What Does a Side Out in Volleyball Mean?

Volleyball Player Passing the Ball

A side-out in volleyball occurs when the team that served the ball fails to win a point on the play, resulting in a loss of serve to the opponent.

Under the rally scoring system now used internationally, there are no side-outs in the traditional sense of the word.

What is a side out? And Side-Out Scoring

Under the side-out scoring system of volleyball, only the team serving the ball can score a point. A side-out means the serve alternates to the opponent.

A side out would be one of:

  • if the team without the serve caused the ball to hit the ground in the other team's court
  • if the opponent hit it out of bounds
  • if the serving team hit it into the net
  • if the serving team touched it more than three times

Under side-out scoring, the first team to 15 points would win the game.

Games to 25 points, Rally Scoring

The rally scoring system, which replaced side-out scoring at most competitive levels, allows teams to gain points whether or not they served the ball.

A point is awarded every time:

  • the ball hits the ground,
  • lands out of bounds,
  • ends up in the net or
  • is touched more than three times consecutively by one team.

Games are played to 25 points with the exception of the final deciding game, which, if a third game is necessary, is played to 15 points.

Scoring System Changes

The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball switched from the side-out scoring system to the rally scoring system in 1999, with the change becoming compulsory in 2000.

The switch was made to help make the length of matches more predictable to draw fans and promote broadcast opportunities.