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By Az Volleyball Mom, 03/17/22, 10:30AM MST


How to make the spectator experience enjoyable for everyone.

At a volleyball qualifier out-of-state this weekend, someone mentioned how nice it was that parents and spectators no longer switch sides of the court between sets. Some people would get up and move. Some wouldn't. It caused unnecessary drama between teams.

Then it occurred to me there’s a delicate etiquette among volleyball spectators - some of which is unspoken.

A few simple acts of kindness make a huge difference for teams on the court and spectators on the sidelines.

Let’s take a look at courtside protocol.

~AZ Volleyball Mom

The role of spectators at tournaments is to provide positive encouragement for players and their teammates at every competition.

Definition of sportsmanship

Sportsmanship isn’t just for the players on the court. It extends to coaches and fans alike.

Spectators engage in good sportsmanship by respecting all players - on BOTH sides of the court. Yes, even opponents. Respect should also extend to game officials, line judges, and those working the scoring table.

In fact, coaches are typically the first role models to teach players good behavior on the court. “Teaching your team good sportsmanship and respect for officials, teammates, opponents and volunteers will carry over to when an actual competition takes place,” Special Olympics Coaching Guide.

Trash talk and swearing can lead to a warning card and loss of points for your team or expulsion from the facility.


Seating is limited. So, who gets to sit courtside?

Always check ahead of time to find out whether you may bring in your own chairs or if seating/bleachers are provided. The people filling seats around the court should be spectators of the team currently on the court. Because seating is limited, athletes and spectators waiting for a later game should find alternative gathering spaces and seating.

Sit off to the side of the court. Game officials may ask you to back up. The goal is to make sure athletes chasing volleyballs outside the court are not injured!! Please keep the edge of the court free of tripping hazards.

When you leave a seat, it’s customary to clean up any trash around you and be sure to double check you’ve taken your food, water bottles, bags, clothing with you when you leave.

Leave the seating area as neat and clean as you would want it to be when you arrive.


If you are moving from one court to another location, you may do so by walking around the court. A few rules of etiquette can prevent a delay in the game…

  • Do not walk on court while athletes are in play. Wait until the play is over before you cross around a court. Never walk onto the actual playing area of the court.
  • Be sure to check your surroundings so you don’t walk in front of a camera or other spectators during a play.
  • Watch for balls so you can avoid injury by stepping on one or getting hit by a ball.

respect the refs

No doubt many calls by the officials are subjective. Understanding the game and calls makes for a much more enjoyable experience. You can find USA Volleyball Officials’ Hand Signals for indoor volleyball here.

Finding referees to officiate games is becoming increasingly difficult. You can help keep volleyball competition a positive experience by treating officials with respect. Without them, we are unable to provide fair matches for teams.

“Every contact made by each team must be judged; an official's decision may not be agreeable to all participants and spectators, but the decision is final. No useful purpose is served by stating disagreement or shouting derogatory remarks, nor do such actions teach respect for authority,” Junior Olympic Volleyball Program.

Remember that every team has ref assignments during their tournament day. Cursing at and/or intimidating the reffing team members is never acceptable. These are junior players.

If you’d like to become a game official, please check out our Officials webpage.

video recording & LIVE STREAMING

Find an area at the back of the court or off to the right side of the back of the court to set up your camera. The line judge is placed at the back left which would block your view.

Be mindful of your tripod near seating and ask spectators if they mind where you are setting up.

Let those around your camera know when you are rolling and remind them of a hot mic. While spectators should be mindful of what they say, it’s always best to give them a gentle reminder that what they’re saying can be heard.

Do not block spectators’ view with your camera equipment.


Most local gym facilities do not allow any food or drinks inside. Only water is acceptable to bring into the playing area.

At out-of-state tourneys, check food and drink guidelines before you go. If food and drinks are allowed and even sold at the event, be sure to toss out your own trash and help keep the courtside seating area clean and free of tripping hazards.


  • Do yell “BALL!” When you see a ball rolling onto the court. Stepping or landing on a ball can be dangerous for players. They’re typically looking up and don’t see a ball when it rolls onto a court. Yelling “BALL!” will alert them and hopefully prevent injury. Officials will call a replay if this happens during a play.
  • Do pass the ball under the net. Throwing an uncontrolled ball over a net or kicking a ball can injure someone. It’s common courtesy to pass the ball under the net.


Youth sports can be emotional. When the reactions of team members spill onto the sidelines, parents can get heated in the excitement of the moment.



  • Do wait 24 hours after a tournament before talking with a coach about your concerns. This is called the “24 HOUR RULE” - which simply states parents should not confront coaches to discuss “negative” game situations until at least 24 hours after the event. Physical battles, yelling, profanity and derogatory comments toward a coach are never okay. A 24 hour cooling off period lowers the chance for a confrontational experience. Reasonable discussion is more likely when both parties are calmer and have time to view opposing perspectives.
  • Do encourage your athlete to talk with their coach about any concerns and to seek feedback. This skill will last your child a lifetime and will benefit them when it comes time to build a career or pursue goals later in life.


  • Don’t approach players, coaches or game officials on the court or during a game.
  • Don't curse at or harass line judges for the calls they make.  These are junior players and someone's son/daughter.  
  • Don't use drugs/alcohol at games or team camps.
  • Don’t coach from the sidelines.
  • Don’t compare kids’ talents.


Enjoy the games and cherish every moment. My volleyball daughter is graduating from high school this year and it's sad to know this is the end of our club experience. Our kids are only little for a short while. You are the creator of the memories you make with them in their most formative years. Make them proud with respectful courtside manners.