The volleyball rules prohibit screening during a service (preventing the receiving team from seeing the ball or the serving player; rule 12.5), however, during any professional game you can see players at the net grouping with their hands above their heads. If that is not screening, what is?

Is this rule enforced at all? And if yes, what are the real criteria used to call a screening fault?

  • You cite rule 12.5, but whereas you clarify by adding "preventing the receiving team from seeing the ball or the server," you failed to include the part that mentions the flight of the ball. If the ball doesn't fly over the supposed screen, then it's not a screening fault. – Zonker.in.Geneva Oct 17 at 8:21
  • This was different when the question was posted. Until 2012, the rule has been “seeing the server //or// the flight path of the ball” as cited. The rule was relaxed in the 2013 edition. – Mormegil Oct 17 at 14:38
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The official rules (as you cite in your question) prohibit screening. Unfortunately the rules themselves do not give an exact definition that you could use. In referee trainings, however, you will get more info on how to judge screening.

  • Everything that helps the serving team to prepare for defense is allowed. So each player of that team can take any position on the field (within the constraints of the rotation rule) which "makes sense". Therefore the front players are allowed to group near the attacker(s) and raise their arms as preparation for blocking. Also the back row players are allowed to take reasonable positions.

  • What is definitely not allowed is to move during your own player serves in order to block the sight. (It is not allowed to leave a line of sight between reception player and serving player and then "closing" it shorty before the service is hit.)

  • It is also not allowed to take "unreasonable" positions in the field. I.e. a back row player is not allowed to stand directly in front of the serving player, if he normally would take another position.

In practice, I have never seen a referee penalizing a screening fault without the receiving team claiming it first. So, as a best-practice, take "reasonable" positions to block the sight between service and reception player. As soon as the opponent team claims a screening, take care that you are not overdoing it

  • I believe the rules do give an exact definition: "12.5.1 The players of the serving team must not prevent their opponent ... from seeing the server and the flight path of the ball. 12.5.2 A player or a group of players of the serving team make(s) a screen by waving arms, jumping or moving sideways during the execution of the service, or by standing grouped, and in so doing hides both the server and the flight path of the ball until the ball reaches the vertical plane of the net." The key element people often fail to mention is the flight of the ball. – Zonker.in.Geneva Oct 17 at 8:17
  • Furthermore, if the receiving team can't see, it's up to them to move, not the players on the serving team. – Zonker.in.Geneva Oct 17 at 8:22

Before the serve is executed the teamplayers at the net can raise their arms and move in between the server and the receiver to take position at the net. They cannot move to get in the way when the server starts serving.

It's a fine line, I think it depends on the referee.

  • 1
    A rule book reference would help the answer tremendously. Good answer and good facts, but if there is a publicly available rule book it would be great to quote that. – wax eagle Feb 9 '12 at 13:09
  • 2
    Note that my question is not so much about the letter of the rules, I already pointed to the specific rule (12.5), my question was about the interpretation of this rule. – Mormegil Feb 15 '12 at 22:25

In practice, the trajectory of the ball is taken in consideration as well, i.e. both the ball and the serving player must be blocked before action is taken. And considering that the ball trajectory starts quite high wit a jump serve, most referees will not interpret this as the ball being blocked from sight.

So only when...

  • the service is not a jump service
  • the ball goes straight over the screening (front) players
  • the front players seem to deliberately construct a screen (e.g. are moving along with the receivers)

...will most referees consider a screening, but as this is all very hard to see/judge from his position, most will also wait for complaints from the receiving team, and most likely solve it with a verbal warning to the screening team instead of a penalty.

The Guidelines for International referees don't mention all these points, but might give some clarification:

12.7: The 1st referee should pay attention to screening during the execution of the service when a player or group of players of the serving team, waving arms, jumping or moving sideways or by standing grouped, prevent their opponent from seeing the server and flight path of the ball (i.e. both criteria need to be satisfied for player actions/positions to be judged as a screen).So if the served ball can be seen clearly throughout its path, until it crosses the net to the opponent, it cannot be considered as a screen.

  • Would it be possible to add a reference to this? It seems to be a good answer, and would benefit from a reference. – TrueDub Jul 25 '16 at 16:20
  • Added a bit, but most of it comes from personal experience as an international linesman, I regularly discuss issues like this with the referees. – Ronald Meijer Jul 26 '16 at 10:31
  • The FIVB rules 12.5.1 and 12.5.2 state in "legalese" what Ronald has said here. The most important aspect people fail to mention is the flight of the ball. – Zonker.in.Geneva Oct 17 at 8:24

Players on the serving team can take any legal position on the court they want, but they cannot jump around, wave their arms, or move laterally during the execution of the service.

If a player on the receiving team can't see the server, it's his/her responsibility to move.

A screening call would only be whistled a fault if the trajectory of the ball's flight passes from the server, over the player/players and to the other side. So, if you have 2-3 guys bunched at the net near position III, but the service goes straight down the sideline, a screening fault would not be whistled, because the ball didn't travel over the people at the net.

In practice, since neither the 1st or 2nd ref have a good enough angle to see the trajectory of the ball - especially at the higher levels of competition - screening is rarely whistled.

It's a rule without teeth.

It is a really fine line. I would say that if all of the front row players are standing close together that can potentially be really close to screening. Many of these professional guys are already really big and if they were standing by themselves they would already be screening a bit.

Generally they are not intentionally screening. I think the front row players raise their arms as a way to prepare for blocking. At least that's what our coach use to train us to do. It may be more of a psychological thing for us and an intimidation thing for the opponents.

In earlier times players used to put the hands up in a rather static manner near the net while their team is servicing. this shades the server from opposition. But according to the changed rule you cant keep a fully stretched stationary arms above your head while you are in the 3m box and your team is serving. But still a semi stretched or moving arm is allowed. it might be the referees' will, but most of them agree to it this way.

  • There is no reference to this in the FIVB rules. Can you provide a citation? – Zonker.in.Geneva Oct 17 at 8:08

The front row players can half-stretch their arms during the serve, without moving them. They can move and shift their position only after the ball has crossed the net into the opponent court. Since the players are quite tall, stretching the arms above the net's height is considered a screening foul.

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