Tag Archives: International Volleyball

Suggested Rule Change 

In 2015 FIVB changed the rules of the game, specifically the size of the playing area.  The free space behind the court was reduced from 7m to 5m.  The stated reason was to allow more space for spectators. 

I wrote about it at the time as it is in every way a ridiculous idea.  Firstly, a smaller playing area reduces the space in which players have to chase down the ball and therefore decreases the length of rallies.  Increasing the length of rallies has been the major goal of FIVB for at least as long as I have been alive (hint: think if a number greater than 49).  Secondly, anyone who has ever been in a big stadium knows that space will never, ever be filled by spectators.  As you can see in the photo above, the space between the edge of the playing area and the start of spectators seating is flat. Any seating that is set up in the space will have a terrible view and no-one will want to sit there*.  In short the change is nonsensical and the reason illogical.

So this is my proposal.  If you want to make rallies longer, the obvious solution is to make the playing area BIGGER.  The more room the players have to run, the balls are playable and the longer the rallies will be.  And don’t legislate the maximum size if the playing area.  If you play in Krakow in the Tauron Arena (as a above) have 10 metres in all directions. If the stadium is smaller then you have less space, but still the maximum available.  Crowds love it when players run a long way.  Give them what they want.

*Thirdly (but don’t tell anyone), these huge stadiums are beautiful and impressive but hardly ever full for volleyball matches anyway.  


Earvin N’Gapeth – Master Of The Simple

Earvin N’Gapeth has rightly become an internet sensation (or at least as sensational as a volleyballer can become) for his spectacular actions.  The most famous one is when he is the backrow he fakes attacking the second contact and instead sets to an outside spiker.  For example, this action.

This is just one of the many great actions in all phases of the game.  So I was excited to get the chance to watch him (and all his French teammates) at the European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Berlin in January.  I don’t know exactly what my expectations were, but what I saw really surprised me.  On video it looks like he chooses particular solutions to be spectacular or high risk.  Live in the stadium, in looks different.  To see the game in context, i.e. the whole court and all the players simultaneous, the solutions he chose were actually obvious and simple and only minimally risky.  He never spiked a ball for the sake of spiking it or that he wasn’t in position for.  But importantly he never set on the second contact just because the convention dictates it.  Simply, if the ball was on his approach he hit it, or was prepared to hit it.  If not, he did something else.

There is nowhere in volleyball rules that say how the game should be played, or how many contacts you must use.  It only says you may not use more than three.  The convention of always using three contacts is exactly that – a convention.  Admittedly it is a widely accepted convention and every coach and player risks ridicule or worse by not following it.  But ultimately conventions are not rules.  The greatest risk N’Gapeth is taking is not following conventional wisdom.  On the court, he is just doing is the simplest thing possible.

Here are some highlights from said European Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.Cover v2

2014 World Championships Technical Review – Part 3

The following article originally appeared in the German ‘Volleyball Magazin‘ in November 2014, written by Michael Mattes, with help from Jan Kahlenbach. 

A note on the translation.  I speak German well, but nowhere near translator level.  Any stilted expression is solely the result of my poor translation and should not be accredited to the author.

Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.

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FRANCE – Berlin’s coach Mark Lebedew once said: “Modern volleyball is a game of transitions, nobody transitions like the French.” A combination of good ball control, great anticipation, experienced positioning and effective speed brings this team more and more into a position from which to score from transition. Admittedly youthful exuberance and impetuosity has them sometimes searching for the most spectacular point.  This immaturity cost them the matches against Italy and Germany. Otherwise they only lost against Brazil in the semifinals and then only just.  The foundation of the French is their unbelievably secure reception, which a world class player such as Friedrichshafen’s Jenia Grebinnikov with 57.1% had the worst efficiency.  However, the team was only in 6th place in sideout. That figure alone shows how much potential there is in this team. Continue reading

2014 World Championships Technical Review – Part 2

The following article originally appeared in the German ‘Volleyball Magazin‘ in November 2014, written by Michael Mattes, with help from Jan Kahlenbach. 

A note on the translation.  I speak German well, but nowhere near translator level.  Any stilted expression is solely the result of my poor translation and should not be accredited to the author.

Part 1 is here.

wc pictureCUBA – With a development squad (half of the players were still juniors) to reach 11th place at the World Championships is more than respectable. However, one already knows this problem in Cuba from bitter experience. How many volleyball fans wouldn’t love to see a Best Of Cuba team? The reaility is on the court. Statistically it was also clear that this team wasn’t ready. It was not outstanding in any area.

ARGENTINA – Coach Julio Velasco wants to get his team to play with a new tactical concept. Like all rebuilding projects there are many obstacles, that should run until Rio 2016. The individual statistics show that there are good individual players, who play with few errors. In serve they score the most points (3.6 per match). At the net (in attack and serve) however, nothing fits. The attack efficiency of 29.4% was almost 10% less than the top teams, as was the 1.6 blocks per set too few. For all that, Argentina was second in the total number of rallies, which suggests a good block / defence coordination. However, from the resulting transition situations far too few points were created (13th place).

SERBIA – Expectations and reality were far apart with the Serbians. Already in the opening match against Poland it was clear that a lot of things were not right. The main brunt in attack was borne by opposite Atanasejevic, who had to pay for a long season. Through good transition the Serbians won the bronze medal at the 2013 European Championships (+6.1 points per match over their opponents). This time with +0.3 points per match they fell to 8th in this ranking. Their traditional high attack percentage (2013 1st with 52.1%, this time 2nd with 53%) was not enough, as a poor block / defence gave them no chances for counter attack.

FINLAND – Ninth place is a success for Finland and confirms their improvement over the last few years. If they want to improve further, they need to work on their weaknesses in serve (13th), block and transition. Like the Argentinians the Finns often keep the ball alive through their defence (3rd most attempts) but were unable to successfully finish the rally. Therefore they lost on average 3.9 points over their opponents in this area and more than 10 points per match against the top teams. Continue reading

2014 World Championships Technical Review – Part 1

The following article originally appeared in the German ‘Volleyball Magazin‘ in November 2014, written by Michael Mattes, with help from Jan Kahlenbach. 

A note on the translation.  I speak German well, but nowhere near translator level.  Any stilted expression is solely the result of my poor translation and should not be accredited to the author.

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We can’t say it often enough: The German men have won a World Championships bronze medal. Hand on heart: Would you have believed it? That makes it an even greater pleasure to write this tournament analysis. The title of the last European Championships analysis (‘Russland top, Polen Flop’) was deliberately reversed and the mention of our team added. Through the title alone, one can see how close the teams the top teams are to each other.

Overall on the World Championships

The ‘Monster Format’ of the FIVB was popular for the majority, even if some experts thought the load was too great. For the German team it was no disadvantage, partly because they never had to change location. The task of the analysts was to go through the data of 103 matches. Because that is not possible is such a short time, the first round matches including teams that did not progress in the tournament were excluded. Our reflections extend to the top 16 teams. Therefore the analysis is of the remaining 67 matches. That is enough to filter our themes and to illuminate tendencies. Continue reading

World Championships 2014

The World Championships that concluded on Sunday was the first of the social media / internet age. By that I mean news and results and updates and in many cases video were available in real time. In contrast the first World Championships that I was interested in (1986) essentially happened in private. The results arrived by sea post and the couple of videos that I received arrived literally by container. I try to remember this fact every time I’m about to angry that my live stream gets choppy. And it is the reason I can never get too upset that volleyball isn’t on TV.
This was also the first World Championships, at least for the last 40 years, without a clear favourite or favourites coming into the tournament. Before the event I commented that there were eight teams that would think they had real chances to win. It turned out that I underestimated that number.
Some thoughts… Continue reading

The Legendary Aleksander Savin


I recently heard an interview with famous American sports commentator Bob Costas in which he argued that Michael Jordan was not a legendary player.  His argument, far from being semantic, was based on the fact that ‘legendary’ means surrounded in legend, by definition an ‘unverifiable story’.  This clearly doesn’t apply to Jordan, whose entire career was very closely covered and virtually everything noteworthy that he ever did has been recorded in great detail and is available to everyone with an internet connection.  He went on to contend that Julius Erving (Dr J) was actually a legendary player, as such a big part of his career took place in the ABA from which almost no video record remains.

In the volleyball version of this story, which Costas didn’t go into (probably due to lack of time), Karch Kiraly might be the Jordan, and if that holds, then the Dr J character is Aleksander Savin[1].  For reasons of Cold War isolation, lack of general TV coverage for volleyball and our sport’s disgraceful inability to pay attention to its own history, Savin is probably even more of a legend than Dr J, in every sense.  The best description of Savin that I ever heard was from one of the dozen or so Australians who actually saw him play.

“After having heard the stories for so many years we were nervous about seeing him play, thinking that he couldn’t possibly be as good as we’d built him up to be in our minds.  When we got to see him live, it turned out he was even better than we had ever imagined.”

One of the specific plays that he talked about was Savin jumping with the first tempo and, finding himself out of position reaching to block the ball with one hand.  I don’t know if the video clip below is the exact action he was talking about, but it is might as well be, it is even better than the one I’d pieced together in my mind.

I love how at full jump he almost attacks the ball with his left hand, showing incredible strength and balance. I also love his celebration and outright swagger!

And the question becomes, does an athlete become more or less legendary if one single clip of him surfaces on the internet?

And what if a second slightly longer highlight clip emerges? How does that affect a legend?  For the record, I really love his swagger here.

[1] In this analogy, Dimitry Muserskiy is LeBron James.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2