Adaptive Sports: Sitting Volleyball

Adaptive volleyball emerged in the Netherlands in 1956 by combining volleyball with sitzball, a seated German sport without a net. The sport, which eventually became known as sitting volleyball, debuted at the Paralympics in 1980 and is still played today both recreationally and professionally by athletes with disabilities.

What is Sitting Volleyball?

Sitting volleyball is an adapted version of volleyball. During a game of sitting volleyball, athletes sit on the floor of a volleyball court, rather than utilizing sport wheelchairs and use their arms and legs to move around the court and hit the ball.

What is the Difference Between Sitting Volleyball and Volleyball?

The objective in both standing and sitting volleyball is the same: teams score points by grounding the ball in their opponent's court. While sitting volleyball and traditional volleyball share many similarities, a few adaptations are made to accommodate athletes with disabilities, including:

  1. Net Height: The net height for sitting volleyball is significantly lower than for standing volleyball. In standing volleyball, nets are approximately 8 feet high for men and 7.5 feet for women. Sitting volleyball nets are about half the height, measuring roughly 4 feet high for men and 3.5 feet for women.
  2. Court Size: A sitting volleyball court is smaller than a traditional volleyball court. Sitting volleyball courts measure approximately 32 feet by 19 feet. This differs from the traditional court which measures roughly 59 feet by 30 feet. The smaller court size allows seated players to more easily volley the ball, which is paramount to gameplay.
  3. Positioning: Seated volleyball players must make sure their lower body maintains contact with the court, especially when handling the ball. Loss of contact with the court is permitted when making defensive plays in the back or front zones of the court.

Who Can Play Sitting Volleyball?

Sitting volleyball is generally played by amputees and people who have mild mobility impairments. Like other adaptive sports, professional sitting volleyball players are given a classification based on their disability. This classification endures all gameplay is fair, so no one person or team has a physical advantage over the other.

While those with spinal cord injuries and paralysis can play, the game requires that players be able to sit unsupported and move around the court using their arms and legs. If an athlete cannot do this, an adaptive sport that utilizes wheelchairs may be ideal, as these chairs can provide support and mobility assistance to athletes. Wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair pickleball are some of just a few sports to choose from for those requiring wheelchairs.

Get Involved in Sitting Volleyball

If you're interested in sitting volleyball, check out the USA Volleyball website to learn more about local programs near you. USA Volleyball has a National Team Development program for those looking to play on the men's or women national team.

Still looking for a new sport to try? Check out our adaptive sports series in the accessible living tab of our article library to find the sport that is right for you.

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