If you haven’t already heard, the FIVB sent a letter to all Federations a couple of days ago telling them about some fairly big rule changes on the Beach Volleyball circuit for season 2014. The two that are causing the most controversy are the three touches after the block change and the introduction of overhead service reception to beach volleyball.
Overhand reception rule change
I understand that this will only be tested at junior level (U/21 and U/23), so it won’t effect the World Tour, but it’s quite possible that if the tests are deemed successful, (by whichever criteria they are being measured) then they will be adopted to the World Tour rules book for 2015 and beyond.
I think this rule change will have two effects. Firstly, it will probably increase side out percentages by improving the first reception, therefore reducing the number of rallies in a match. We may also see teams being forced to take more risk on service leading to a higher percentage or errors, which again, will make for less volleyball actually being played.
Three touches after the block
This rule is also taken from the indoor game. Teams will have three touches after a ball has touched the block. We have been training with this rule since we heard the news on Tuesday, and to me it takes a lot of the best plays out of the game. We won’t be seeing defenders diving to make a set any more. We won’t be seeing blockers touch a ball and then land to make a great set for their partner, which I always thought was one of the most challenging situations in the game. Now everything slows right down after the block touch. Naturally the set is a lot better and the ball is usually put away. End of rally.
Again I think that this rule will shorten rallies and make the game less exciting. It also widens the divide between the taller players and the smaller players. With the old rules, a line shot that gets touched off a block will usually come back, but it is often with a poor set and a weak attack which makes for an interesting and longer rally, giving the smaller teams a better chance. With the new three touch rule this situation will usually end in standard dig/set/spike situation. In fact I think it is safe to say that unless someone makes a bad pass, every play in beach volleyball will now be a standard dig/set/spike situation.
Having said that, I have heard a few different opinions about this rule. Different players have different feelings, some say that a block touch should be rewarded, but I think they all agree it takes something away from the game.
Why are the rules of Beach Volleyball changing?
The question that I am hearing being asked most about these changes is “What is the FIVB trying to achieve?”.
I have to admit, I am getting mixed messages about the answer. At the players meeting in the world champs, the marketing guy came out to tell everybody that beach volleyball in it’s present state was not interesting enough to attract enough fans. He asked the players if they had any ideas to make it more interesting. After the meeting I spoke to him and he clarified that he felt that only the last few points in a close set were interesting enough. I guess this line of thinking is where the idea for the Monpellier experiment came from. This event was just before the World Champs and was played with each match best of 5 sets to 11 points. You can see the results here. This format was not repeated.
On the other hand, according to some sources there are suggestions that the changes come more from the personal views of FIVB president, Ary Graça. Last year I heard about a TV interview where he explained his views. I never found the video, but the transcript showed up on Facebook a few times recently.
Take from it what you will, and I make no claims as to the authenticity or to the quality of the translation from Purtuguese. It may shed some light on the many changes to the FIVB World Tour of Breach Volleyball that we have seen in the last couple of seasons.
Here is an interview that Ary gave to one of our Sport tv shows Sep, 2012… I’ll do my best to translate what he says…
HOST: … Let’s start talking about Beach Volleyball. Talk about these possible changes that you want to implement…
ARY: If we compare indoor and outdoor, why are there any differences between them? It’s a problem generated in the past. Beach volleyball, even though was all developed in Brazil, be in the Olympics because of Brazil, all the rules came from a “pirate” (expression we use for unofficial, unorganized, fake things and organizations) organization that they have in the United States called AVP. This organization influenced by its players, created their own rules, American rules. These rules aren’t ours. Us here in Brazil, we play totally different. So there in no sense, volleyball is one thing, you can play on the sand or you can play indoors. For marketing purposes, there is no sense for you to make two different sets of rules for the same sport. When you go to the beach to play a little volleyball, are you going to play with 9m or 8m court dimension? Are you going to play with 3 touches or 4 touches when the ball hits the block? We are not two disciplines.
HOST: The goal is to approximate the sand to the indoor?
ARY: So the immediate response would be yes. We will try to approximate as much as possible one to another. So true that now it was already approved at a congress, the rule that indoor you cannot do that crazy set (and/or overhand dig/pass) anymore. That used to be that in the first contact everything goes.
HOST: When it was free to do whatever on the first touch…
ARY: Now u have to “set” right. Just like at the beach they set right. On the other hand, at the beach, you have that shame of holding on to the ball and then playing it. It’s a lift! And that rule is American, in English says “touch the ball, not carry the ball”. So “touch the ball” is to touch/set the ball, you understand? And indoor, the set is beautiful, you know that, you played quite well (laughs, bc the host was a good player back then). And you know that the set indoor is pretty. You cannot have that horrible set on the ball, then it’s Handball. So those are the rules, for example, the touch of the ball on the block. Why in one place there are 3 touches after it hits the block and in another place it doesn’t count?
HOST: Just to explain, at the beach, when there’s a touch on the block, it counts as a touch, then they set and has to put the ball to the other side, counting 3 touches… Indoors, this touch is neutral, then they keep having 3 touches after the block. So you want to make the same rules also?
ARY: It must be the same rules. And when they changed the courts to 8m, it was with the intention to have more rallies, it was a marketing strategy. Hands on, what happened? The rallies did not get better and it became different from indoor. So in Copacabana Beach you see courts with 8m, 9m… In other words, it creates a confusion on the fans.
HOST: Isn’t that about adaptation also? I ask this to you for this reason: coincidentally i have some friends that play Beach Voleyball, and i asked this question to them; why “set” the ball from the chest and not from up here, they let the ball drops tons. The explained to me like this: first of all, environmental conditions, the ball comes with sand and etc and when you touch it up here, the sand can come in the eyes, they wear sunglasses, so they are ok. But it’s uncomfortable, the balls becomes slippery you lose control… SO they let the ball drop towards the chest to not lose control. Is that an adaption to the present situation of the sport then, for the fact that there is sand there, doesnt become more difficult to perform this “set”?
ARY: Well, that was how they justified, the bad players. Of course!..
Then the interview gets cutt off of it actually ends, unfortunately.