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Understanding Volleyball Hand Signals

In baseball it’s a litany of hand movements from the dugout to the batter, in football it could be a raised leg or a tap on the side of a helmet in beach volley ball it’s all behind the back. I am speaking of the secret signals the players of these respective sports use to communicate during a match.

As you might imagine me and most of the male population of the world have become enamored with staring intently at Olympic beach volleyball matches to try and crack the code. Really, why else would we be staring so intently? Each teams signals are a little different but here is the basic consensus of what hands and fingers placed near the buttocks mean during a game.

Line Block
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

 

Two Hands Back, Fist Up, Finger Down: This is the code for a line block. The pointing finger indicates the direction the up player will direct the ball. That means the front player will aggressively challenge the return and try to direct the ball to one side of the court.  This also lets the back player know anything hit high is going to be their ball.

 

 

 

 

cross court block
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

 

Two Hands Back, Two Fingers Down: For many teams this is a cross court line block. That means the up player will attempt to intercept the ball right at the net and then drive the ball across the opposing teams court toward the sideline. This lets the back player know the ball, if returned, will most likely be coming to the wide side of the court.

 

 

aggressive block
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

 

 

Two Hands Back, Pinky Down,Fist Low: This means the up player will make an aggressive attempt to block the ball. That means the back player will need to be in position to defend around the block. Should the ball kick to the side the back player will most likely need to set the ball for a final spike by the blocker.

 

 

 

serve location
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Two Hands Back, Fingers Down- This is a message to the server where to serve the ball and how deep to serve it. The up player’s top hand determines which side of the court, the bottom hand determines depth of service. If the finger on the top hand wiggles the ball goes to that side. If it is kept still the ball goes to the opposite side. If the finger on the low hand wiggles the serve is to go deep, if it is kept still the ball should be served short. This gives the up player a chance for an aggressive return block at the net.

 

 

mid court defense
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

 

Two Hands Back, Two Fingers Down Center: This is the up players way of letting the server know she will back off the net into the middle of the court after the serve. The position of the up players hand either high or low lets the server know how deep to serve the ball and which side to break to after the service.

 

 

 

Just to be clear, different teams use different signals and in an event as big as the Olympics where the threat of a stolen signal is highly likely you can bet these secret codes get changed from game to game. I hope this helps take some of the mystery out of one of the most interesting sports in the Summer Olympics. I know I will be a better educated viewer for the next match that I watch.

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