Tag Archives: Volleyball On TV

The Length Of A Volleyball Match

About a year ago there was an report somewhere that FIVB was considering introducing time limit matches in order to finally, after decades of trying, get the holy grail that is a major TV contract. At the time I mentioned to a couple of friends that I was afraid that this was a diversionary tactic, and that the actual planned rule would be quietly introduced later while everyone shrugged and said, ‘At least it’s not time limit.’

Last week there was an announcement that FIVB will trial best of 7 matches, with sets to 15, at the upcoming World U23 Championships.  ‘At least it’s not time limit.’

We hear that volleyball matches are too long, and worse, of unpredictably long. We hear that TV stations want games that can fit into a two hour time slot. But who says these things? They just sort of float around on the wind every time new rules are proposed.  It may well be that they are true, but does anyone know where they come from?

Here is what I would like to see:

  1. The market research that fans of volleyball want shorter matches.
  2. First hand information from TV companies or executives that they WILL (not might) show more volleyball if it fits into that two hour slot.

If I can see those two things then I will happily concede that we must try to make volleyball matches shorter. In that scenario, my suggestions are:

  1. Shorten the length of time between rallies.
  2. Shorten the length of time between sets.
  3. Remove the unnecessary protocols around the game that add time (10 minutes? More?) to the game.
  4. Tighten the video review system so that it is faster and more efficient (e.g. review without challenge, time limits on the review process).

If there is actual proof that we need to shorten matches, AND no other way of doing THEN, and only THEN, then we can talk about the rules.


Re spectators – My personal suspicion is that spectators want to be part of an event, not just a volleyball match. See Berlin Recycling Volleys.

Re TV – the Polish league, ie the only league with a league that actually receives money for rights, just added a ten minute break between sets 2 and 3 in order to keep spectators in the gyms for longer and get TV viewers to watch more ads.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Selling Volleyball

It is a widely agreed upon truism among volleyball people that volleyball deserves more respect and deserves wider media coverage.  I am not one of those volleyball people.  I think volleyball has the respect and coverage it deserves.  But don’t misunderstand me.  I love volleyball.  I think volleyball is the most spectacular ball sport in the world.  I think volleyball is perfect for TV.  Volleyball does not have wider respect and coverage because volleyball does an absolutely horrendous job of selling itself.  It is a theme of this blog that volleyball does not curate its history.  It is a theme of this blog (and the background the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project) that there is no volleyball literature.  With some obvious exceptions, volleyball has not properly educated even its own participants about the sport.

I have recently been making fun of the level of education and research by commentators employed by CEV and FIVB for their video platforms (here and here).  But behind the (attempted) humour the point is serious.  The live coverage should highlight the best play and the commentator should know the names of the players, volleyball terminology and be able to pass on to viewers a basic feeling of what is happened/just happened.  By this I do not mean a detailed tactical breakdown (although I would love that).  I mean the ability to give the viewer a sense that something is happening that is interesting and worthwhile.  While I am convinced that some of the commentators lack a certain level of professionalism (Juantanorena, ‘return of serve’ etc), the ultimate responsibility lies with those organising the broadcast, in this case the respective governing bodies, and with those who do not expect anything better, that is us.

The current World Olympic Qualification Tournament provides some examples.  The following video contains two actions.  In the first, the current most exciting player in the world, Earvin N’Gapeth, attacks the second contact and scores.  This is an unusual play which requires great awareness and timing (and going against years of training 🙂 ).  The commentator’s response is silence.  The director provides no replay.  A casual observer would think this is an every day event.  It is not.  In the second action, the libero defends a hard attack with one hand perfectly to the setter who sets first tempo against virtually no block.  Again this is an unusual play and insanely difficult.  This is the absolute highest level of volleyball.  The commentator belated makes an inane comment about the size of the middle blocker. The director provides no replay.  A casual observer would think this is an every day event.  It is not.

In this video, Earvin N’Gapeth makes one of his most famous plays, faking a spike and instead setting, and Kevin Tillie scores putting France up 2-0 against Poland.  In this case the commentator does his part to show that something of interest has happened.  But in the three minutes of dead time that followed there was not one replay of the action.

I love volleyball.  I think volleyball is the most spectacular ball sport in the world.  I think it is an incredibly difficult sport to master and yet these amazing athletes make it look simple.  So simple that people seem to think it is.  I think volleyball is perfect for TV.  The action is concentrated in a small area and nearly every player can be seen at the all times.  The game has built in breaks of play that allow for every interesting action to be replayed more or less instantly.  We have an incredible opportunity to create a place for ourselves but not until we demand higher standards of ourselves in selling volleyball.  FIVB and CEV should set the example, but we should demand it of them.

The Best View?

“There’s no better angle, for sure, than the one from behind.”

Chris ‘Geeter’ McGee, The Net Live podcast.

The angle ‘Geeter’ is referring to here is the best angle for watching a volleyball match.  As all volleyball ‘experts’ know, the best position from which to view a volleyball match is from behind the court.  When I go to a match, I will always head to the back of the court.  During training, I will always wander in that direction.  That is the view I, and ‘Geeter’, feel gives us the best view of what is really happening and therefore provides us with the greatest understanding.

However, this view is not complete.  It provides the whole width of the court, but does not show the subtleties of depth, especially watching on video.  It is essentially a two dimensional view of a three dimensional game.  It is the best of all possible two dimensional views, but still not complete.  From time to time it is very valuable for a coach to check out a different view to improve his understanding of the game. Despite these weaknesses, we all agree that it is the best view.

But is it really the best?  The market says no.  When actually buying tickets for the biggest events, the tickets at floor level, behind the court are the cheapest and slowest selling.  The most expensive, fastest selling tickets are those along the sidelines, closest to the middle, in the first level.  So while volleyball ‘experts’ agree that the best place to understand the game is in one place, volleyball ‘fans’ understand that the best place to enjoy volleyball is a completely different place.  The view from the side definitely gives a much better impression of the dynamism and athleticism of the game.

So when hear that the TV coverage of volleyball is bad because of the camera angles, specifically the lack of a camera behind the court, I am not so sure.  I personally miss the level of understanding that I might normally have, but maybe I am in the minority, and maybe TV producers shouldn’t cater to my needs anyway.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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