December 21, 2008

What's the Score of this Championship?

Bang, we lost another toe:


Watching the NCAA championships last night underscored a problem we have in our sport that no other sport that I can think of seems to ever have.... incorrect scores.

How unbelievable was it to see it happen during the NCAA Championship match? They GOT THE SCORE WRONG!

This happens all the time, and now I know it's not just in club volleyball. I've seen it happen at Nationals at 18-Open, so it's not just the younger girls who mess it up.

Can you think of any other sport that has this problem? It would literally be unthinkable for it to happen in basketball, football, soccer, tennis... why does it have to happen in volleyball so much?

I think the answer is that the scorekeeping process is a very bad process in volleyball, without the proper checks and balances, and with referees seemingly out of the process altogether. I can think of a few solutions, but I'm interested in yours.

If you were able to change the way this was done, and your objective was to make incorrect scores as uncommon in volleyball as they are in every other sport, how would you change it?


It was just a tad bit embarrassing that the officials (Referee, Umpire and Scorekeeper(s)) of the NCAA Championship could not figure out the correct score. Even the play by play commentator on ESPN was in disbelief of the situation. This happens because points are scored too fast in one point increments, thus leading to mistakes. No matter the score sheet or system, the points happen quickly and one person is keeping track of too much. The Libero tracker (one person doing this) is a waste because every coach in USA College Volleyball is very simple in their use of the Libero - maybe this person should be allocated to additionally track substitutions?

If I could change the score keeping, it would be to change the scoring system back to sideout or serve to get a point scoring. Many years ago the college volleyball coaches were feed the line that switching to rally score would be the miracle cure for volleyball. Back then, we were all witness to the rapid support increases for women's basketball and I fully believe the change to rally score was a reaction to what we saw happening within our own departments.

Women's Basketball did nothing to their sport to garner the current support they enjoy. They did not make the 3 point basket a 5 point basket, they did not widen or narrow the key, they did not designate that some players were not allowed in certain parts of the court - What they did do was take advantage of the direct comparison to men's basketball and DEMAND equity; Title IX was the mechanism to create what we all see today.

The volleyball public (coaches, players, fans) made a poor decision and instead of realizing our mistake, we are only compounding it. Changing the score from 30 to 25 is not going to make things better, it will only make things 5 points shorter. Changing the ball handling to allow the absolute garbage touches of today did not make things better, it only made it sloppier. We have taken our sport to the lowest common denominator, with no benefits.

Instead of pushing forth a national agenda through the AVCA and the power conferences of Volleyball to become the second female flagship sport, we decided to change our sport. Change the perception of the volleyball through intelligent efforts with administrators and the media, don't change the sport.

If we could gaze into the crystal ball of alternate futures, we would find no difference between support for volleyball by NOT changing the rules/scoring. Any gains we have made with support, media coverage and popularity are not the byproduct of the rule changes. These positive situations are the result of volleyball being a fun sport to play, no matter how you score it and because some schools/conferences believe volleyball is a Flagship sport.

The 'keeping up with the Jones' mentality has allowed additional programs to increase their support levels. A couple of SEC schools decide to increase support for volleyball; this display ripples to other schools that will not let Alabama (or Georgia, or Arkansas, etc.) out-support them with any teams. This mind set is all too evident in football/basketball with outrageous salaries and Fort Knox support; for some conferences, this is also applies to volleyball, but maybe with Fort Worth, not Fort Knox support. These positive volleyball support changes had nothing to do with the rules alterations of the last few years.

The casual fans will say they love rally score and the players will say they like rally score, but the current crop of players have never played sideout score and the casual fans are just that. If soccer severely compressed their playing field and removed 3 players per side, one would see a bunch more goals; more goals scored quickly is better. Since it is better, then NCAA Women's Soccer should change their playing field to increase popularity, thus be on television and everyone knows that once a sport is on television it is milk and honey.

But, but, but, to answer your question, the NCAA will have two official score sheets (if they already have two, then they will have three) at the next Final Four. The Officiating crew looked amateur and NCAA Women's Volleyball looked hollow.

In one sense, we have left a good car for one that looked cool, but keeps breaking down. Instead of going back to what was dependable, known and trusted, we keep going to the shop to try and fix it.