At the Olympic Games, there are two disciplines of volleyball for fans to enjoy. Though there are many differences between beach volleyball and indoor volleyball, both sports can be enjoyed by old and new fans alike, provided that those fans recognize some of the differences between Olympic beach volleyball and Olympic indoor volleyball.
Obvious Differences between Indoor Volleyball and Beach Volleyball
There are the obvious differences between Olympic beach volleyball and Olympic indoor volleyball. For example, beach volleyball teams are made up of two players, while indoor volleyball teams are made up of 12 players. Both of the beach volleyball players remain on the court for the entire game, while only six indoor volleyball players are allowed on the court at a time.
Then there is the obvious example of court composition and location. In beach volleyball, players compete on outdoor sand courts, while indoor players compete inside on a hard surface.
Scoring Differences: Olympic Beach Volleyball vs. Olympic Indoor Volleyball
There are several scoring differences between the two disciplines at the Olympic Games, as well. In beach volleyball, teams advance after winning a best-of-three series. The first team to 21 points wins the set, and the first team to win two sets takes the match. In order to win the set, a team must outscore the opposing team by at least two points. In the event that a third set is needed, the two teams only play to 15 points.
In Olympic indoor volleyball, teams must win a best-of-five series. Indoor Olympic volleyball teams play to 25 points, and as is the case with beach volleyball, a team must win the set by at least two points. If a fifth set is needed, the teams only play to 15 points.
Equipment Differences Between Beach Volleyball and Indoor Volleyball at the Olympic Games
When it comes to equipment for the two volleyball disciplines, some differences are obvious. For example, Olympic beach volleyball players compete in bikinis or shorts and T-shirts, while indoor players generally wear some type of shorts and shirt. Beach volleyball players are barefoot and wear sunglasses and visors, while indoor players wear knee pads and volleyball shoes.
Other differences are not quite as noticeable. For example, the Olympic-sized beach volleyball court is 16 meters long by 8 meters wide, while the indoor volleyball court is 18 meters long by 9 meters wide. Though the indoor court is a bit larger, the nets sit at the same height for both disciplines. For the men, the nets are 2.43 meters high, while the women's nets are 2.24 meters high.
There are ball differences at the Olympic Games, as well. Beach volleyballs are often softer, bigger and a bit lighter than their indoor counterparts.
Beach Volleyball and Indoor Volleyball at the London 2012 Olympic Games
In London, indoor volleyball will include many more players than beach volleyball, though fewer indoor teams will compete. The indoor tournament allows for 144 male athletes and 144 female athletes, which equates to 12 male and 12 female teams. The beach volleyball tournament allows for 48 male and 48 female athletes, which makes room for 24 male and 24 female teams.
Because of the different number of teams competing, the competition format in London will be different for each discipline.
In the beach volleyball tournament, the 24 teams will be split into six pools of four. From there, each team will play every other team in their pool, and the top two teams in each pool advance automatically, as do the two best third-ranked teams. The other four third-ranked teams play one another, and the two winners also advance to the round of 16. The round of 16 is an elimination round, and teams play until two final teams are left to compete for the gold medal.
The Olympic indoor volleyball tournament in London will follow a similar format. The 12 teams are divided into two pools of six. The teams play every other team in the pool, and the top four from each pool advance to the elimination round to play until only two teams remain to compete for gold.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46.