Volleyball Substitution Rules

Volleyball Substitution

At all levels, 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. Read on to learn all about how substitutions work in volleyball.


Substituting is the act of replacing one or more players of a team on the court, with players from the benches. These players have to be on the team roster and noted on the score sheet. Substitution rules apply to all players except for the libero and their replacement. 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 scorer’s table to officially 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 then approved by the second referee. The substitution may be announced by the scorer or the second referee but is always authorized by the second referee in professional play. Incoming players often hold paddles with numbers during substitution to tell players still on the court who they are replacing.

Substitutions must also 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. If a team wants to substitute multiple players at once, they must all enter the substitution zone at the same time to be considered in the same request, and they must all be authorized by the second referee.

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, and this is called an exceptional substitution. 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 per set. Meanwhile, in collegiate volleyball, teams are allowed 15 substitutions per set. Lastly, in professional FIVB games, teams are only permitted to make six substitutions per set.

Libero Replacement

volleyball 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:

  • Teams may designate one or two liberos.
  • Liberos can only replace back-row players.
  • Liberos can only be replaced by the second libero.
  • If a team plays with two liberos, replacements between the two liberos are unlimited.
  • If a team plays with one libero and that player becomes unable to play, the team may remove that player and re-designate a new libero, who will remain at the position for the rest of the match.
  • There must be a completed rally between 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.

Volleyball Substitution Rules Summary

  • There must be six players on the court at all times.
  • Substituting in volleyball is when a bench player replaces a player on the court.
  • In youth volleyball, you are allowed 18 substitutions per set.
  • In college volleyball, you are allowed 15 substitutions per set.
  • In FIVB volleyball, you are allowed six substitutions per set.
  • There may only be one libero on the court at a time.
  • If a libero is substituted out, another libero must take their place on the court.


How many substitutions are allowed in volleyball?

In volleyball, the number of substitutions allowed varies depending on the league and age level. In youth leagues, 18 substitutions are typically allowed. In college, 15 substitutions are allowed. 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?

The second referee officially authorizes all substitutions in volleyball. 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 are unable to record the proper numbers, and they may all announce a substitution instead of the second referee.

What is an illegal substitution in volleyball?

An illegal substitution is any attempted substitution that does not follow the league’s rules. One major example is if a team attempts to substitute after reaching the maximum allowed substitutions per game. Players must wait for the second referee to approve the substitution before entering the game. Most referees will stop a team before committing an illegal substitution and instead 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.