What does sideout in volleyball mean? (A Modern Perspective)

sideout in volleyball

Have you heard of the word ‘sideout in volleyball’ and wondered if it still holds significance?

Well, even though it’s an old way of scoring, it’s still used in matches today, just in a different way.

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Think of it as a word from the past that still hangs around, though you’ll hear it less often with the introduction of rally scoring.

Key Takeaway: In modern volleyball, the term ” sideout ” is used when a team loses its right to serve.

In the past, it meant a team could only get points when serving. So, winning a rally without serving didn’t earn them a point. They just got the chance to serve next.

In this guide, I will bridge the gap between the old and new concept of side out, showing why this term still matters in the modern volleyball world.

What is a Sideout in Volleyball?

In the early days of volleyball, there was a scoring system that might sound weird today.

It was known as “side-out scoring.”

To explain its concept, let me give you an example.

Imagine yourself on a volleyball court in 1999.

During that time, scoring points was like solving a puzzle.

You could only earn points when your team was serving the ball.

If your opponent was serving and you won the rally, you got nothing except the chance to serve next.

Now, you did the serve and won that rally.

That’s when your team’s points would climb on the scoreboard.

If you are unlucky and can’t win the rally during your serve, the opponents again get the chance to serve.

That’s how the sideout worked in the early days.

sideout has impact on serving strategies

Now, fast forward to today.

The game has changed. 

We use “rally scoring,” where every rally can earn a point, no matter who serves.

Sideout scoring, as it was known, has become a thing of the past.

But wait, here’s the twist!

The term “sideout” still sticks around. 

Today, it means when a team loses its right to serve.

The term “side out” became almost obsolete when the NCAA switched to the new scoring system in 2001.

Why is Sideout Scoring No Longer Applicable?

Rally scoring in the modern volleyball game has replaced Sideout scoring.

Numerous reasons caused it to happen.

There is a long debate over why the old scoring system was frustrating for the players and the volleyball fans.

So, I have compiled 6 points on the basis on which you will get an idea of why side-out scoring is no longer applicable.

Also, consider it a head-to-head comparison between sideout and rally scoring.

1) Scoring Methodology

In sideout scoring, points could only earned by the serving team, which means long rallies with a point were common.

The rally scoring revolutionized the game by allowing the points to be secured in every rally, regardless of who served.

It eliminated the need for sideout to score, which made the matches more exciting and dynamic.

2) Impact on Serving Strategies

In sideout scoring, the need to score the point on serve leads to a strategic focus on maintaining the serve.

The players were very cautious about the service errors, which could cost their team a point loss.

Rally scoring removed the burden of serve errors to a greater extent.

The new scoring system shows us more powerful aces, aggressive serves, and opportunities to score kills.

It has resulted in a fast pace of play and more enjoyable matches.

rally scoring removed the burden of serve errors

3) Length of Matches

One of the essential factors that caused the sideout scoring system to replace was the unpredictable match length.

No one could guess how long the match could be, significantly affecting the scheduling and fan interests.

A single point could take up to 30 minutes if the teams were equally competitive.

Rally scoring is a relief to that problem.

It led to shorter, more predictable match lengths, eventually increasing the interest of players and the fans.

4) Strategy Shifts

In the past, volleyball teams played it safe to avoid making mistakes while serving.

Coaches highly focus and train the players to take advantage of their serves, as it could result in instant point loss.

That approach led to a more defensive style of play, and seeing variations in the game strategies was rare.

The game has a more balanced approach with the introduction of rally scoring.

As a coach, I teach the players to focus on offense and defense in every rally.

The reason is simple!

They don’t have to worry much about service errors anymore, unlike the sideout scoring system.

Players can experiment with more aggressive serves with reduced pressure of serve errors.

5) Fan Experience

Under the sideout scoring system, longer matches with fewer points might have tested the fans’ patience.

As a volleyball enthusiast, I had no issue sitting for hours to watch a volleyball match.

But not everyone is as crazy as me. Right?

Just kidding!

The truth is that the fans became frustrated when the match lasted more than an hour.

And it was casual in sideout scoring that a single point took up to half an hour.

But, thanks to the rally scoring system.

It has created a more exciting and predictable viewing experience.

Volleyball has become more appealing to fans and broadcasters alike.

The length of the match has significantly reduced, which makes matching volleyball on the court more appealing.

volleyball spectators watching match in the stadium

6) Influence on Broadcasts

The switch to rally scoring has impacted the broadcasting landscape positively.

With the fast pace of volleyball matches, there are more opportunities for commercial breaks and advertisements.

It has allowed broadcasters to place commercials during tense moments or breaks in the action.

In return, it maximizes viewer engagement and advertising effectiveness.

Also, high-tech equipment and graphics investments have become essential in today’s volleyball.

All this has happened with the rise of rally scoring.

I don’t remember 25-30 years back, the commercialization of volleyball at such an excellent level.

Watching volleyball, even on TV, is more fun than ever.

How is the Term “Sideout” Used in Modern-Day Volleyball?

In today’s volleyball, sideout doesn’t mean scoring points as it used to.

Instead, it’s all about a team making an intelligent switch from defensive to offensive strategy during a rally.

To understand it clearly, imagine a scenario on a volleyball court!

In a rally, one team serves the ball to the other side.

The receiving team smoothly handles the serve, passes it to their setter, and then makes a strong attack that the other team can’t defend.

Then, we can say that they’ve achieved a “side-out.”

To cut it short, as the receiving team switched from defensive to being on attack, they sideout their opponent and now have the right to serve.

strategy is changed in modern volleyball sideout

If you still need convincing, let me give you an example from the volleyball commentary.

You might have heard a commentator saying this:

“Team A executed a perfect sideout, with a flawless pass, set, and spike.

They regain the serve and a chance to score.”

The “sideout” in this context refers to the team’s transition from a defensive to an offensive strategy.

Also, it shows that while team A won the point, they got the chance to serve.


Now, you’ve got a clear picture of what sideout scoring meant in volleyball previously and why the rally scoring system is preferred.

Think of it as a reminder of volleyball’s journey from the past to the speedy game we have today.

If you hear “sideout” in volleyball commentary, remember it means one team has taken control of the rally, and the other team has lost their chance to serve.

Happy learning, and don’t forget to keep the spirit of Volleyball alive!

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