Hey Jude – TV Volleyball Primer

(original article from May 2000)

As you probably know, this is an Olympic year. For those of us who love volleyball, this is a very exciting time. I’m going to assume that you are a fan or player (because you are on this site) and spend some time talking about the upcoming events and rule changes in international volleyball.

Let me preface this by saying that one of the best ways to improve at volleyball is by watching the best players play. Between now and mid September you will have many chances to see volleyball of highest calibre. Things happen quickly, so you have to concentrate, and pay close attention to instant replays. Choose a skill, or a part of a skill (are the passers arms straight or bent? How does the digger prepare to receive a 100 mph bomb?), and watch for it. You can learn a lot, then check if you are doing what the best players do.

Another quick tip: I love indoor volleyball, and I’d watch it 24/7 if I didn’t have such an exciting life. One thing I can tell you, men and women, is that women’s indoor volleyball is MUCH more entertaining to watch. Why? The men’s serves and offenses have become SO powerful that most rallies are over instantly. Women’s games have plenty of power and lots extended rallies. I watch the men out of respect for their power. I watch women for excitement.

This summer, Team Canada is in the World League. They haven’t been there since 1992 – and teams require a television contract to be in the league. Do volleyball a favour and watch them play on CBC (on Saturdays).

The Olympics begin in September, and in my opinion, no volleyball is more exciting than Olympic volleyball. Being Canadians, I’m sure you are all aware that our own Mark Heese (played with him in University!) and John Child are on their way to Sydney…they got a bronze in Atlanta. If you had the pleasure of watching the Pan-Am games last year, BC boy Conrad Leinemann and his partner Jody Holden beat a mighty Brazilian pair for the gold medal in Winnipeg. They also will sport the red and white in Sydney.

Here are the important changes that have taken place in the last 5 years or so that may catch you by surprise when you watch indoor or beach volleyball:

  1. First, and most obvious, a serve that hits the net and goes over is a live ball. Service errors are out of bounds or in the net and NOT over. So if you see a jump serve that smokes the tape and goes over, they’ll play it out. This also applies to beach.
  2. Indoors, all the games are rally scoring to 25. That means every serve is a point for somebody, and the games go up to 25 points. The matches are a bit shorter than they used to be, for all you viewers with attention spans like mine. As far as I know, this ONLY applies to indoor.
  3. The “Libero” or “free player” is an unlimited back row substitute. In volleyball, you can only come in off the bench for one player, and you can only do it once. The Libero is the exception. This player wears a different colour than his teammates and he can play for anyone in the back row. He cannot attack or serve. He cannot set with his feet between the 3-metre line and the net. This limits his contribution to passing and defense. Make sure you look for the Libero when you are watching indoor volleyball this summer.

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