A casual game of volleyball requires just a bit more exertion than the most physically demanding golf courses, and those golfers never wear protection. If you do expect to play rough, you are best off being equipped with at least a pair of knee pads. Happily, volleyball is a sport that allows for greatly varying levels of physical commitment. Set a precedent of modest exertion, and no one will bat an eye when you watch the ball bounce diving distance in front of you. Such a sport means that equipment other than a ball and a net are completely optional. And intrusive safety measures are never necessary; no helmet or shoulder pads required.
There is another side to this view, however. If you are a competitive volleyball player, you know that you need a variety of ankle, knee, and wrist-protecting devices to keep you off the disabled list. A casual player, one likely over the age of 30 with a greater risk for a career-ending ligament pop caused by climbing the stairs too fast or lifting a small child, might actually need more protection. Know your body and truly know your expected level of exertion. Because, in the heat of competition, with so much pride and the sports bar sand volleyball league crown on the line, you may flashback to days when watching the ball bounce was the most shameful thing you could do. In which case, do you dive?
If you dive
Statistically speaking, you should start with knee or back support, but ankles, shoulders and wrists take quite a beating on the volleyball court also. Reputable brands like Mizuno, Pro-Tec and Tandem make a wide variety of limb-saving braces and supports that keep things from twisting in ways that used to be okay.
If you watch
Good for you. In this case, with the money you save on protective equipment, you can get official volleyball scorekeepers that start at about 40 dollars. A little vigilance in flipping the card when a point is scored prevents those awkward moments when everybody has to pretend they don't care if there is a slight disagreement over the score. Also available are such handy items as volleyball carts for toting the gear, dry erase coaching clipboards, and handy portable pumps if the ball needs a recharge.