Evolution of Volleyball Nets

By John Kessel | June 21, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

This spring I was fortunate to be a speaker at the 25th annual Midwest Volleyball Instructors (MVI) Clinic.  I got to follow in the footsteps of presenters such as Arie Selinger, Hugh McCutcheon, Bill Neville, Mike Hebert and dozens more, and joined over two days, over 200 coaches learning from their fellow Minnesota coaches, who just happen to also have won championships, and the talented Bond Shymansky from Marquette University.  Walt and Tracey Weaver put on a class event, and I was given six sessions over two days to share ideas.

One of those ideas that stood out the most was my regular use of the ribbon/rope down the middle of the training court – allowing the 16 Northern Lights athletes helping us show what we were also saying – get more contacts per hour and better reading over the net.  Same thing happened at Tracey’s Weaver’s 3rd grade class when I was there, and in Raleigh two weeks before, where Jenna and the superb Triangle Volleyball Club, helped me train 4th graders in volleyball and sitting volleyball, as well as getting kids of all ages to enjoy the sitting game at MPL.

A core concept that many fail to practice enough is to help players learn to hit every third ball over that 7 foot 4 ¼ in barrier for girls/women and the higher 7 foot 11 5/8 inch obstacle for boys/men.  Players also need to serve every ball over that same wall on EVERY serve they do, that first and oh so important contact, while those receiving these serves and attacks, need to READ the ball as early as possible from the other side of the net.

Our sport is played over a net – like tennis, badminton and table tennis. Those other sports are never played 6 vs. 6, but 1 on 1 or 2 vs. 2, so the athletes get plenty of contacts on each net crossing – as in 50-100 percent per team. So what we need to do is get either more nets up or more net length up.  The end of my blog will share an option we have created to help clubs, youth sports programs and PE teachers around the world to get those needed repetitions, but for now, back to the evolution…

Tables, Boxes or String

The first net for many might be just a table or a string, and just using a balloon. Basement boxes worked too, any barrier that can be volleyed across…. One of the most intense table matches I have seen was between Steve Timmons and Karch Kiraly, with a balloon. Epic. One rally I will never forget was with my roomie Abel Wolman, in the living room when his errant dig flew up, struck the overhead lamp which came crashing down on the table/net which had Laurie Glassgold’s 6 month geology map project on it, and shredded it. So I strongly recommend a balloon or balloon ball (see the back of the MiniVolley book on how to make that), or the 70 gram Molten First Touch ball for such indoor play….

Fences, Ribbon and Rope

A Chain link fence, the top bar of a soccer goal, and just rope or ribbon is the next level of net options to play over.  This picture of boys playing 4 vs 4 over a chain link fence is from East High, Karch Kiraly’s high school.

A higher than usual fence has also been an option. This clip shows some over the Mexico USA Border wall…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM3SkHolLdU  The ribbon shot of 16 sitting volleyball courts set up using chairs with weight room plates to anchor the system is from the 19th annual Leadership and Character Symposium at the US Air Force Academy. The next evolution is of rope courts set up using long linked into an “X” wood slats or PVC pipe even bamboo.  You can also span the gap between two courts, or from a standard near a wall to the wall, with ribbon or rope to great a single small training court space.  The most common way to add an “extra court” is to span between courts – and the end of this document shows two courts being turned into six courts using either a ribbon or a 4 nets on a rope system.

A Net

Then we get to nets that do not have just the barrier at the top but the net itself. You don’t need a LOT of net to pull it off, especially as it can be a challenge and cost to create, but that is what the regulations require.  As an American, you might need to check your net to see if it is made by feet – thus 30 feet long by 3 feet wide, or to the standards that every other nation makes their nets to – metric, thus 10 meters long by a meter wide. Recently at a camp, the coach had bought nets made in feet, only to find the antennas they owned were too long to fit and tape was needed to attach things properly at the top. So check your net and make sure to get antennas that can be made to fit without tape!

Now you can mix net options, as I strongly suggest putting a ribbon or rope up between the regular standards you might have, over to the side wall, and especially between the small or large gap found between two courts.  Also note that with so many nets and volleyballs around, a divider net can help with safety, and the video and upcoming USAV Toolkit shows how you can create a 50’ long by 14’ high divider made from deer netting by zip tying a roll cut in half – or if needed you use the netting uncut, to have a 100’ x 7’ high option. The cost of the string to weave thru the top and the netting is under $20, and you attach it to a single eyebolt set at the appropriate height on each side of the wall at the center of the gym.

Four Nets on a Rope Variations

Finally, we get to having more and smaller nets set up in the same space, so more players can train and learn.  A video showing how to do this is being finished by this fall, but these images show how “rope wall standards” and rope topped nets can be tightened using a “trucker’s pulley knot.”  You see, in this blog about nets, someone still unknown usually installs a minimum of 6 “volleyball training device nets” up in school gyms from the elementary to the collegiate level. The nets are small and short, and are attached to an orange colored setting accuracy circle. While it is nice to use them to set, and even forearm pass directly into (no misses off the backboard and in, accuracy-wise), six of them is a lot and allows for a lot of activity training. So the idea is to get as many or more actual volleyball nets up in the gym.

The secret of a sort is the wall rope anchor system for an indoor gym or tennis court, or the crossed wood X’s for outdoor and beach court play.  You should not drill individual attachment points at various, possible volleyball net heights.  You instead set an attachment point very high, 10-11 feet from the floor, and another one just off the floor. Then you tie a rope and tighten it, again using a slip knotted trucker pulley knot, against the wall. You can attach to a basketball cranking device, or drill an eyebolt/anchor into the wall, one you can screw in and out if needed for when you put the eyebolt into the wall at the low floor level.

Then you simply attach from one rope to the other far wall rope, your ribbon, rope or volleyball net, again with the pulley knot to tension the top of the net across the distance being spanned.

The best part of this inexpensive system is how easy it is to adjust the net height – you simply slide it up and down the rope. When you combine it with the USA Volleyball “Four Nets on a Rope” option, you can get EIGHT nets up in a gym where one or two might have previously been used to train players. Even better, you can then lower it down a bit, and have 8 badminton training nets, and lower it further to have 8 youth tennis, pickleball or sitting volleyball nets!   This is all part of USA Volleyball’s dedicated work to grow the game for all in our sport, not just one group, and to even support other Olympic and Paralympic sports from Sitting Volleyball, to tennis, wheelchair tennis and badminton.  When the video clip on this final evolution of net options is produced, you will be able to download it right here, so if the link is not blue/hyperlinked yet, it is not finished. Plan is to have it done in August.