailbag. Now, onto the questions!

Question 1: What’s the difference between beach volleyball and indoor volleyball? – Gab 

Answer: There are actually many differences between beach and indoor volleyball, ranging from basic rules to the court itself. As I imagine this list could get lengthy, I’ll try to tackle the more significant ones. 

Firstly, the point system in beach volleyball sees teams playing to 21 — in best-of-three style matches — rather than to 25 — in five-set matches. Instead of switching sides at the end of a set, teams in beach switch sides every seven points. Additionally, rather than six players per team,  beach volleyball merely has two players with no substitutions. 

The courts between the two differ, with the dimensions being 18m x 9m for indoor and 16m x 8m for beach, to accommodate the smaller teams. Along with the decreased size, in beach the attack line, a line 3m from the centre line (under the net), is removed. This line, which prevents back row players from jumping at the net, is removed in beach so that two-person teams have a full range of attack. This reflects another difference, in which beach volleyball players have no designated positions and can set, dig, and hit from anywhere on the court. One might say that beach volleyball players need to be more versatile, seeing as they need to play all positions.

Fun fact: indoor volleyball became an Olympic event in 1964, while beach only became an official event more than 30 years later in 1996. 

Question 2: Can you elaborate on the different responsibilities of the setter, outside hitter/left side hitter, middle hitter, opposite hitter/right side hitter, and libero/defensive specialist in high-level volleyball? – James

Answer: Setters are responsible for getting second touch on the offensive and placing the ball in the air for a hitter. They must identify the opponent’s weakest defensive point and prepare a hitter to attack accordingly. Typically, a setter on defense will avoid making first touch on the receive. Should a setter make first contact, another player must act as setter for that play —  usually the right side hitter. 

Left and right side hitters are almost identical positions except for where they are on the court. Point-building heavily relies on these players. When in the front row, hitters will set themselves to the far left/right for an approach to hit, typically outside the court lines. In the back row, these hitters are responsible for receiving serves/hits along with the libero — they may both also spike from the middle of the back row behind the 3m attack line. 

As the name suggests, the middle hitter is responsible for attacking the ball from the middle of the front row. They are a key component for blocking on defense; middles will swing themselves left or right to assist in blocking hits, but must also serve as the primary blocking defense from middle hits. When in the back row, middles will typically be substituted out with a libero.

Despite their seemingly similar roles, the libero and defensive specialist are actually completely different positions. Liberos wear a different coloured shirt from the rest of their team to better identify them during gameplay. You will never see a libero hit in the front row or serve (though some leagues do allow liberos to serve). While defensive specialists are also seen as better passers and are brought in for defensive play, they are actually just used to replace a defensively-weaker back row player. This position doesn’t have to follow the same hitting/serving rules as the libero, wears the same jersey as other teammates, has to follow regular substitution rules, and can play in the front row. 

Question 3: What is the highest level of volleyball in the world, and how can I watch it? – Alicia 

Answer: The highest level of volleyball is played under the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB). As the international governing body for all forms of volleyball, it is responsible for organizing worldwide volleyball events, including the Olympics and various World Championships

For fans looking to deep-dive into some high-level volleyball: schedules, team statistics, and volleyball-related news are regularly updated on FIVB’s website. Additionally, FIVB events can be watched at Volleyball TV’s website, which offers Tournament Passes and Season Passes for members. If fans want to watch volleyball without a membership, the Volleyball World Youtube channel features clips that highlight remarkable gameplay moments.

Of course, volleyball fans can also look forward to the 2020 Olympics next summer. 

If you would like to participate in future editions of the Peak Sports Mailbag and be entered in a raffle for an end-of-semester prize, here’s what you can send to

  • Sports-related questions that our weekly host will answer
  • Weekly theme ideas to guide our questions

Or: sign up to host the Mailbag (and get paid)!

Thanks to all of you SFU sports fans for blowing up my inbox!

Next week’s theme is: Kendo

Next week’s host is: Nicole Magas

Send in your questions to