Knuckles, fingers and crabs – what’s allowed and what’s not

Knuckles, fingers and crabs – what’s allowed and what’s not

Last Updated: September 1, 2021By

There are a few options other then the standard spike or cut shot when attacking the ball. This post identifies a the basic alternatives and when to use them, and also has a few examples of what you can’t do, and what we recommend not doing.

The idea for this post came from a reader in Russia, who asked an interesting question about a shot that they call the “crab”, but first for the two most common alternatives to the standard attack. Thanks Alexei

The standard "Pokie" The "Cobra"

Here we see the common “Pokie” or knuckle, on the left, and the “cobra” on the right. (I’m sure there are plenty of other names for it.) The knuckle is used by just about every player, and because the contact is very bouncy, there is no danger of ever being called for a carry. It is also quite easy to hit an accurate shot with the pokie, so I highly recommend practising it.

The “Cobra” on the right is much harder to control, and is also harder to execute. The only reason you should be playing a cobra is if you are up against a big block, on a tight set, and you just want to get to the ball first to make your shot. The only advantage of this shot over the pokie is the extra few centimetres that you get by extending your fingers. It’s important to keep your fingers nice and straight so it looks like a nice clean contact to the ref.

Here are a couple of potential problems that you risk with a Cobra.

The standard "Pokie" Beach volleyball cobra

Both these images show poorly played cobras that should be called a fault.

“To play the cobra, the fingers need to be rigid and together! Which includes the thumb.” – Qualified referee

The next example is definitely illegal, known as “Throw”. In indoor volleyball, it is legal, and referred to as a “dink” or “tip” or “dump”, but in beach it’s illegal. The contact here is made with the pads of the fingers and the ball is pushed rather than hit.

The Throw

The Throw

And this brings me to the inspiration for this post. The “Crab”.

The Crab

The Crab

This shot is actually played with the fingernails. I have to admit, I have never seen this shot used in competition. The official word from my friend the referee is this: “if the knuckles/fingers nails, and not the tips of the fingers/ thumb then we are just looking for the ball to rebound. if not, … then fault..”

The actual rule relating to this says: “The ball must be hit, not caught or thrown.”

So it seems that if this shot comes off the hand quickly, it will be OK. As long as no finger pads come in contact with the ball and the thumb is bent so that the thumb pad does not contact the ball.

If the ball sticks at all, or seems to be pushed rather than rebounding, or the thumb is extended, or any of the fingers are extended then it should be called a fault.

Below is a sequence of images showing what will happen when this shot is played. Unless you have very strong fingers, then it will be impossible to stop them from bending on impact which will stop the ball from rebounding, so you need to keep your fingers very rigid when you play this shot.