Every four years, the Olympics catch the eye of the entire nation. Wearing red, white, and blue, we come together to cheer for athletes representing the USA. Asphalt Green knows the ins and outs of the summer Olympic sports—we offer programs for them year-round. Need a refresher? Our spectator guides will tell you everything you need to know (and make you sound really smart at watch parties).  


Origin of the sport: Volleyball originated in the United States in 1895. An instructor at a YMCA in Holyoke, Mass., created the sport as a less physical alternative to basketball. Today, it’s global, with more than 800 million people playing each week. Volleyball made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games in 1964.  


General rules:

  • Two teams play with six people on the court each. A winner is determined by the best of five sets. Each set is played to 25 points. To win a set, a team must have a two-point advantage. If a match goes to a fifth set, it is played to 15 points with a two-point advantage. 
  • The goal of the game is to play the ball over the net, so your opponent cannot return it. If the ball hits the ground on the opposing team’s side in while in bounds, your team wins the volley.
  • A team can touch the ball three times before returning the ball over the net.
  • If the serving team wins a volley, it wins a point. If the receiving team wins a volley, it gets to serve, but does not get a point. 
  • Teams rotate clockwise when they win a rally after receiving a volley.
  • The player wearing a different color jersey is the libero, a strictly defensive position. He or she is only allowed to play in the back line and may not serve, block, or spike. The role of the libero is to keep the rally alive.


US athletes to watch for:

  • Matt Anderson was the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic team and is hungry for some hardware in Rio. Matt has led Team USA in scoring since 2011 and was named MVP of the tournament that qualified the US to the Olympic Games.
  • Reid Priddy is a true veteran on the men’s team, playing in his fourth consecutive Olympic games as an outside hitter. He tore his ACL in 2014 but worked his way back to full strength in hopes of leading Team USA to gold.
  • On the women’s side, outside hitter Jordan Larson—nicknamed “The Governor” for the impact she’s made on her hometown and on the court—is ready to make a statement for Team USA. The best spiker at the Olympics qualification tournament, Jordan is carrying her momentum to Rio.
  • Kim Hill makes her Olympic debut in Rio, and the newcomer has proven her dominance on the court over the past year. Hill didn’t take the most traditional route to earning her spot on the national team. A friend convinced her to attend open tryouts, where she stood out in a field of over 240 athletes.
  • Courtney Thompson is Team USA’s veteran, making her international debut in 2007. The Rio Games will be the setter’s last tournament, and you can bet she’s leaving everything on the court.


When to tune in:

  • Women: The quarterfinals kick off Tuesday, August 15; semifinals: Thursday, August 18; finals: Saturday, August 20.
  • Men: Quarterfinal play begins Wednesday, August 17; semifinals: Friday, August 19; finals: Sunday, August 21. 


More Olympics Coverage: 

Spectator Guide: Soccer

Spectator Guide: Swimming

Olympian Photo Gallery: Sightings at Asphalt Green