October 29, 2007

The Death of the Double

The latest, greatest change that will elevate the sport of volleyball to the pantheon of prime time is the end of the double hit! A recent rules survey (which is NCAA speak for new rule change coming) asked, among other things, would we (the coaches) be in favor of eliminating the double hit call on 2nd contacts and/or 3rd contacts.

Last time we (the coaches) filled out such a rules survey, it was with regards to question of eliminating 1st contact double hits. The rules survey before that concerned a proposal to change to Rally Scoring. What college coaches learned the hard way, is that we have no collective voice in the changes that are being made to college volleyball. When the rally score rules survey results were published, the majority of the coaches surveyed DID NOT want to change to rally score and a majority of the Conferences (Division I) surveyed DID NOT want to change to rally score. And yet, we changed.

While a return to sideout scoring will not happen, my hat is off to those few teams in the outer islands of Hawaii that refuse to play by the new rules.

Back when there was a lot of discussion about the proposed change, I argued that if you change the way a sport keeps score, then you change the sport. The rationals given for the scoring change were many - better format for more television because of predictable running time, more excitement for the fans and thus more fans at matches, better experience for the student-athlete, better administrative management for matches - read the first comment again - it was all about getting on television because the Volleyball Politburo felt this would be the magic bullit to return the sport to the glory days of the 80's and early 90's. I am rather certain that has not happened - I actually think the amount of television time for college volleyball has decreased - I refuse to accept the argument that volleyball is on TV more just because a couple of almost insolvent cable sports channels carry a match or two.

But, I must return to the Death of the Double. This newest rule proposal is driven by a simple observation - Volleyball Officials cannot call double hits with any consistency, so let's just remove the obligation to call double hits at all.

Just boggles my mind!! We are Dumbing Down college volleyball. Volleyball once was a sport that took coordination and dexterity, combined with power and explosiveness to play at the college level - now you just need to jump high and hit hard. At least the FIVB beach tour won't let you double hit a set - You can catch and release the ball like a trout, but you can't touch it twice when you set.

We are legalizing ugly volleyball - you don't need to set correctly, you can touch net, the center line is just for looks, and the hitter needs to get a leather burn on their hands before lifts or carries are called (by the way, keep an eye out for the elimination of lifts on the next rules survey).

I am not too old, but I can't remember all those tight rules everyone used to play under hurting the sport. Double hits were not so difficult to call and there were not too many of them to call during a match. Players learned to set without making a double contact and when they did, they were called by the Referee. Our Olympic Teams were among the worlds best, the NCAA Championship was on CBS, regional sports networks televised numerous college matches, and the AVP was a prime time weekend lead in for NBC sports.

In light of all the changes that our sport has gone through (so many in fact that there was actually a request from coaches to put a 2 year hold on any more rule changes) how is the elimination of calling double hits going to benefit Volleyball? The FIVB is not going to eliminate double hits - so any players gifted enough for our National Team programs or a professional career are at a disadvantage. The High School Volleyball Associations will eventually adopt any rule that we have, so now an even younger set of players can learn to not set the ball correctly.

The fans get to see sets flying around at unique tangents while spinning fast enough to loosen the paint on our multi colored volleyballs (which by the way, NO OTHER NCAA sport uses) - as much as our recent rule changes have catered to making the matches more exciting or fan friendly, even the most neophyte spectator groans when the referee does not call an ugly double hit set - even they know enough to understand that there is a certain level of dexterity needed to play college volleyball.

If you don't have to worry about a negative consequence, what is the motivation to improve? Think about it - if you don't have to spell correctly, why bother to learn? When a player has a set called for an illegal contact, there is instant motivation to better their skills. With this new rule proposal, the only motivation to set better is the 'stink eye' from the hitter and a coach begging them to set the ball higher and straighter.

Once again, this is a great potential rule change for the Referees - it eliminates a huge part of being a Referee - JUDGEMENT. Soon, the Referees will just need to make judgement calls on lifts and how long before that is also eliminated?

All my Friends and all my Foes - the game is not too far away from becoming an indoor version of Old Man Throw Ball at State Beach - everything is legal until it hits the ground.

1 comment:

  1. I'm actually on the other end of this. I think a double contact is warranted about half of the time it is called, mostly obvious calls. The times I don't agree with it is generally on a second contact set by a player on the court that is not the setter, from a ball that already has rotation on it. The definition of the double hit is when contact is not made simultaneously. That's it. There is a propensity of officials to make the call solely on ball rotation. I've seen setters get away with a figurative murder with the contact than most non-setters for a ball that kept its rotation. It's not the rules that need to change, it's the officials knowing what the rule is and calling it consistently.


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