It is Good to be Different: Rule Changes from Different Levels A discussion on the proposed FIVB rule changes

By Virginia Elite as a follow up to The Art of Coaching Volleyball's article "Volleyball Rules, Some Need Changing Some Don't"

The 2014 club volleyball season is fast approaching.  As is the case with most clubs, we at VA Elite are turning the page on the 2013 season: reports are being run, board meetings are being called to order, and we have begun preparing for the season ahead.  As we plan for another year, our training cadre discusses the possible rule changes that the FIVB has proposed.

Decrease the number of points per set to 21
Score: 2-1 in favor
Statistics dictate that 60% of matches are won by the team that reaches the 10 point mark first. 
By making the game to 21 will make each set a sprint.  One benefit is that the 5th game will also be played to 21, therefore, statistically we are only talking about a net loss of 3 points a match.  The majority feel that if the matches are 2 out of 3 to 21, maybe court 126 won’t be three hours behind with the winner having an 8:00 a.m. match.

Servers are required to land behind the end line
Score: 1-2 against
Coaches and trainers in the women’s club scene we have debated ballet lessons as a potential benefit  to players as they are standing on their toes hovering over the concrete barely touching the last sport court tile.  Large tournaments and qualifiers are already packing the courts in convention centers and large halls, which means this rule change would create logistical issues and crowd the aisles even more.  

On the plus side, maybe less missed/easier serves might mean, “We can change her position back to middle hitter instead of middle blocker.”   Volleyball is already an offensive sport and this would allow for more creative offensives to develop.

There are very few club players reaching the high level jump serve to make a need for this rule.

Back row attackers must land behind the 3-meter line
Score: 0-3 Really!!!
As with the jump top-spin serve, there are very few women club teams that have players performing this skill consistently at a high level.  Due to the specialization in our sport the back row attack is used far less than in the men’s game, which means it affects you less if you run a 6-2 with a libero and now there is only one player that can attack back row.  In the men’s game there is more cross-over, so you may have 2 back row attackers landing 1 foot from the net.  

As the popularity of the back row attack has grown more in the women’s game this attack is sometimes the great equalizer for teams that have less depth or players that have a shorter vertical.  Adding more attackers for a smaller team helps spread the defense, however, if you only have one big attacker she can be effective in certain situations for you in the back row.  To change this attack for women may be a rich get richer scenario.  If you have the big kids then you win.

Any net touch or center line is a violation
Score: 3-0 No brainer
This is easy from a safety aspect as well as a second referee duty.  Too many times we have seen a player land on a player’s foot that has come under the net, and we have all seen the questionable plays that may harm the other team.  They go uncalled or debated due to the subjectiveness of the current rule.  In our club format, as with many other clubs,  most down referees are players.   Changing these rules makes it easier for a 14 year old to call the match which actually protects the down referee from the ugliness she may endure due to her subject call.  She was brave and confident to make the call, to only have parents yell and comment from the sideline, therefore, “Protect the ref, make these calls black and white.”

Eliminate Open hand Tip
Score: 2-1 For the finesse players
Ironically, in the grand scheme of things, this has been one of the most contentious rules.  For teams with smaller setters and big hitters they love this rule.  For teams that play a more finesse game they love the option to tip, swipe, push down line and setter dump.

We do understand that from a fan perspective this would eliminate the arguments over throws and lifts, however, club volleyball is about participation.  Changing this rule would limit the effectiveness of some players, and in ten years every setter will be a lefty.   Right handed setters tip too much!

Eliminate overhead Serve Receive
Score: 1-1-1 Toss up!
I think that this potential rule change may look different even within the confines of JO’s. Passing with hands takes a certain amount of upper body strength. That average level of strength, or ability to hand pass serves at all, looks very different from 12 and under to 18 and under. You do see bigger, stronger girls use their hands at the older age levels when they are not as refined using their forearms. This will either reduce the opportunity for those kids to pass and keep the ball in play or require more specialization. For the most part, the objective of these rule changes are to continue play. This rule change may have the opposite impact.

Free Substitutions
Score: 0-3 with reservations
This is a very interesting rule for juniors. This rule could allow for teams that have “thinner” rosters to compete with teams that have “deeper” rosters. That is, a core group of kids could be subbed in and out to mitigate the less-dynamic players on the court. It would specialize players more and potentially lead to more competitive volleyball, however, part of the Junior Olympic experience should be opportunity for kids to participate. This also allows college coaches to see more athletes in different positions. I can’t say that letting a 6’ 6” kid, that can’t do anything but be subbed in to stunt-block in serving rotations, makes the game better at the juniors level or, more importantly, improves player exposure/opportunity.

Some of us can remember three plus hour matches and playing to 15 in all five games.  Change is growth, and growth in our sport is always welcomed, but we must consider the inherent difference in how our sport is played at multiple levels.  Women’s lacrosse has different rules than men’s lacrosse.   Some college women’s basketball coaches have proposed lowering the rim, adding a new scoring system to award teams points for winning a quarter or half and restrictions banning defense outside the three-point line at selected times.  Rules should benefit the level of play.

For us the idea is plausible that women’s club volleyball should not be dictated by the men’s international style of play.  We are not saying return to the NAGWS rules, but we do feel there is a difference of play.  We understand the need to have a more fan friendly sport, but our fans are the mothers and fathers of the players.  Let’s do what is best for the players at the appropriate levels.

Additional reading on possible FIVB rules changes:


John Forman said...

I blogged about this myself a little while back ( My current perspective is from coaching in England where I operate fully under FIVB rules - and where serving area can be at a premium in some places as well (and not because of sportcourt or spectator issues). I'm 1000% with the coaches here on going back to no net contact or center line violation. I can see the arguments on both sides for most of the other proposed changes, but I definitely lean in favor of cleaning up the serve receive stuff. My concern there is it's such a radical change for a generation of players in the upper ranks who weren't forced to only pass with forearms - especially in the men's game. It strikes me that sort of rule should be implemented bottom up over time.

Anonymous said...

John - thank you for following our blog. We posted your article on our FaceBook page and would love to get more of your feedback and perspective.

John Forman said...

Hi Briana - Glad you like my post. I've "liked" your FB page for quite a while now. You guys put out quite a bit of excellent stuff. Keep up the good work! I'm going to get some first-hand exposure to Juniors volleyball in England starting this weekend, which should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to blog about your experience? We'd love to hear about it. Also, if you know any clubs who would be interested in a JVA membership to join our organization of club directors and coaches please let me know. We are hosting the JVA World Challenge in Houston April 4-6 for girls 10-18 and can help with team costs to come play!

John Forman said...

You can bet it will find its way into the blog somehow. I'm likely to mainly work with the girls, but this weekend I'm providing cover for the U15 boys coach for the first training session of the South West region's team. At the end of October I'll get to see the NEVZA U17 championship tournament England is hosting, which should be interesting. I have definitely talked up the idea of getting some Juniors from over here to play in the States and will continue to do so, just in case someone actually listens. :-)

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