When Is An Error Not An Error?

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At this point in volleyball history we are all pretty clear on what an error is.  There are serving errors, attacking errors, reception errors, setting errors and blocking errors.  For completeness we can add an attacker being blocked as an error, to calculate efficiency.  This is what we have agreed upon and use in our every day work.  What we agree upon the most, is also what we think about the least.  So we have to ask the question whether these all really errors?  And if they are, should they be treated equally?

We can look at it from two different perspectives: from the point won perspective, or the error perspective.  From the point won perspective, points can be either earned or unearned.  Points are earned through the good actions of teams and players.  Unearned points are won through the poor actions of the opponent.  Points cannot be both earned AND unearned.  From the error perspective, errors are either forced or unforced.  Forced errors are made under pressure of the opponent, and are not the ‘fault’ of the team / player.  Unforced errors are made in the absence of pressure of the opponent.  They are the ‘fault’ of the team / player.  Errors cannot be both forced AND unforced.

To return to our common understanding on what should count as errors.  Serving errors, attacking errors, setting errors and blocking errors are obviously unforced errors, that lead to unearned points.  Conversely, reception errors and blocked attacks, while they lead to the loss of a point, are just as obviously forced errors that lead to earned points.  If it were otherwise, we would not give points to servers and blockers.

To spend a little more time on forced errors, when a spiker hits off the block for a point, we do not call this a block error.  In some cases we record this and count it as an attempt, but we don’t attribute the blocker with an error.  Similarly, if a spiker spikes in front of a defender, we do not call this a defensive error and attribute the defender with an error.  These situations, particularly the spike and defence one, are analogous to serve and reception.  But at some random point in history, we decided one was an error and one isn’t.

Creating an equivalence between a rotation error or a net touch with a receiver who can’t control a Leon serve is not fair for the player, nor is it an accurate reflection of the game that is happening.  By all means call it a reception ‘attempt’, but it is not a reception ‘error’.


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