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. Commented Oct 17, 2018 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
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 14:38

11 Answers 11


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. Commented Oct 17, 2018 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. Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 8:22

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
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 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
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 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. Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 8:24

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
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 22:25

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.

  • Why do you think "generally they are not intentionally screening?" During regular play of the ball, there is no occasion where three front players would start one right next to the other. In certain situations, you might get a triple block, but that's when there is time and it's obvious who's going to be hitting. Otherwise, they would be spread out. The fact that they are all together at the start is VERY intentional. Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 17:19
  • I think from a readiness perspective, many quick set plays are around the center so blockers tend to start at the center and move outside when they need to. They have more time to move outside b/c sets are generally higher to the outside.
    – milesmeow
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 16:45

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.


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.


As a ref of 40yrs. I have never given a card for screening. As mentioned a verbal acknowledgment of the possible infraction usually take care of any concerns. The receiving team needs to bring this concern to the R1. The defense is allowed to take their position on the court as stated in the rules. The receiving team needs to find a spot on the floor to see the server and the flight if the ball. If the serving team lines up in such a way to impede this a screening call could be concised. In reality, since the receiving front line can basically set up to take up the visual space of one person. I my view when player line up shoulder in the middle of the court. Back row player standing middle back, and server, serving from the middle of the court. This is a blatant attempt at creating an visual interference, and is a taught my a coach that is unethical or ignorant


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.

  • 1
    There is no reference to this in the FIVB rules. Can you provide a citation? Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 8:08

I was just watching film where the screening action occurs. Most players who switch line up in the middle near the net ready to switch. This typically is not considered screening even if the server is serving from the middle of the service line because even if the server serves from behind right back position the front row girls are still lined up in the middle.

When watching film, I noticed the 3 front row players would move from side to side depending on where the server would line up. In one rotation, all three girls were beside each other on the far front left when a girl was serving from behind left back position AND the girls didn't switch either.

This is a true definition of setting a screen.


One of the most important parts of serve receive is watching exactly what the server does ..how they approach the ball where they strike it, what type of a contact .. spin or floater. Etc with the height of the players today and say three players grouped together at the net it can be very difficult to see the server .. the defensive player does have to move to see the server but not way out of their normal serve receive position. Unfortunately there are coaches that use the fact that this violation is rarely called and will even stack the back row player in line with the server .. the balls trajectory is critical. It is hard for the referee to call this however there are specific times when the ball goes directly over the screening players and no effort has been made by the player to leave a space between themselves .. I don't call it like I used to.. but when I did I mentioned it in the first team meeting and I suggested for the players to leave a body space between themselves or bend over when transitioning ... The tough thing is when you call it, it needs to be a really good example of a screen and then you are on line for the rest of the game for not missing anything .. because you have raised the bar .. if a defensive team complains .. Advise the captain and then if they don't make adjustments call it! Also for the those writing the rules if it is rarely called consider taking it out of the book! I think it is a valid call because there is an unfair advantage. Trainers need to train referees to call it and inform coaches it will be called if you don't want a backlash from the coaches when it gets called.


I believe the previous version of the rules was much clearer and easier. It would be useful if FIVB could explain the rationale of the change and how it should be interpreted. This is important because the rules are not only applied to elite volleyball but to grassroots volleyball as well. As a referee and a player I see the server ready to serve, the two back players standing in front of the server and the three front players standing directly in front of the back players, all with raised hands. The sole intention is to stop the receiving team seeing the server and the ball. For me this was never the intention of the change of the rule. When I referee grassroots games, I warn the team about screening and I call it if they persist.

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