The standard pieces of equipment for volleyball include balls, nets and antennae, standards and padding, knee pads, and appropriate apparel. But how do you know when this equipment meets proper specifications and is in good repair? As a coach, you must examine the condition of each item you distribute to players. Also make sure that the pieces of equipment they furnish themselves meet acceptable standards. You should ensure that each player on your team is outfitted properly, and you may need to demonstrate to players how to properly wear their equipment. Following is additional information on the common equipment used in volleyball:
Standards for volleyballs as recommended by USA Volleyball are noted in "Age Modifications for Volleyball" on page 22, but your local league may also have specific requirements for the balls that you use. To introduce skills and vary the learning environment during practices, you can experiment with the use of punch balloons, beach balls, or rubber-bladder balls. Ideally, each player should have her own legal volleyball so that she can become more familiar with the weight and feel of the ball. This also makes it easy for players to practice at home.
A regulation volleyball net is commonly used in youth play. The net is attached to poles, called standards, that are placed three feet outside of the playing area. For youth play (as opposed to higher levels), your league may give you the flexibility to create a net if you do not have access to a real volleyball net. For example, you can use ropes or badminton nets by raising them to volleyball height. Whatever the form, you must regularly inspect all equipment for wear and tear, loose or sharp parts, and other defects, and you must replace or repair the equipment as necessary. The standards used to hold the net should be securely anchored and should be padded for safety. In beach play, net antennae are not normally used, but for indoor play, antennae should be securely placed on the net and should be regularly inspected for defects. Bicycle safety flags attached to the net over the sidelines of the court, or floor tape placed on the net, can be good substitutes for official net antennae.
The use of knee pads on grass or beach surfaces is allowed, but knee pads are typically worn for games played on hard surfaces in order to make it easier for players to tolerate hitting the floor. Knee pads are made of foam or rubber covered with a soft elastic material. The pads should fit snugly. For younger players, soft-surface elbow pads such as those worn in many youth contact sports may actually fit better when used as a knee pad.
At the youth level, most practice and competition uniforms are as simple as shorts and T-shirts. For practices, you may permit your players to wear whatever they choose as long as the clothing is unrestricting and allows the player to move freely. When considering game uniforms, however, you must first check with your league, because some leagues require a team to wear matching shirts and shorts. Your league may also require the team jerseys to be numbered. Typically, a smaller number should be placed in the upper center of the front of the jersey, with a larger number in the upper center of the back of the jersey. The color of the numbers should be in contrast to the jersey color so the numbers can be easily seen.
During both practices and games, players should wear a type of athletic shoe that is comfortable, supports the arch, and cushions the heel and the ball of the foot. Shoes should be broken in before they’re worn during intense activity. Volleyball or court shoes are fine for playing on hard courts. Running shoes are not recommended, however, because they don’t give lateral support to the foot. When playing on grassy or beach surfaces, some players choose to wear shoes, while others prefer to play barefoot. Many beach players play in socks to protect the feet from heat exposure or burning from the sand.
Players may be able to participate while wearing casts, braces, splints, or prostheses, as long as any hard, exposed surfaces are covered and padded. In this situation, the player should be cleared to play by a doctor, and the equipment should be inspected and approved by the game official.