What Most People Don’t Understand About Volleyball

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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.

More of my thoughts on volleyball are here.


A collection of more Coaching Tips can be found here.


For more great coaching tips, check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

11 comments

  1. Hi Mark,
    i totally agree.
    After 40 years as a player, referee, coach and part as entertainer of many national and international volleyball-events there is another huge problem…
    The “Entertainment” of the game. To many clubs don’t know how to entertain the crowd and the players to create a unique atmosphere that links everyone to the sport.
    Many Managements don’t invest in good entertainment and so the sport “looses” in comparison to other sports, who are most of the time much better in entertaining their audience.(Basketball, American Football, and others)

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    1. This is a major point. You only have to look to Berlin and see how it is possible to start with almost nothing and still build a huge following for volleyball, by paying attention to the the stadium the promotion and the entertainment. This is the template for the future.

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  2. Agree with a lot of your points. My dear, departed father-in-law always thought that volleyball was a game that was more fun to play than to watch. I do agree with him but I really, really, really think they need to move the main camera to the end view. Can you imaging how boring tennis would be if it were televised from the side? Even keen, knowledgeable eyes don’t know what exactly happened until they show the replay and THAT is usually from the end because THAT is the best angle to see the action. I also think they need to take a cue from Nascar and F1 and put cameras on the players chests and allow fans to watch the game from any of these cameras. Hey, a man can dream can’t he?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I am convinced that the reason people think of volleyball as better to play than to watch, is exactly because they don’t understand what is happening. Which is why I wrote the post 🙂
      I don’t agree with the view that there is A best camera. Every camera angle shows some things well and other things badly. The end view shows the width of the net, and the speed of the sets, but it doesn’t show depth well, and it missing the dynamism and power of the players. I have written about that before https://marklebedew.com/2014/10/22/the-best-view/
      For TV coverage, there has to be a variety of angles. I like the camera as it is, but the standard replay should be from behind. That way the play by play commentator can describe the action from the dynamic angle, and the colour commentator can explain the action from the wide angle.

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  3. I soooooo agree with the placement of the camera. That endline shot shows the amazing skill of volleyball players. The endline shot is how we break down film as well. I would like to see the men’s game have a higher net, bigger court and larger ball. DM

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    1. I don’t agree with the view that there is one single best camera angle. Every camera angle shows some things well and other things badly. The end view shows the width of the net, and the speed of the sets, but it doesn’t show depth well, and it missing the dynamism and power of the players. I have written about that before https://marklebedew.com/2014/10/22/the-best-view/

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