Game play follows the general rules of traditional volleyball. A player on one team serves the ball over the net to the opposing team; the serve must be within the confines of the opposing team's side of the court. The opposing team must then use no more than three hits to get the ball back across the net towards the other team. This back and forth continues until the ball hits the ground, goes out of play, is hit into the net, or an error is made. When the ball contacts the floor or an error is made, the team that did not make the error is awarded a point, whether they served the ball or not. The team that won the point serves for the next point. Play continues until one team reaches the predetermined amount of points; although in traditional volleyball a team must win by a margin of two points or more.
Special Olympics Volleyball is volleyball where all competitors have a physical or mental disability. Special Olympics volleyball is a form of volleyball meant solely for Special Olympics athletes with physical or mental disabilities. Athletes benefit from the camaraderie of being on a team while the athletic training allows them to successfully serve and return the volleyball. Athletes are grouped in divisions according to the athlete's ability level. Volleyball is a part of the Special Olympics Officials Program for Athletes, allowing those interested in becoming certified volleyball officials to do so by offering the same course required by the United States Volleyball Association.
Volleyball was introduced into the Special Olympics in 1983. In 2003, 259 athletes from 20 teams competed in volleyball at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland. As of the 2005 Special Olympics Athlete Participation report, 71, 982 athletes compete in Special Olympics volleyball.