How Do Rotations Work In Volleyball?

Volleyball Rotation Rule

One of the most notable aspects of volleyball which separates it from other sports is the rotation of players on the court. After each side-out or change in service, the players on one side of the court rotate in a set pattern. How does this rotation work, and where does each player go when they rotate? Read on to find out.

What Is a Rotation in Volleyball?

Rotation in volleyball refers to the way players move on the court after a completed rally which ends in a side-out or loss of serve. Whenever a team receives the ball as a result of their opponents committing a side-out or losing the serve, each member of the team must rotate their position on the court before they begin their new serve.

Court Locations

volleyball court locations

Before discussing rotations in volleyball, it is vital to understand the different locations on a volleyball court. These locations are distinct from the positions on a volleyball team, as the locations do not change, while players who occupy certain positions (such as libero, middle blocker, setter, etc.) will rotate throughout the court locations for the duration of a volleyball game.

There are six locations on each side of the volleyball court, which are:

  • Left Front (LF)
  • Middle/Center Front (CF or MF)
  • Right Front (RF)
  • Left Back (LB)
  • Middle/Center Back (CB or MB)
  • Right Back (RB)

The court locations are also sometimes referred to by numbers, with the right back (RB) location being given the number one, as it is the serving position. 

The numbering system then follows the clockwise rotation pattern. Therefore:

  • Right Back (RB) is Position 1
  • Right Front (RF) is Position 2
  • Middle/Center Front (CF) is Position 3
  • Left Front (LF) is Position 4
  • Left Back (LB) is Position 5
  • Middle/Center Back (CB) is Position 6

Rotation Pattern

Whenever a side-out or change in service occurs, the players on the new serving team rotate one position in a clockwise direction. Therefore, the player in Position 1 (right back) will move to Position 6 (middle back), while the player in Position 6 will move to Position 5 (left back), and so on. The team who just caused the side-out or gave up the serve does not rotate.

It is important to note that rotation mostly matters for the positioning of players at the beginning of a serve and as general markers of location during a rally. Players are given a good amount of freedom of movement during a rally, so long as they remain within the general area of their court location. For example, a middle blocker who has rotated into the left front position is allowed to move towards the middle during a rally, but only after the serve is contacted.

Rotational Fault

Volleyball Rotational Fault

In volleyball, a rotational fault can occur when a mistake is made in the established rotation of a team based upon its starting lineup. Rotational faults will be called whenever an incorrect player is serving after a rotation due to a side-out or a lost serve. A rotational fault that is called before the incorrect serve will result in the opposing team gaining a point and the right to serve. If the fault is called after the completion of a rally, the opposing team gets a point, but the service is not changed. No matter what, the incorrect rotation must be fixed.


Volleyball Overlap

In addition to the rotational fault, players on a volleyball team must be wary of overlapping with other players during a rally. If a player moves out of their position before a serve and enters a teammate’s position, they will be called for overlapping, and the result will be the same as a rotational fault: a point for the opposing team.

An easy way to avoid overlapping in volleyball is to be aware of the players directly behind, before, and to the sides of you, where applicable. Players at the corners of the court should be aware of players who are oriented beside them in a “L” shape (to one side, and either in front of or behind them). Meanwhile, the two middle players must be aware of those around them in a “T” shape (on both sides of them and either to their front or back).


What direction do you rotate in volleyball?

In volleyball, players always rotate in a clockwise direction. This set rotational path ensures that no player will move out of the rotation during a game. If a player does rotate incorrectly, intentionally or otherwise, they will be called for a rotational fault, and the other team will receive a point, and possibly the serve.

What are the rotation positions in volleyball?

The rotation positions in volleyball (also known as the court locations) are right back, right front, middle front, left front, left back, and middle back. Right back is the position used to serve in volleyball. These positions are also referred to via numbers, with the right back location being Position 1, the right front being Position 2, and so on in a clockwise direction.