With a little extra time on my hands I have taken started to look at what might be the differences and similarities between leagues, and with it whether there are any structural ‘rules’ in volleyball. Thanks to Michael Mattes and Manlio Puxeddu, who collected the files and Ben Raymond, who wrote the apps that let me crunch the numbers for the whole leagues. The leagues I will focus on are France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Russia. For these leagues, I have almost full data for the 2016-17 season and I also think these are probably the top 5 leagues right now.
FIRST BALL SIDEOUT
The First Ball Sideout Percentage (FBSO%) is the percentage of reception attempts after which a team scores at the first opportunity. This generally shows the efficiency of a team’s sideout phase (ie the combination of reception, setting and attack). As we can see from the graph this is pretty closely related to overall sideout percentage, the better the FBSO%, the better the overall SO%. In the five leagues we are analysing, the only exception to this is the Polish league which has the 3rd best FBSO% despite having the best overall SO%. However, the differences are so small that we can’t read anything into it.
JUMP SERVE v FLOAT SERVE
Every so often there is a comment from somewhere that there are too many service errors on jump serves and that more teams should float serve. This idea is not supported by any evidence*. Although the Italian, Polish and Russian leagues have only quite small differences, only in Poland is it an advantage for the receiving team to be receiving a jump serve. When we look at the FBSO%, the difference is more stark.
In every league, the FBSO% after a float serve is much higher than after a jump serve. This indicates clearly that the efficiency of siding out is significantly (not in the statistical sense) higher after float serves.
To summarise the previous two table, it turns out that the difficulty of siding out from jump serves is more than compensated by the number of errors (except in the Polish league). Any move by the FIVB to reduce the effectiveness of jump serves would reduce the number of service errors, and therefore increase the number of ‘rallies’, but many of those rallies would be almost as short. My suspicion (untested as it is) is that whatever effectiveness the float serve has is at least partially due to the technical and mental differences between receiving jump and float serves. Teams typically also spend less time practicing receiving float serves. If everyone float served, I would expect the FBSO% numbers, along with all the float serve sideout numbers, to increase even more.
* In women’s volleyball, the opposite is true and the USA women’s team have changed all of the servers to the jump float serve.
Part 1 is here.
Part 3 is here.
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