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.
Attack is the most important skill in volleyball. This doesn’t require much mathematical skill to deduce. You just have to see that attack is the element of volleyball that occurs most often. So in this basic volleyball skill, how do the top leagues compare.
Unsurprisingly, the Italian league has best attack percentage. If you go by the general rule that the better spikers graduate to the best league, then you would expect this result. On the same basis, Poland, Russia and France are about the same level and Germany is quite a bit below. What is interesting, to me, is that in the French league there is a big difference between attack after reception and transition attack. In the other leagues the difference is in the 5-7% range, while in France there is almost 10% difference. The French have a reputation for having great skill and ball control and you might expect that would mean they had better attack results. But apparently not.
This doesn’t show much more information than the previous graph. If you dig a little deeper into the combined error rate (blocks + errors) that underlies this graph though you can see a couple of things. The error rate in the French league in transition is similar to the other leagues. Which suggests their low attack percentage is not a function of making errors but of not being able to score as well after defence. The second notable underlying error rate is the Germany. Their error rate is lower in transition than after reception. This might indicate that they take less risk in that phase of the game.
This is one area with a surprise result. At least to me. By reputation, the Italian league places the highest premium on reducing errors, especially in attack. Anyone who has watched much volleyball will have seen Italian teams tipping on high balls or endlessly recycling to get another good chance to score. I expected that the Italian league would therefore have the lowest rate of actual errors (not including blocks). Not only were they not the lowest, but all five leagues were for all intents and purposes exactly the same, with a difference of only 0.7% between them. This surprised me. I wonder if it surprised anyone else. In terms of blocks there is a bigger range, with Italy and Russia having the highest rates. This is probably not what one would expect, although my own experience is that the German league is a better blocking league than France.
In the next post, I will be looking at some how some attacking measures relate to winning. You can read it here.
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