Rules Changes?

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One of the great strengths of volleyball compared to other sports has been its willingness to tinker with its rules in order to make the game more attractive to spectators and the media.  For the most part, those rules changes have benefited the sport.  To me, volleyball has become a much more entertaining and compelling event because of the changes that have been made.

In the last couple of months I have heard rumours that more rule changes are on the cards / being considered for implementation after the Olympics.  The main one of these is that the double contact rule for the first contact will be tightened but ONLY on service reception.  If the rule change is approved, service reception taken overhead (in a setting motion) must be clean, that is, a double contact will no longer be allowed bringing it in line with setting on the second and third contact.  However, the rules for every other first contact (defence, free balls etc) will remain the same.  The stated reason for the change is to bring the rules for indoor volleyball closer to beach volleyball.  Although I’m not so sure.

Even after this change, there are still multiple areas where ball handling rules differ between indoor and beach volleyball.  It seems to me the rule is simply to make reception more difficult, particularly on float serves.  The most recent Mikasa ball floats much more than previous versions (and other brands) and the float serve is difficult to receive.  In men’s volleyball however, the liberal ball handling rules have negated the impact of the new ball.  In that context, it seems the objective of the new rule is to make reception (and hence attack) more difficult.  That makes sense and fits with the majoirty of the rule changes that have taken place over the years.

In the short term, the quality of reception will be negatively affected.  In the medium term, there will be some tactical adjustments (three receivers become two?).  In the longer term, there will be a change in the type of players selected (reception becomes more important, therefore smaller receivers become more important?).

However as always, one must consider the law of unintended consequences and I can imagine that will be in how games are officiated.  There is already confusion among spectators as to the difference between a double contact and a held ball.  There is already confusion among players about the difference between a double contact and a held ball.  As for referees, I cast my mind back to the countless times up until only recently when referees blew for a double contact and hurriedly changed their signal to that for a held ball.  And now we add confusion about which first contact can be a double contact or a held ball.

I guess time will tell…


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