Officiating and Rules Questions

QUESTION: Wondering if you can tell me, "why we (USAV) change the rulebook and don't use the FIVB rules flat out? Who makes that decision?" 

ANSWER: There are two major reasons. 

We print the FIVB rules in our Domestic Competition Regulations (rule book) but we also print USAV modifications based on safety and development.  As it states on page ix, "USA Volleyball recognizes that there are circumstances where grassroots development, sport development, safety or insurance requirements would indicate a need for a temporary rule modification (e.g. the number of substitutions might be expanded to include more participants at a school or recreational level)." 

In addition, the United States is one of very few countries that have a school based, rather than club based, system for developmental play (scholastic and collegiate play).  No other country has other entities such as the NCAA and the NFHS that write sport rules for their constituents.  While these three groups communicate and work together, they have different perceived needs which result in rule differences.

QUESTION: Where is the rule that states a kick ball is now legal. Does it go into specifics about requiring the foot to remain on the ground or is it ok to actually kick the leg off the ground to reach a ball? Thanks.

ANSWER: Ever since the doubles game was created, digging with your whole body has been permitted.  In 1993, taking that same idea into indoors, contact below the waist in the indoor game was permitted around the world, from the Olympics on down – except in serving.

The intent is to increase the chances to save the ball, with a kick or leg dig or whatever the player can save. 

In the official rule book it states that "the ball may touch any part of the body." (In the past players were not allowed to play with the foot or leg.) As for the kick of the leg off the ground, any contact is legal unless it's (A) a double on the 2nd or 3rd hit, or (B) a prolonged contact on any hit.   

QUESTION: Can the action of blocking the ball include bending the wrists and directing the ball downwards?  Our ref says ‘no” because doing so makes the contact an attack, so if you do it totally in the opponent’s space it is illegal per 13.3.1.  I say “yes’, one can bend the wrists and/or direct that ball downwards during a block so long as 9.2.2 and 9.2.3 are obeyed.  Furthermore, a block is a block, and 13.1.1 excludes blocks (and serves) from attacks.

ANSWER: This is called a directional block and is permitted provided the ball does not come to rest (caught) or there is finger action involved that can result in a double contact.  A block is when a defending player reaches higher than the net to prevent the opponent from directing the ball into the defensive team's court.

QUESTION:  I had heard one person mention ending hand setting at the U10 and U12 level in Florida.  I have not heard of any plan to do so at the NCAA or any other level.  I will say the USAV Beach is adamantly against any such proposal that is geared toward teaching a modified version of the game.  With that said, “deep dishing” or what is technically called a held ball is not permitted by FIVB or USAV rules.  The FIVB has gone so far as to interpret this rule as absolutely no downward motion during a hand set, so the deep dish is virtually gone from the international game. The NCAA is adapting USAV rules for the most part, so “deep dishing” will not be allowed.  It would be a real shame and a disservice to the athletes if well executed hand setting were not allowed. 

ANSWER: This year the FIVB was very active in managing/revising judgment of hand setting... but never with the idea of eliminating it!

Current interpretations ARE leaning toward allowing more "loose" interpretation of double hits, and more "strict" interpretation of held-ball faults. I wish I could "explain" it all easily, but these topics defy accurate verbal description: each of us brings our own mental video clips, each different, to any discussion. For our group to move forward, we need to train together, on court, with real players and real ball handling. Video can be of use, but is generally not of sufficient resolution, etc., to really get the job done.

With that said, this year, three general categories of held ball faults were identified, and targeted for more stringent scrutiny by FIVB officials: 

  • Stopped ball (that visibly comes to rest, regardless of location)
  • In/out balls that are over-controlled during both phases of the setting action 
  • Extended duration (whether in single direction, or in strictly illegal re-direction)

 Note that these phrases all remind us of the catch-all phrase "deep dish" yet each is distinct, and none refers directly to the actual position of the ball relative to the player's body position.  I infer (from your conversation) that this idea of eliminating hand-setting for younger players might. 

I infer (from your conversation) that this idea of eliminating hand-setting for younger players might be an outgrowth of what I like to think of as the "ground rule phenomenon."

Ground rules are useful to tournaments and directors in many circumstances. Most often, ground rules are used to keep tournaments moving on time or to avoid arguments among players when trained officials are not present. Commonly employed ground rules include point caps, "no open hand serve receive" and "no contact of net at any time (aka "continuation rule").

Some ground rules are employed in an attempt to simplify the game for younger players. Moving in the service line, playing with a lighter ball, etc. Maybe this discussion of eliminating hand-setting was a similar idea? IN any case, I disagree with manipulating the rules for developmental play. Kids surprise us every year with their ability to "do things" that we never thought they could.  I say "show 'em the real game, and let 'em go at it!"

Ground Rules ARE useful... but this year in particular, they have really caused our organization some trouble. Each region or beach or neighborhood or league wants to design their own ground rules. Obviously, this fails when teams move out of region, or to "larger" competition. With the demise of the AVP and its structured officiating corp., we saw a LOT of this sort of difficulty this year in adult semi/pro competition.

I have been proposing this season that we work very hard in all venues nationwide to address this issue:

  • Try to avoid utilizing ground rules except when truly necessary
  • Work to "educate" everyone about the differences between ground-rule and the "real" rules
  • Be very clear to indicate that any ground rules used in an event are "exceptions" to the regular Rules.

Last thought: I disagree that "deep dish setting comes from the beach." Bad setting is just that; bad setting. Deep dish is one form, and it's one that is useful to players because it allows a greater level of ball control. Good coaching and good officiating is the answer to the problem. An argument can be made that outdoor volleyball has historically been less carefully managed, but I think that in recent years, "beach" has made great strides towards bringing professional coaching and officiating to the game!