Volleyball is not as popular as it should be. I think we can all agree on that. Many people contend that the reason for its lack of popularity is the games are too long or the rallies are too short or there are too many service errors or some other thing. I don’t agree. Volleyball is not as popular as it should be because the promotion of volleyball is universally disgraceful and because most people don’t really understand what is happening.
Here are some of the things most people don’t understand about volleyball.
1. The speed. The speed of thought, decision making, execution is fast. Really, really fast. Volleyball is a rebound sport, so players must decide on every action before the ball arrives, then execute that decision. In longer rallies, the players have fractions of seconds to recognise what has happened, decide on a solution and execute it, often while off balance or with one hand. TV does not accurately bring across how fast because viewers don’t have to move their eyes to follow the action that takes place over 3, 4, 5 metres, and because commentators literally don’t have time between rallies to explain what just happened and how amazing it was.
2. The violence. 2m, 100kg men, jumping 1m in the air, using all of their power to smash an object straight down. Other men standing on the ground 6m away trying to deflect the ball up and often getting belted instead. Even inside the stadium you don’t really get a feeling for how hard players are spiking and how little time defenders have to react. And when you are close to the court, there is a really distinctive thud as the ball cannons into a defender’s chest. It is a sound you really have to hear.
3. The variation. Volleyball looks like the same thing repeated over and over again until one team wins and the other loses. The reality is that every action is completely unique. Every rebound changes the geometry of the next action and its possibilities. Every solution to a game problem is unique. Again TV commentators don’t have the time to explain the complexities, and so most people forever stay in the dark.
4. The dynamism. Volleyball players explode off the ground. Over and over again. Other sports have jumping, but volleyball is jumping. And the jumps are maximal. TV doesn’t do those efforts justice. Volleyball is the most dynamic sport in the world. By far.
For volleyball to be as popular (as we think) it should be, our task is to educate ourselves and others into these elements, and others.
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