The equipment needed to play Boardball include: one volleyball and one board.
In competitive play, a court will be used with boundary lines running along each side forming an outer square. The size of the court is 40x40ft. You can continue to play the ball outside of the lines, however the ball still must land within/on the lines for it to be considered a valid point
Teams & Positions
Two teams play against each other, with two players per team.
To start the game, partners must be positioned on the same side of the board, facing the opposing players, with the board in between the teams. Players should stand a distance of 8ft away from the board.
Once the ball is in play, there are no “sides”, so players are free to move 360 degrees around the board throughout the rally. However, players may not screen, block, get in the way, or interfere with the opponents when the ball is in their possession.
Rock-paper-scissors is played to determine which team starts serving.
The player on the right-hand side of the serving team serves first, switching positions with their partner after every successful point received. The winning team will continue to serve until they have lost possession.
The ball must be served to the player diagonal from the server. The first player to touch the ball on the receiving team must be the player diagonal from the server.
The ball must be tossed into the air before serving (i.e. the ball cannot be hit straight out of the other hand of the server). The ball can be tossed into the air at any height, so long as it leaves the hand/hands of the server. The ball can be tossed upwards or to the side, but cannot be tossed downwards. Importantly, when the server makes contact with the ball, it must be at or behind the 8ft mark. If the player makes contact with the ball past the 8ft mark, they lose the point.
For the serve to be successful, the ball must hit the black, flat surface of the board, otherwise known as a “Black Ball”.
On a serve, if the ball hits the red, slanted edge of the board, it is considered a “fault”, at which point the server gets to re-serve the ball one time. Like in tennis, the server only gets one fault. If the server misses again, then the opposing team gets the point. If the ball hits off the red edge and goes out of bounds, this is considered a missed serve - not a fault - and the server does not get a second serve. If the server misses the board completely, this is considered a missed serve or an “air ball” and the server does not get a second serve.
When playing with an outlined 40x40ft court, the serve can bounce off the board at any height and strength, so long as it lands within the outline of the court. When not playing with outlines, the serve must be receivable without the receiving player having to jump for the ball. If the serve is too high (i.e. the receiving player must jump to touch the ball or the ball is out of reach), then the serve does not count and is considered a fault.
Off a serve, the receiving player must pass to their partner before bouncing the ball back to the opposing team. Once the ball has been returned from a serve, players no longer need to pass to their partner first before bouncing the ball back (i.e. players can bounce the ball right back to the opposing team even if it is their team’s first touch).
Like in regular volleyball, teams get a maximum of 3 collective touches before the ball must be bounced back to the opposing team, unless they hit a “Red Ball”.
Using a combination of bumps (using forearms to pass the ball), volleys/sets (pushing the ball upwards by forming a triangle-like shape with a your thumbs and fingers), spikes (open handed hits), and pokes/pokeys (contacting the ball on the plate of your knuckles) are allowed. Players can use any other part of their bodies as well, so long as the ball is not lifted or carried. A lift/carry occurs when the ball remains in a player's hands for more than a moment, is caught and thrown in any way, or is hit with an open-hand underhand.
You can volley/set the ball at any point, including volleying the ball back onto the board. However, for the volley to be considered clean, your hands must be at or above shoulder height when making contact with the ball. You cannot volley the ball under your shoulders, and you cannot volley the ball in a downwards motion at any point in the rally - if you do, you lose the point. Bumping or poking the ball when it is below the shoulders is a good alternative to an illegal volley.
You cannot interfere with the play during the opposing team’s possession. An interference is called when a member of your team clearly prevents the opposing team from attaining the ball due to you or your teammate being in the way (e.g. blocking another player from retrieving the ball). It is your responsibility to get out of the way when the ball is in the possession of the other team. If you make your best effort to get out of the way, but still interfere, the rally is replayed. If you do not make an effort to get out of the way, and interfere, then you lose the point.
'Black Ball' vs 'Red Ball'
Black Ball: If the ball hits the black, flat surface of the board at any point during the rally, it is a “black ball” and is considered a clean hit from one team to the other team. As soon as the ball hits the black surface, the possession is changed from one team to the other, just like how a ball changes possession after it goes over the net in regular volleyball. If the ball hits your own teammate after you hit a black ball, then it is considered an interference, and your team loses the point.
Red Ball: If the ball hits the slanted red edge of the board at any point during the rally, it is considered a “red ball”. This means that the number of touches resets for the team that last hit the ball, and this team has up to 3 more touches to return the ball successfully. When a red ball occurs, possession does not change (unless there is an “unclear red ball” scenario, see below). There is no limit to the number of red balls that can occur during a rally. Importantly, for the ball to be considered a red ball, the ball’s line of movement must be clearly redirected after hitting the slanted red edge. There are three general “red ball” scenarios:
Clean Red Ball: A clean red ball means the ball obviously redirects from the slanted red edge and bounces in a way that is playable by the attacking team (i.e. team that last hit the ball), and the rally continues on. This is similar to an attacking team hitting the ball against a block in regular volleyball, and retrieving the ball with another three touches to hit it back over the net.
Dead Red Ball: A dead red ball, or “dead red”, means the ball obviously redirects from the slanted red edge, but bounces in a way that is not playable by the attacking team, and the rally ends. If the attacking team hits a “dead red”, they lose the point because the ball was technically in their possession. This is similar to an attacking team getting blocked in regular volleyball, and the ball landing in their court.
Unclear Red Ball: Sometimes, it is unclear whether the ball was redirected from the slanted red edge or if it was a clean black ball. For example, from one team’s perspective, the ball’s line of movement may have clearly been redirected after hitting the slanted red edge, but from the other team’s perspective the ball’s line of movement was not redirected at all. In these scenarios, the outcome depends on how the rally proceeds:
If the attacking team thinks they hit a red ball but the ball is unplayable by their team, and instead the defending team plays the ball, then the rally continues. This is similar to an attacking team hitting the ball slightly out of bounds in regular volleyball, but the defending team playing the ball anyways and the rally continuing.
In other scenarios where there is a dispute between teams on whether the ball was a red ball or not, the point can be replayed. In this case, the ball would be reserved from the last player to serve the ball.
Players may “block” a shot from the opposing team by standing close to the board and using their forearms or body to deflect the ball. Like a regular hit, a successful block must hit the black surface before it is returned to the other team.
If you try to block the shot but the ball goes up in the air, this counts as a first touch. In this scenario, your teammate must be the next player to touch the ball before you can touch it again.
Games are played to 21. Teams must win by at least 2 points. There is no cap on a win-by-two scenario. Below are some scenarios in which your team may lose a point:
You cannot touch the board during the rally. If you touch the board with any part of your body at any point during a rally, you lose the point.
If the ball hits the ground while your team has possession, your team loses the point.
If you lift, carry, or grab the ball, you lose the point.
If you volley the ball under your shoulders, or if you volley the ball downwards, you lose the point.
If the ball hits the board 2 or more times consecutively before the receiving team touches the ball, you lose the point.
If your team touches the ball more than 3 times before returning the ball (without any resets with red balls), then you lose the point.
If you touch the ball more than once consecutively before passing to your teammate (and without any resets with red balls), this is considered a “double touch”, and you lose the point.
If you interfere with the play during the opposing team’s possession (e.g. blocking another player from retrieving the ball), then you lose the point.
If you hit the ball against the ceiling (for indoor play), you lose the point.
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