Rally Scoring in Volleyball

How Rally Scoring Works and Why the Change Was Made

Man playing volleyball
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Rally scoring is a system used in volleyball in which a point is scored on every single rally. It doesn't matter which team serves the ball—points can be scored by either the serving or the receiving team. 

How Rally Scoring Works 

A point is scored every time the ball hits the court within the boundaries or whenever an error is made. The team that did not make the error or allow the ball to hit on their side of the floor is awarded a point regardless of whether they served the ball.

The team that won the point then serves for the next point.

The Old System: Side Out Scoring 

Prior to the implementation of the rally scoring system, the "side out" scoring system was used. In this system, points could only be scored by the team that was serving the ball. If the team that was not serving the ball won a rally, they would not be awarded a point in recognition of that. Instead, they would get the ball to serve themselves, at which point they could score a point if they won the rally. 

The Adoption of Rally Scoring

Rally scoring was officially adopted in 1999. The shift from side out scoring to rally scoring was primarily made to make the average length of volleyball matches more predictable, as well as to make them more spectator- and television-friendly. The event is explained by the USA Volleyball Rules of the Game Commission:

The USA Volleyball Rules of the Game Commission met in February 1999 and adopted several major rule changes that will have a noticeable effect on the game as well as tournament organization and planning. The following are a list of the significant changes in the scoring system, substitution numbers and procedure, sanction rules and procedure, and referee signal techniques. In addition, the commitment to move toward the FIVB system of scorekeeping has been made, and there will be some movement along that line in 1999. The United States Rules are required to use the FIVB rules as a basis, and these changes reflect that requirement.

These rule changes will be in effect for the 1999-2000 season of USA Volleyball competition, commencing November 1, 1999. However, the entire FIVB rule set, with some safety modifications, will be in effect for the US Open Tournaments at the 1999 USA Volleyball Open Championships in San Jose, Calif., May 31-June 3.

The change in the scoring system to all rally scoring will enable tournament organizers to better project match-time requirements since the average time of each set and match will be more predictable. The substitution systems will allow greater participation in the game by more players. The reconstructed sanction system and procedure is designed to allow referees to better control real misconduct in the matches while allowing participants to express their natural feelings as each rally terminates with a winner and a loser.”