Compared to other team sports like basketball or football, volleyball is different in a way that is not played on time. There are a few factors affecting how long the volleyball game will last, and we must consider the level, how many sets the game will have, and some other aspects that can also impact the length of the game.
How long is a volleyball game? The volleyball game is usually played on the best of five, which means there is a minimum of 3 sets and a maximum of 5 sets. Essentially, the game continues until a team has won 3 sets. On average, sets last around 20-30 min, while games last around 1h45m-2h; however, this can differ depending on some of the factors we will look at below.
How long is a set in volleyball
The length of a volleyball match, unlike other team sports, differs in that there is no time limit. The set is played until the first team scores 25 points. The team that gets the point makes a rotation; in volleyball, it is interesting that more time passes during the rotation than actually during the action. One rally lasts around 5s on average, while a team can spend over 20 seconds rotating.
With this, we can see that the teams spend about a minute on 2 points, which amounts to around 20-30 minutes for the whole 25 point set. While a possible last set played up to 15 points takes an average of 12-18 mins.
It is important to note that this can differ on the level of volleyball; the higher it is, the stronger the attacks will be, meaning the shorter will be the rallies. The difference is also between men’s and women’s, where women’s rallies are longer on average due to less power involved.
How many points to win a set in volleyball
For a team to win a set, they need to reach 25 points; however, if there is a possible fifth set, the team needs to get 15 points to win. It is important to note that there is a rule of 2 point difference in volleyball, so if the score at the end of the set is 24-25, teams play until they finish with a 2 point difference on the scoreboard.
How long is a rally in volleyball
A rally is a time between the serve and the end of the point. From the FIVB analysis from the 2016 Olympic games, we can see that rallies on average lasted 7.25s in women while in men’s volleyball, 5.51s; however, that is the data with the pseudo rallies.
What is a pseudo rally?
Pseudo rallies are actions and plays that happen with a direct mistake or point on serve. Under that falls ace serve, the error on serve, in other words, all plays that last under 1s. So if we exempt the pseudo rallies in volleyball games, the length increases to about 6.9s in men’s and 8.25s in women’s. Let’s take a look at a table.
|Rally||Men’s Volleyball||Women’s Volleyball|
|Average duration without pseudo||6.9s||8.25s|
Timeouts in volleyball
Timeout in volleyball is an official game pause that each team can take to rest players, change the game tactics, or get the opponent out of the rhythm. For each competition, there are different rules; here in Europe or by the FIVB rules, each team can take up to two timeouts, and they last 30 seconds. It is important to note that there were also technical timeouts that FIVB and CEV banned from the competitions in 2019.
Changing the sides between sets
Set interval is the time between each set. It lasts 3m before the new set starts, but if there is a fifth set, teams draw who will start with serve, and take up a little bit longer 5min specifically, furthermore in the middle of the fifth set, both teams change sides, but that interval only takes 30 sec.
Collecting the balls
One thing that can drastically increase the length of volleyball matches, especially in lower-level competitions, is getting the ball for service. For example, the ball goes on the tribune and players first need to get it to continue playing. Sometimes that can take up to a few minutes. However, In higher-level competitions, the organizers have up to 3 ball collectors to keep the players away from getting the ball each time.
Substitution in volleyball is a very short procedure, and it is done under 20 seconds; rules for substitutions vary in leagues, so this is something to consider. By the FIVB rules, each team can make six substitutions per set. That is not many, so players have to be well-rounded to make tactics work.
On the highest level of competition, we can see also the procedure called a challenge. That is when the teams request a point review if they think the referee missed a call. Usually, this process lasts for around 30 seconds, but it can take up a little longer if the decision is hard.
A broken antenna or net can increase the length of the game up to 10 min
Personally I’ve experienced that several times in my career. Organizers had to take care of the net, and it took at least 10 min to fix the problem. The same can happen with the broken antenna, malfunction of the scoreboard or computer that referees use, and other unwanted problems.
The 5 set volleyball game can last even up to 2,5 hours if you count all the time outs, breaks in between the sets and everything that can delay the game. There is also a video challenge call in international competitions and in some leagues, which can be one of the main factors in making the game longer.
One volleyball set can last from 20-30 minutes. Some sets can even go up to 35 points if both teams are competitive and have a high percentage of a side out. The last possible fifth set last until the fifteenth point and is usually finished in 12-18 minutes.
The Longest set ever recorded was in 2006 in the FIVB World Championship. It was a match between Brazil and Italy where the score was incredible. The end score of the set was 73-71 for Brazil. That record is just hard to be repeated or beat.
Every player on the bench can be subbed for any player on the court with the exeption of the libero, which only makes subs in the back-row. Once the player is substituted, they can substitute with the same player. There are 12 substitutions available for each team.
What can affect the length of the volleyball game
- The number of sets
- Level of volleyball
- The length of the rallies
- Collecting the balls
- Set intervals
- Unwanted problems ( Broken antenna, broken net, computer malfunction and so on.)
- Red or yellow cards can also increase the length of a game
To conclude, there is no definitive answer on how long a volleyball game is, but we say that the average time is around 1h45- 2h for a game that is played on three winning sets. If you want to learn more about volleyball, our article about the positions will be a great start, so check that out.
Do you have anything to add, something that we might miss in this article? Feel free to leave a comment down below and let us know!