January 28, 2011

Volleyball Rule Change

After recruiting the last couple of weekends, I have determined in my infinite wisdom of all things volleyball that the new FIVB/USAV rule change allowing nets, unless the tape (white top border) is touched, makes me want to puke, vomit, barf, hurl, blow chunks, look for ralph, upchuck.

I am going to "pray to the god of skinny punks" (Tommy Boy reference) that the NCAA does not adopt this rule.

Our game is quickly becoming a distant shadow of the refined and graceful sport in which so many veteran players (read older!) enjoyed.

Seeing the net ripped down, pushed aside, bouncing like crazy but nothing being called because the player did not touch the net at the white tape border is just ugly. I can understand a net rule modification in which the bottom of the net was not being called when a player brushed it with their jersey or caught it with their side when turning into the court, but this wholesale net abuse dumbs down our great sport to a level I did not think was possible. It looks like church recreation jungle ball - My visual is of a bunch of illiterate volleyball goofballs messing around on some hack court and just slamming into the net.

Players swing hard on tight sets, follow through on their swings and rake the net to where it comes down 6 inches, then bounces back up 6 inches, but this is legal? We have just made the officials make one more decision - Before, it was rather simple, somebody touched the net, blow the whistle. Now, the officials need to determine where did the person touch the net? In a bam-bam quick armswing attack, the official will need to determine was the 2-3 inch white tape touched from up to 30' away? This is not good.

The net and center line used to be this literal Star Trek force field which created a safety zone, physically and mentally for the players. You could not ever go under the center line, so as a player, you knew not to go flying into that zone; you slowed down, you changed your angle or you just let a ball go - which meant the opposing blockers did not have to really be concerned with you coming under the net and making contact. This concept is even more evident with net calls - As a hitter, since netting was illegal, you had to be careful around the net. A hitter could not go flying into the net, had to adjust the armswing; a tight set just had to be tip'ed or let go. Not anymore - there were numerous times this weekend in which I saw players slamming the net on tight sets, go flying into the near net area after a dangerous ball because netting is legal. This safety zone of the net-center line area has been removed.

I just can't understand all the many, many and seemingly never ending rule changes. Not touching the net, has been one of the volleyball rule pillars for as long as the sport has been supervised. You don't touch the net! This is one of the first things you instruct neophyte players about the sport of volleyball.

As dramatic as this may sound, it just makes me sad to consider the changes which have occurred within our sport:

1. Nets are legal, unless touching the white tape top border.

2. Going under the center line is legal, unless there is interference with an opposing player.

3. Double hits are legal on plays considered athletic.

These top three have just created subjective officiating situations, out of what used to be objective cases.

4. Double hits on first contacts are legal.

Number 3 and 4, by their nature, have allowed for routine legalization of lifts/throws when contacting the ball. Just think about all the throws and lifts that are not called, because the ball was also double hit. The default logic is that everything is legal, because double hits are now carte blanch in 90% of volleyball situations.

5. Ball contacting the net on serves is legal.

While this seems like a minor rule, it allows for variables in awarding points. I often see the famous net serve which sticks into the top of the net, then dips over the top and lands on the opposing 2 foot line. The ball flipping or bouncing over the top of the net, and at what elevation-distance is the result of how inflated the ball is and how tight the net is - These are variables which are never constant between two courts. It is just crazy to see a critical point (in the shortened rally score format) being awarded on a fluke play.

6. Rally score.

Don't even get me started on not being able to have a real comeback.

I read in some volleyball publication, when the original spat of rule changes was being hotly debated (which was an illusion because these rule changes were going to be implemented no matter the opinions of the mass of college coaches), that Penn State Coach Russ Rose made a comment to the effect that NCAA Women's Volleyball is the largest volleyball organization in the world (by various catagories) and we should be considering changes only in the light of how they affect our organization and not USA Volleyball or the FIVB.

This is an important observation which has been negated by the "theys" of volleyball within the college ranks. Who gives two Tachikaras about the FIVB or USA Volleyball? Or rather, college volleyball should not care one penny about the FIVB or USA Volleyball. We are a completely separate entity whose focus (education) is completely different from the FIVB/USAV. While I think it is great to support Volleyball and USA Volleyball as individuals, the organization of NCAA Women's Volleyball should not be concerned at all about the FIVB/USAV because I can absolutely promise you they are not concerned about us.

It is not our job to develop players to represent the USA in international competitions - If you consider all the summer and developmental programs instituted by USA Volleyball, they are in agreement. I constantly hear how USA Volleyball laments that the college game does not properly prepare the players for international competition and how they must institute additional programs for our national teams to successful compete.

For the NCAA to adopt rule changes to align ourselves with the FIVB (as the governing body of USA Volleyball) is just near sighted. And, we can't even do that correctly as we play under a hybrid version of FIVB rules with additional substitutions and allowing the Libero to serve. Once again, it seems the "theys" of the NCAA Rules use the international argument when it is convenient and then the domestic rational when needed.

I absolutely believe the NCAA must be the champion and leading advocate for volleyball in The United States as we are the most visible volleyball entity. How many times is FIVB or USA Volleyball on television? How many newspaper articles are about FIVB or USA Volleyball? As much as all of us bemoan the lack of comparable media attention with other sports, NCAA Women's Volleyball is like the NFL of television exposure compared to USA Volleyball.

NCAA Basketball determines its own rules - You don't see them bending to accommodate the International Basketball Rules and they don't even change their rules to allign with the NBA!!!

There is nothing wrong with tradition; there is nothing wrong with keeping volleyball the way it is, because it is a great sport. We don't have to dumb it down or remove complicated or tough to explain rules, so the lay fan might understand them. How many football fans understand the rule or rationale of Illegal Man Down Field? How many tail gate loving State U painted face fans know why there cannot be two men in motion in the back field? NCAA Football is not changing the rules to simplify the game or make it more entertaining. Just think how entertaining it would be that all kick offs must be returned? Or you can put 8 receivers on the field?

Why we are at it - Let's allow offsides for soccer; it would open up the game, create more scoring and get rid of a rule many new fans don't quite get. Let's make the strike zone smaller than the plate in baseball and softball, which will make it easier to get hits and put more runners on base and create more runs for fans which is much more exciting. Let's get rid of second serves in tennis - It just slows down the game; make every serve count, no do overs. Basketball should have a 15 second shot clock with a 3 point line, a 5 point line and a 10 point line - Let's ramp up the scoring, the game is too slow and no more free throws (too slow); on any foul, automatic 2 points and let's get back to the action.

The change in the net rule is not intelligent and makes elite level volleyball look like something Uncle Bob plays on July 4th weekend at the park. I really, really, really hope that the NCAA does not do the usual knee jerk and adopt this rule because of USA Volleyball.


  1. I agree whole heartedly!!!!!!

  2. I played in the old days and when I took my kids to their first college match, I was "what the hecking" all over the place. I hardly recognized the game! Both of my girls play club now and I'm still shaking my head at all the ball carrying that does not get called. I have gotten used to net serves, which only took 5-6 years. :)

  3. I really wish there were more voices like yours in the wilderness. To me, the overriding factor is safety. 95% or more of all players are playing for fun. These rules represent the small, small minority of players who playing professionally or nationally. The amount of injuries these rules are causing is crazy! I personally won't play in any tournaments where these rules are implemented (I'm a former college player, now club for the last 20 years). I would love to see national organizations tell the FIVB where to go with regards to these rules!!

  4. 1-5: Right on. Once objective rules have been replaced by subjective interpretations, increasing the risk of injury. I can understand rally scoring. Serve receive on any level is so capable, that the first scoring advantage usually goes to the receiving team. It is an objective measure, and increasing the winning score from 15 to 25 while retaining the win-by-two rule allows ample opportunity for terrific comebacks.


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