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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Beginner's guide to beach volleyball
Action from the beach volleyball at Atlanta
The sport made a successful debut at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996
Beach volleyball was born out of its sister sport volleyball and the new kid on the block is beginning to outgrow its elder sibling in terms of popularity.

It has proved a huge draw at the Olympics, although cynics would have you believe that was only because of the clothing - or lack of it.

On the sand, less is more.

Smaller costumes, a third of the players and fewer points - but all the basic skills remain the same.

Entries for both the men's and women's 24-team competitions are based on the Volleyball Federation's world rankings.

Each tournament will feature a pool phase followed by a straight knockout competition as has been used on the international circuit for the last two years.

Countries are allowed to enter two teams per tournament and continents not represented can be granted a wildcard.

Another key difference compared to volleyball is that the ball, despite being the same size as that used indoors, is heavier so that it is stable in the wind.

Players need to be more versatile than their indoor counterparts as there are only two players on a team, although they still cover an area only slighter smaller than an indoor court, measuring 16m by 8m.

The players have no fixed position and can attack from anywhere on their side of the court, although soft one-handed tips at the net are banned.

And in an effort to keep the game moving despite the demands put on the teams, players are allowed only 12 seconds between rallies.

Men play with a higher net than the women
The teams swap sides of the court every five points and no substitutions are allowed.

Point scoring follows the rally-scoring system in volleyball and teams win points irrespective of whether they are serving or receiving. If they win a rally while defending, they win the right to serve.

Matches are the best of three sets, with the first two sets first to 21 and the third first to 15, although teams must win by two points.

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