Is Tennis Harder Than Volleyball?

As two of the most popular sports in the world with what appears to be a lot of overlap in terms of their rules, play style, and features, you may be wondering which sport is more demanding, tennis or volleyball? Let’s explore these sports in greater detail below to determine which sport is more challenging.

According to expert opinions and studies, volleyball is a more explosive sport, requiring advanced team strategies and communication. In comparison, tennis is a mentally more demanding sport, requiring improved precision and endurance compared to volleyball. Overall, tennis is a more challenging sport. 

To understand why most experts believe tennis is a more demanding sport than volleyball, we will be looking at the opinions provided by experts and analyzing each point comparison. Whereafter, we will explore in-depth, alternative views to see if they align with the findings of experts.

The Expert Ranking Of Tennis Vs. Volleyball

Although a few studies have sought to determine the most demanding sport in the world, ESPN’s panel of experts comprised of seasoned academics, sports journalists, and elite athletes from various sports has created one of the most comprehensive lists of all time.

In compiling the most demanding sports of all time, the ESPN panel ranked the sports subject to ten metrics:

  • Endurance is the ability to continue to perform a skill or action for long periods.
  • Strength is the ability to produce force.
  • Power is the ability to produce strength in the shortest possible time.
  • Speed is the ability to move quickly.
  • Agility is the ability to change direction quickly.
  • Flexibility is the ability to stretch the joints across an extensive range of motion.
  • Nerve is the ability to overcome fear.
  • Durability is the ability to withstand physical punishment over a long period.
  • Hand-eye coordination is the ability to react quickly to sensory perception.
  • Analytic aptitude is the ability to evaluate and react appropriately to strategic situations.

The results of sixty different sports found boxing to be the most demanding sport, with an average total of the ten skills amounting to 72.375, while fishing was the most accessible sport with a total of 14.500.

Both tennis and volleyball ranked highly, with tennis finishing 7th at 62.750 above volleyball’s ranking at 20th with a total score of 54.375. A breakdown of the scores and each metric are as follows: 


The results above show that tennis trumped volleyball in every metric, resulting in a comfortable 8-point lead ahead of volleyball as the final score. However, these metrics and results are up for debate, as we will explore in greater detail below: 

Is Tennis Or Volleyball Harder To Learn?

Whether you decide to play tennis and volleyball in solo one v one games or opt for doubles/team games respectfully, the rules of each sport are relatively simple and easy to learn.

However, while both sports are challenging to master, requiring a lot of technicality and practice to perform specific actions successfully (such as serving), tennis is considered a slightly more challenging sport to learn than volleyball. 

The reason is that while volleyball allows players to use any part of their body to contact the ball (although throwing, catching, or holding the ball is illegal), tennis requires players to use their rackets to hit the ball.

Therefore while volleyball allows for increased levels of creativity, the manner of interacting with the ball and playing the sport is more natural than tennis, which requires the use of an object to play the sport.

Like other sports such as hockey or baseball, the introduction of a racket, bat, or stick requires a fundamental understanding of how to contact the ball to perform different shots, the role of leverage to power your shots, and the awareness of the racket in relation to your body.

Consequently, tennis is considered a more complex sport to learn; as vital actions such as services need to be practiced at length before you have a comfortable relationship with your racket and improved hand-eye coordination (hence you will often see young/new players opt for “donkey drops” over legitimate services.)

Finally, volleyball uses a much larger ball than tennis, making it an easy target for serving, blocking, passing, and shooting. In comparison, tennis uses a much smaller ball that travels at significantly faster speeds than a volleyball.

Winner: Tennis

Is Tennis Or Volleyball More Physically Demanding?

Volleyball is a high-intensity, fast sport that requires significant athletic ability, flexibility, strength, power, and endurance to play the sport at even the most basic level.

The reason is that volleyball requires a lot of jumping, physical shots to the body, diving, and large amounts of force to propel a heavy ball in the desired location. Furthermore, volleyball is often played on the sand during the hot summer months.

The inclusion of sand makes running and jumping underfoot much harder than playing a sport on hard ground, while the inclusion of midday heat and sunlight can further drain and dehydrate players.

Although volleyball matches vary in time, a typical match will consist of four games at approximately 20 – 25 minutes each, with a total match time between 60 and 90 minutes. While this may be shorter than other sports such as American football, the intensity of volleyball requires players to play each minute of every game at maximum capacity.

Finally, because volleyball allows for connection with any part of the body, intermediate players are expected to have equally strong upper and lower bodies and accurate control and flexibility of all parts of their body.

In comparison, tennis focuses less on physical prowess and athletic ability to beat one’s opponents and instead focuses more on hand-eye coordination and skills.

That’s not to say tennis isn’t a physically demanding sport, especially with regard to endurance, but instead, that tennis just requires less explosive power and complete body movements to perform the actions needed to play the sport.

An example of tennis being less physically demanding than volleyball is mirrored in the manner in which tennis is enjoyed. Namely, tennis can be a casual game that is accessible to people of all ages and physical fitness. Volleyball, even at a beginner level, requires players to be in peak physical health to perform the actions needed to play the sport.

Winner: Volleyball

Is Tennis Or Volleyball More Strategic?

Although volleyball can be an individual or group sport, it is traditionally a team sport, mainly when played at any competitive level. Generally speaking, volleyball includes a team made up of the following positions:

  • Settler,
  • Libero,
  • Middle Blocker,
  • Outside hitter,
  • Opposite hitter.

Consequently, volleyball is a sport that requires communication between players on a team and a fundamental understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each position and the positioning of the opposite team to best exploit gaps in their defense/the best method to counteract their attack.

Therefore as a coach, volleyball requires coaches to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their players and analyze the opposition in-depth, to develop strategies to secure victories for their team.

In conclusion, volleyball is a very strategic sport, despite being a simple sport at face value.

In comparison, although tennis is primarily an individual sport, doubles is a variety of tennis that requires communication and understanding between teammates. However, even in the absence of doubles, tennis is still an extremely strategic sport that requires extensive knowledge of one’s opponent.

Not only does tennis require players to have an in-depth understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their opposition, but the player also needs to understand the different shots they must perform to secure victory.

Shot choices require practice, fast reflexes, and advanced coaching to perform accurately and consistently.

The different terrain each sport is played requires a further understanding of conditions. In contrast, volleyball is typically played outside on sand or inside a hard court; tennis is played inside and outside on grass, clay, or hard court.

In conclusion, both sports present varied and strategic challenges that will push the strategic minds of the best players and coaches in each sport.

Winner: Tied

Is Tennis Or Volleyball More Mentally Challenging?

Like most team sports, volleyball allows players to rely on each other for moral support throughout training sessions, games, and tournaments. Tennis as an individual sport requires players to be self-motivated, resulting in increased emotional and mental strain.

Even in the event of doubles, tennis is primarily an individual sport where double pairings are artificially created by two individuals coming together periodically, rather than doubles arsing organically as would occur with team sports.

Furthermore, volleyball is a high-intensity sport that requires ongoing teamwork throughout a match, wherein physical prowess and strategy are critical success factors.

Tennis is primarily a mental game, whereby clutch moments in games for extended periods are what separate good tennis players from great tennis players (such as long-drawn-out tiebreakers at the end of 5 sets.)

Winner: Tennis

Do Tennis And Volleyball Complement Each Other?

Many athletes opt for cross-training of different sports over different seasons to improve their overall performance across a multitude of sports. Such as baseball players opting to play ice hockey in the winter months to keep their fitness levels up and improve their hand-eye coordination.

Although volleyball is better suited with full-body exercise sports such as basketball and tennis is better suited with other racquet sports such as badminton. A surprising amount of cross-pollination between volleyball and tennis makes them complementary sports.

Examples of the similarities between the sports that could assist the skills in the other sport are similar rule sets, similar actions like serving, and the need for communication between teammates (if you play doubles in tennis.)

Therefore, if you are a tennis player looking for a team sport to play during the hot summer months, volleyball is one of the best options to improve your hand-eye coordination and improve your full-body fitness, endurance, and power.

Is Tennis More Expensive Than Volleyball?

While not nearly as expensive as “elite” sports such as golf and motor racing, both tennis and volleyball are costly sports to play.

The reason volleyball is one of the most expensive sports to play in the United States of America that organizations typically have to compete with basketball to secure court time. Because basketball is one of the most popular sports in America, court fees and club subscriptions can cost hundreds of dollars for a single season.

Furthermore, large volleyball tournaments and travel costs are seldom covered by club subscriptions, whereby securing private sponsorship or government subsidies is extremely difficult.

However, while volleyball is very expensive in America, this is not a universal truth as some volleyball associations or facilities in other countries are public use and affordable (such as public nets in and around beaches in countries such as Brazil or Croatia.)

Furthermore, individual volleyball equipment is a moderate expense that most people can afford, particularly if you play beach volleyball, where you can play the sport barefoot.

In comparison, tennis is understood to be a universally expensive sport because of the high cost of equipment such as high-end racquets and professional tennis shoes. Furthermore, it is an individual sport, meaning that club/court fees are higher than volleyball, as a tennis court can only accommodate four players at any given time, whereas volleyball accommodates up to ten players.

The focus on tennis as an individual sport also makes coaching fees and tournament fees substantially more expensive than volleyball, as the cost for training and competitions cannot be evenly spread between multiple players. 

Finally, while public volleyball courts are a rarity, they are not nearly as rare as public tennis courts. It is universally accepted that most people will have to spend money to use private tennis courts, should they want to play the sport. 


In conclusion, while both sports are considered easy to learn but difficult to master, volleyball and tennis provide ample challenges for rookie and veteran players alike!


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