How many timeouts in volleyball? [+ 6 timeout success tips]

Every sport, especially if it’s Olympic, is strictly regulated. Volleyball is an Olympic sport and one of the most popular games in the world, with millions of fans and thousands of volleyball teams across the globe. I’m a professional athlete, so I know all the rules. If you are not a professional player, but you love volleyball and don’t miss important matches, knowing the rules will mean that you’ll enjoy the game even more.

Today, I’m going to talk about timeouts. There are straightforward rules about timeouts in volleyball, and I will explore them together with you here. 

You can probably imagine that during such a physically demanding game as volleyball, the teams will need timeouts. To catch a breath, and maybe do something else.

We are going to explore all of that. 

Let me just say that although timeouts seem pretty mundane at first sight, they can actually play a significant role and even influence the outcome of the volleyball match. Sounds intriguing? Let’s dive in.

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FIVB on timeouts: basic rules

I’m going to talk about the rules that apply to international volleyball, in other words, to the volleyball of high achievements. World championships and other international volleyball competitions are governed by the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball), and this organization is the one that imposes all the rules in volleyball. 

Timeout regulations help keep the matches fluid and maintain fair play. One team is allowed two timeouts per set. They are chances for teams to pause, reassess, and even disrupt the momentum of the opposing team (this is the case when a timeout can make a huge impact on the result.)

The call for a timeout comes from a coach or a captain of one team. They give a special signal, making the letter ‘T’ with their hands. That means that means a timeout request. They can do it only when the ball is not in play.

There is a specific protocol that the timeouts should follow. The leading team reaching the 8-point mark and the 16-point mark in each set triggers a technical timeout. They are so-called ‘television timeouts’, but technical timeouts still provide opportunities for both teams to regroup and get coaching guidance.

Teams can call timeouts themselves. For example, my team is trailing and wants to shift momentum, so my team captain or coach calls a timeout.

Timeouts typically last 30 seconds each. That’s the general rule.

But the FIVB allows to change the duration if the organizer of the tournament makes the request and the FIVB approves it.

I believe that FIVB timeout rules balance the needs of both teams. At the same time, they don’t let the pace of the game slow down. So the FIVB limits the number of timeouts per set and ensures that matches go on smoothly.  

how many timeouts in volleyball
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Usual vs. technical timeout: the difference

I think it’s important to explain here that there are 2 types of timeouts: a usual and a technical timeout. They both serve as opportunities for teams to pause and regroup, but the circumstances and purposes are slightly different.

  • Usual timeoutEach team can call a usual timeout during a set. Each team can have two usual timeouts per set. The decision to call a usual timeout is made by the team captain or coach and can be a critical tactical move, especially in high-stakes matches.
  • Technical timeoutThey are mandated breaks. They take place at specific points during each set. In international volleyball, such as matches sanctioned by the FIVB, technical time-outs happen when the winning team reaches the 8-point mark and the 16-point mark in a set. These timeouts ensure that both teams get coaching guidance and catch their breath, no matter the scoreline.

Usual and technical timeouts serve distinct purposes. Usual timeouts are strategic tools, but technical timeouts provide mandated breaks.

They are also often referred to as ‘television timeouts’ because they justify commercial breaks.

I think it’s important to understand the difference, and if you are a volleyball fan, you’ll understand the strategy and tactics of the game more clearly.

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What happens during timeouts?

During these half-minute breaks, teams are allowed to do a variety of activities. Here’s a rundown of what teams are typically allowed to do during timeouts.

Consult with coaches

  • One of the main purposes of time-outs is to allow teams to get guidance and instruction from their coaches. I remember how difficult it was at the beginning to listen to the coach’s insights and suggestions because I was trying to catch my breath so badly.But with time and experience, I learned to multitask and now have no problem resting my muscles and listening to the tactical adjustments that we need to make after the timeout or motivational pep talks.

Strategize

  • My team and other teams often use time-outs to reassess the strategy and the game plan. We discuss defensive formations, offensive plays, and serving tactics, and decide how to exploit weaknesses in the opposing team’s defense or capitalize on our strengths.

Regroup and refocus

  • Volleyball can be a fast-paced and intense sport, and for me and most volleyball players, it’s a moment to regroup and refocus. I always use this time to reset mentally, shake off any mistakes or frustrations that I may have made, and motivate myself to go on and win the game.

Hydrate and rest

  • I try never to forget about this part. Volleyball matches are physically demanding, and timeouts offer a chance to hydrate and rest. Hydration is vital if you want to achieve and keep peak performance on the court. So players replenish fluids and recharge their energy levels.

Discuss individual roles

  • During most timeouts, coaches always address individual player roles and responsibilities. Players may clarify their assignments and coordinate positioning.
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Maximizing timeout effectiveness: tips

  • I am sure you understand that savvy coaches and players always use timeouts strategically. Here are some effective timeout strategies that teams use.

Timing is key

  • Knowing when to call a timeout can be just crucial and even change the game results. My coach often calls timeouts to break the opposing team’s lead or to halt a scoring run.For example, the other team serves very well, and one server is particularly excellent. My coach can call a timeout to break that successful serving rhythm. The ‘server problem’ can be also tackled by calling the timeout right before the player enters the service zone to do a service hit. That’s throwing the opponent’s court off their game.By calling a timeout at the right moment, you can stop the opposing team from gaining too much momentum and shift it back in your favor.

Focus on solutions, not problems

  • During timeouts, my team commits to solutions and doesn’t start a fight because of someone’s mistake. Of course, coaches should use timeouts to give feedback and offer solutions to tactical challenges, but it should be constructive.Motivation and peak performance are paramount. That’s why –  positive reinforcement and clear, actionable advice, no degrading or squabbles. Once I saw how after being harshly criticized for touching the end line, a player got completely demotivated and didn’t bring anything to the game afterward.

Keep it concise

  • Timeouts are only 30 seconds long, so coaches should be very clear and concise in their messages. During my time in volleyball, I saw rambling or unfocused speeches plenty of times, and, believe me, it’s such a waste.

Empower players

  • I believe that during timeouts players should also get a chance to give their insights. It’s critical not only because players always have good ideas, but it also empowers volleyball players and makes them feel valuable to the team. 

Stay calm and composed

  • An important match is a high-pressure situation, and it’s easy for emotions to run high during timeouts. But staying calm is crucial.  When the pressure becomes overwhelming, you start making mistakes.For example, we got into trouble with ball contacts. You know that when 2 players from opposing teams touch the ball simultaneously over the net and the ball is not out, the receiving team is allowed 3 more hits. And that happened to us again and again.After the timeout, we calmed down and got back on track: no touching the ball simultaneously with opposing players. So using timeouts mentally to reset, focus on the task at hand, and stay confident can help avoid mistakes.

Adapt and adjust

  • Volleyball matches are dynamic, and strategies that work at the beginning may need to be corrected as the game goes on. During timeouts, we adapt tactics, if needed, depending on the situation on the court. Timeouts give us a precious opportunity to do that. Let’s say, my team made some tactical decisions before the game. But they don’t work because of the problem in the service zone. Each jump service brings a point to one team, and this is not us.

    We are a receiving team, and we’re losing. We call the timeout, agree to strengthen the block and change the frontcourt attacker who is targeted. The result? Our receiving team wins the service immediately.
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Olympic Games: are the timeout rules the same?

The Olympic Games often stand out because general rules are adjusted to their unique nature.

But with timeout regulations in volleyball, the Olympic Games follow the same FIVB standards. This means that the timeout rules in Olympic volleyball competitions are the same as seen in other international tournaments sanctioned by the FIVB.

In Olympic volleyball matches, the same team typically gets two timeouts per set, 30 seconds each.

Technical timeouts are mandated at specific points during each set, usually when the leading team reaches the 8-point mark and the 16-point mark.

While the stakes may be higher and the competition fiercer at the Olympic Games, the timeout rules remain the same. I believe it’s a good thing because there is enough additional stress at the Olympic Games and adding any more is not the best idea.

Beach volleyball timeouts

Beach volleyball is a fantastic sport with its location on the sunny sands of coastal beaches … and extra challenges in the form of scorching heat and sticky sand.

Let’s see if the timeout regulations are different here.

  1. Number of timeouts: similar to indoor volleyball, beach volleyball teams typically have 2 timeouts per set.
  2. Timing of timeouts: in beach volleyball, timeouts can be called at any point during a set, so as in indoor volleyball, the team can use timeouts for strategic reasons. 
  3. Length of timeouts: in beach volleyball, timeouts are more fluid in length. Beach volleyball timeouts can vary. I think the reason for that lies in the often extreme weather conditions. Sometimes, 30 seconds is not enough to catch a breath and hydrate. 
  4. Strategic considerations: the open-air environment in beach volleyball adds more issues to strategize about. When I play beach volleyball, we often assess wind conditions and adjust our defensive formations based on the angle of the sun.In the end, beach volleyball timeout rules are similar to indoor volleyball rules with just slight variations, and the purposes of the timeouts, both usual and technical are the same. Teams can maximize their performance if they use timeouts most effectively.
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Conclusion

As you can see from this article, timeouts are critical parts of the volleyball match and should never be underestimated. Sometimes, I feel that I just need a break because the game is getting overwhelming, but the timeout is much more than that. It’s a crucial strategic tool that each team together with their coach uses to their advantage.

I know the coaches that are masters of the art of timeouts. They know when to call them and how to use them in the best possible way.

So, the next time you find yourself on the volleyball court as a player or a fan rooting for the same team, remember the power of the timeout. It’s not only a pause to catch a breath for an exhausted athlete, it’s an opportunity that may change the pace and outcome of the game.

FAQ

How many timeouts do you get per set in volleyball?

In volleyball, each team typically gets 2 timeouts per set. This is valid for all international matches, including the Olympics and the World Cup. Apart from the timeouts that each team chooses the timing for, there are also so-called technical time-outs. They are mandatory and take place at specific moments of the game.

What are timeouts in volleyball?

Timeouts in volleyball are brief pauses in the game called by either team to regroup, strategize, or break the momentum of the opposing team. Normally, they last 30 seconds, but in specific cases when an organizer submits a request to the FIVB to allow a different time duration for timeouts and the FIVB approves it, the length of a timeout may be changed.

How many outs are allowed in volleyball?

In volleyball, there are no “outs” as in some other sports like baseball or softball. Instead, each team is typically allowed 2 timeouts per set.

How many timeouts a team can take in a set?

A team can typically take 2 timeouts per set in volleyball. There are also technical timeout breaks that take place at certain points of the set, and they are compulsory.

How many outs are allowed in NCAA volleyball?

According to the NCAA volleyball regulations, each team is given 2 timeouts 75 seconds each for 1 set.

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