June 18, 2024

NCAA Changes the Rules of Volleyball 

Emily Shneider 24'

Photo Courtesy of Volleyball team

This year, the NCAA announced a rule change for volleyball. Now, in a single attempt, a player can have double contact on the ball. If the double contacted ball goes over the net, they lose the point. But now, if the player can set up another teammate for contact after a double contact, there is no penalty. Previously, that same maneuver resulted in a loss of the point. NCAA Volleyball coaches were asked to vote on this issue, and the rules committee thoroughly debated the issue before officially changing the rule. This rule change mostly affects players in the setter position, as they typically have the second contact in any given play. 

Imagine you have been training to be a collegiate volleyball player for ten years. Your coaches have been pushing you, you are conditioning yourself in the off season, you practice with a specialized ball for your position, and you are working harder than anyone else to reach your goal of being a setter in college. There are things that you are not allowed to do as a setter, and you work extra hard to break the habit of having double contacts, as you don’t want to lose your team a point for that. 

 But as soon as you get recruited and make it to a competitive college team, the rules change. You are now allowed to double contact the ball even though you have worked so hard to break that habit. You will compete against other setters who have not worked as hard as you, yet your team will not gain points for their double contacts.  The ‘better’ setter is now equal to the setter who has been lazier than you. Your efforts are in vain. 

The NCAA deliberated this issue for some time and concluded it was a necessary change for the game, despite the obvious point that setters who had been training not to double contact the ball are not being rewarded for doing so. A reason that the committee listed for changing this double contact rule was their belief that it would “promote the continuation of play, which would make the game more entertaining for the players and fans.” Speaking as a former collegiate volleyball player, my question is this: do we play for the entertainment of the fans? Certainly, entertainment is a piece of the puzzle for players, but since when should college sports cater to the spectators? I played for excellence and to glorify God with my skill set. You are trained as an athlete to not pay attention to the crowd during a game, so why should the rules suit the entertainment of the crowd? 

One reason in favor of the rule change is that it will make the game more consistent. With referees having subjectivity over what constitutes a double contact, it can be frustrating when a player disagrees with that call. Despite not having to worry about silly subjective calls from referees, there is still an entire skill component that gets taken away from the game. Where there might not be notable change to the game play itself due to the evidence that it would only change a small number of calls, the general consensus and worry among players is that this change “could nullify the setter position entirely” (USA Today). 

This rule change threatens the setter position and all collegiate volleyball players who have worked to obtain excellence in their position. A rule change surrounding the jewelry allowed on the court is one thing, but a rule change that compromises the integrity of the sport of volleyball is another entirely. 

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