Tag Archives: Volleyball Rules

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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The Law Of Unintended Consequences – The Playing Area

France's Jenia Grebennikov attempt to save a ballAlmost without exception, when the FIVB makes a rule change I understand the logic behind it.  Virtually every rule change in my time in the game, and before, has had at least one of two main goals.  The major goal of most rule changes is to make the game more attractive.  Most of the time more attractive means making rallies longer as conventional wisdom holds that spectators are most interested in seeing long rallies.  The rule changes generally make it more difficult to attack and/or easier to defend.  Rule changes that affect the length of the game, i.e. rally point scoring, are also intended to make the game more attractive, in this case mostly for television, by controlling its length.  The other main goal of rule changes is to reduce the influence of referees by removing judgement calls.  Unnecessary interruptions are therefore minimised, by extension also making the game more attractive.  Although not all rule changes work, or work the way they are intended to work, at least I follow and accept the logic behind them.  The much derided rule allowing certain net touches, although poorly officiated and poorly explained to spectators and participants, was logical.  Even such poorly conceived ideas as the (completely ridiculous) ‘Golden Formula‘ and the (not ridiculous but not good either) 21 Point Set fit into some (more or less) logical construct.

But every now and again they come up with something that defies logic and will indisputably make the game less attractive.  The press release proclaims ‘Fans will be closer to the action‘.  While an excellent idea in principle, in practice fans may be closer but will actually see less volleyball.  To allow fans to be closer to the action FIVB will reduce the size of the playing area (NOT the court) from a free zone of 8m to a free zone of 6.5m behind the court.  Superficially that does not seem significant.  Unless you have ever watched a high level match.  The actions that are most attractive to spectators present in the stadiums are the dynamic actions at the net, and the desperate actions at the periphery of the playing area, i.e. the last two metres of the free zone.

So with this new rule the spectators close to the court will get close up views of players swearing and kicking the advertising boards that didn’t use to the be there but will be deprived of volleyball action.  That doesn’t seem like the intention of the rule.

Photo Credit: fivb.org


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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The Law Of Unintended Consequences: The Libero

liberoFor as long as volleyball has been a performance sport, it has been defined on and off the court by the central battle between offence and defence.  The belief has long been held, and held to be inviolable, that the advantage of offence over the defence is to the detriment of the game.  Nearly every rule change over that time has been an attempt to redress that imbalance.

In the mid 1990’s the idea was hatched to improve the defence by including a specialist defensive player: the libero.  Secondary issues to be addressed were the increasing size of the players, and the ‘fall’ of Asian volleyball. The libero was going to solve all of those problems.  So did it?

In the short-term, there were no liberos, only outside hitters who couldn’t spike as well as other outside hitters.  And there were coaches, whose job it was to create the best solutions for their teams.  The coaches put those backup outside hitters to play backrow for the middle blockers. The short-term effect?  Reception became better, the offence became stronger.  Defence didn’t improve by very much.  On balance offence became even stronger.  By the Law of Unintended Consequences the libero rule was a failure. Continue reading

Bad Coaching 101

A week or so ago, I asked on the facebook page how much the rules of the game drive or guide the development of technique.  As always it led to an interesting discussion.  Thanks to everyone who contributed their two cents worth.  However, by framing discussion as I did I masked my true intent.

The question was ‘inspired’ by several experiences I have had in the last couple of months working with and observing coaches in action.  In my observations many coaches, far too many coaches, are conducting their trainings without respecting the most basic rules of volleyball.

The most basic rules of volleyball, in some order, are:

– The ball cannot be caught

– The ball cannot touch the ground

– The ball must go over the net and into the court

– The lines must be respected Continue reading

Don’t Blame The Rules… (Part Two)

I have had and heard several discussions in recent years about the current ball handling rules that allow ‘double hits’ on the first contact.  What I often hear is that the game has become less skillful and ‘dumbed down’.  I find these statements to be utterly at odds with my personal experience.  Volleyball players are far more skilled than they have ever been in the past.  Twenty years ago it was easy to produce an aesthetically pleasing underarm pass in very large part because the serve took several seconds to arrive at its target.  In 2014 serving is many degrees more difficult, especially the jump float serve.  When I watch women’s volleyball I am constantly astounded at how they can receive at all.  I would contend that the technical proficiency required to receive those serves is extremely high, although it doesn’t seem to meet the aesthetic requirements of some.

Just because a particular technique becomes legal it does not mean it is automatically better and it definitely does not mean that coaches are required to use it.  The reality is that at the highest level the ability to successfully perform an underarm pass continues to be an essential requirement.   All players should learn and be proficient at it.  However, I understand that many coaches teach their young players to receive serve in the first instance with an overhand pass, leading to the ‘unskillful’ and ‘dumbed down’ comments of appointed judges… er, spectators. As I wrote in my last post, it is vital to remember that the coach controls his own training environment.  It is the coach who decides which techniques to teach his players and at what stage in the development.

So if you are unhappy with the technical (and aesthetic) level of the players, don’t blame the rules…

… blame the coaches.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Don’t Blame The Rules…

I have had and heard several discussions in recent years about the current net touch rules that allow to touch parts of the net without a fault being called.  Unsightly and dangerous are just two of the many criticisms that are directed at this particular rule.  And my particular favourite, that players don’t learn body control – ‘like in the good old days’.  While I have not seen them, I have heard of many situations that occur at lower levels that are indeed unsightly and dangerous.  And perhaps the players do not learn body control.

But all of these situations describe matches.  Players learn to play volleyball in practice.  They learn to avoid dangerous situations in practice.  They learn body control in practice.  The practice environment is controlled by the coach and guided by the rules.  In his own gym the coach can, and must, impose appropriate training rules to optimise individual and team development.  Dangerous activity and learning body control fall into those categories*.

So if you are unhappy with the game, don’t blame the rules…

… blame the coaches.


* Coaches can’t do much about unsightly.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Know The Rules

The coach should know the rules. That is a given. Why the coach should know the rules is perhaps open to interpretation. From one perspective the coach should be able to educate the players so that they know the rules and can play volleyball correctly. If all participants know the rules then the game flows with fewer interruptions and fewer controversies. The second perspective is that if you know the rules better you can also use them to your advantage. We will focus on the first interpretation.
Today I saw a presentation from an FIVB Referee Instructor and member of the Rules of the Game Commission. In the course of his presentation I learnt that if the ball travels over the antenna into the opponent’s court it is a fault. So far so good. I knew that.
I also learnt that if the ball travels over the antenna into the opponent’s free zone, it is still in play. And the same if the defending team returns the ball to its side of the net. I never knew that. Today I am smarter than I was yesterday. And maybe volleyball is a tiny little bit better for it.