August 18, 2008

The Volleyball

While viewing the Olympics, I saw or tried to see, the new FIVB Olympic ball. Our ball (and I say "our" ball because it is only a matter of time before the NCAA adopts whatever the FIVB is doing) now looks like some X-Games soccer ball! The FIVB really dropped the ball on this one.

When the multi-colored ball first came out it looked a little gimmicky, kinda like the old ABA basketballs of the 70's. I did not like the break from volleyball tradition, but it did lend a new look and allowed fans to track the rotation and flight of the ball better. The dark panel of each multi-colored ball, I believe, was supposed to provided depth or perspective, but the dark panel was harder to see.

With the ball now being different colors, the spin on sets became obvious. This spin on setting contact just magnified the pressure on referees to call double hits or lifts on questionable sets. Of course it is easy to set a ball that spins, which is not a double hit or lift, but for many volleyball folks, the spinning ball is the baseline for a poor set. I absolutely believe that this relentless display of any spin, because of the colors of the volleyball, has led to the current NCAA setting rules.

What? Officials dictating volleyball rules? Amazed? If not, tell me why the Rules Secretary of the NCAA Rules Committee who is not a coach or NCAA staff member, but rather an officials assigner for two nationally recognized conferences is being quoted in the new rules press release. I may not be all right, but I know I am mostly right.

Back to the new FIVB ball. This orb is hard to track on television. For the men's matches, seeing the spike and jump serves is almost impossible - it just looks like a blue blur. The women's matches are just a bit easier - just a bit. On the initial impact of a serve or spike, the ball blurs for a second or two before we can pick it up later in the rally. It is actually a bit annoying to watch.

The colors of a honey yellow and a darker blue and the way they are blended, while they look interesting when the ball is being held by a player, are very poor choices for television. The other sports where the ball travels fast - baseball, softball and tennis - they use a solid, bright colored volleyball. I have tapes of older Olympic matches and they are much easier to watch when they employed the all white volleyball. Even the new basketball at the Olympic games used a bright colored highlight pattern against its darker leather.

I am just counting the months until the NCAA Volleyball coaches vote not to change to the new FIVB pattern, but it gets passed anyways. What is next, they start playing NCAA Volleyball on the beach? Oh, pardon me, this is already happening.