Friday, October 2, 2009

10 things everyone should know about watching volleyball

Having played and coached for many years, I've come to realize how fast the sport is advancing. Many people watch their daughters play volleyball without really understanding its intricacies. It has become a very complex and specialized sport. So here are 10 things that may help you understand the sport a little more and support your daughter and the whole team.
  1. The girl with the off-colored jersey is the LIBERO. The normal substitution rules do not apply to her, but she can only serve once in the rotation. Otherwise she can run on the floor for anyone in the back row. Often, it is the team's best passer/digger, but it should be someone who the coach doesn't mind not having in the front row, since the libero can never jump in front of the 10 foot line and send the ball over.
  2. Serve receive is the most difficult skill-- while serving hard is much easier to master.
  3. All passes, digs, etc. should go to target-- a spot 2/3rds of the way across the net and 2 feet off the net... so that the middle hitter and the outside hitter look to their right to see the setter. The difference between getting the ball up in the air, and getting the ball to target is like a quarterback throwing behind the wide receiver or leading him.
  4. The game is specialized now. For example, left-handed players will switch so that they are always hitting out of right front when they are in the front row, no matter where they are in the rotation. Players drill these spots and their necessary skills. So if one player goes down/out, there may be only one other player on the team who can step into that particular role. (The same goes for the back-row.)
  5. Hitters seem to get all the attention because that is the culmination of the team's offensive effort. And this is unfair.
  6. It is unfair, because if there's not decent passing and, subsequently setting, the hitters don't ever get a chance to hit. The passers and setters should get more props than they do. It just takes a more nuanced fan. Learn what a good pass is and cheer for good passes as much as you do a good spike or block. (It doesn't have to just be digging up a hard hit, it can simply be a serve-receive that goes to target which merits standing up and screaming praise.)
  7. It is also unfair, because it puts undo pressure on the hitters that if everything else is perfect, they HAVE to get it in... and that can lead to tipping when they should be hitting hard, missed hits, or blaming themselves. OR worse yet, fans holding it against the hitter for missing a hit.
  8. Sending over a "FREE BALL" is bad and should be avoided at all costs. "Free Ball" means a ball that is passed over the net to the other team instead of being hit, tipped, or dinked at them. "Down Balls" are better -- arm motions like a spike, but feet staying planted on the ground.
  9. If players are yelling HELP! on the floor it is probably because the setter (who is supposed to take the second hit) has taken the first and that means another player needs to step in and set the ball ASAP!
  10. Yelling "ROOF" after one player stuff-blocks another is entirely appropriate.

And as a former coach, don't be afraid to cheer for the coach -- give him or her a word of praise/encouragement too, or do something nice for him/her mid-season instead of just at the awards banquet! :)

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