Volleyball Substitution Rules

Volleyball Substitution

We’ve learned that volleyball is a 6-on-6 sport, meaning there are six players on the court for each team at all times. Since volleyball games aren’t timed, sets can run long and players can get tired, so it makes sense that the same six don’t play the whole game. They are substituted out. In this tutorial, we will learn about player substitutions and the rules that apply to them in volleyball.


Substituting is the act of replacing one or more players of a team on the court, with players from the benches, located behind the sidelines. These players have to be on the team roster and noted on the score sheet. When a player is going in for a substitution, they must wait on the sideline between the centerline and attack line. Once both players have met on the sideline, they must wait for the referee and scorers table to allow the substitution to take place.

When Does Substitution Happen in Volleyball?

When Does Substitution Happen in Volleyball

Coaches must request a substitution, which is approved by the second referee. Substitutions must take place in the substitution zone. Each team is typically allowed six substitutions per set, but each league has its own rules for the exact number.

You may see players holding paddles with numbers during substitution; these are often used by incoming players to tell players on the court who they are replacing.

How Often Can A Volleyball Team Make Substitutions?

Players are allowed to leave and re-enter the game once during each set. When a player comes back into the game, they have to return to their original position. If this rule is not followed, it is considered an illegal substitution.

Exceptions are made for when a player is injured. In this case, the player should be substituted legally. If not, any player, except the libero, can fill the spot of the injured player.

The number of substitutions per set varies per level of play. In youth volleyball you are permitted 18 substitutions. Meanwhile, in collegiate volleyball, teams are allowed 12 substitutions. Lastly, in FIVB games, teams are only permitted to make six substitutions.

Libero Replacement

Replacing the Libero player is not considered a substitution, so it is not counted in the allotted amount per game and has some different rules:

  • Liberos can only replace back row players.
  • Liberos can only be replaced by the second libero or the player they replaced.
  • Libero replacements are unlimited.
  • There must be a completed rally between two libero replacements.
  • The libero replacement must be approved by the second referee at the beginning of each set.
  • The replacement must happen when the ball is dead.
  • The players must enter and exit through the libero replacement zone.


How many substitutions are allowed in volleyball?

In volleyball, the amount of substitutions allowed varies depending on the league and age-level. In youth leagues, 18 substitutions are typically allowed. In college, the number is closer to 12. In FIVB level competition, six substitutions are allowed. Libero substitutions do not count towards this total as they can substitute as much as they please.

Who authorizes a substitution in volleyball?

There are three different people who authorize a substitution. Both referees are in charge of pausing the game for substitution and allowing legal substitutions to take place. Scorers, while technically not in authority, may ask the players to come back to the substitution line if they were unable to record the proper numbers. All three parties must authorize the substitution to take place in order to be considered legal.

What is an illegal substitution in volleyball?

There are a few different ways a team can commit an illegal substitution in a volleyball game. One way is if a team attempts to substitute after reaching the maximum allowed substitutions per game. Also, substituting any player who is not registered in the lineup is illegal. Players must wait for the referee and scorer to give them the okay before completing the substitution, otherwise the substitution will not be allowed. Most referees will stop a team before committing an illegal substitution and give them a delay of game warning. In the event that a team completes an illegal substitution, they will lose a point and service of the ball.