Doug Beal with USA Men’s coach John Speraw at the 2016 Rio Olympics after USA’s quarter-final win against Poland.
I haven’t written for a while but thought I’d share some notes I received from an old boss. The background: In the year following the 2000 Olympics, the Japan Volleyball Association organised a coaching conference which included Julio Velasco, Doug Beal and Joop Alberda. From Velasco’s opening remarks the conference seems to have been borne out of a need for Japanese men’s volleyball coaches to get some exposure to foreign innovative ideas from coaches with more recent success.
Rally point scoring, the service let rule and the libero rule had only been around for 2 years and players/coaches/teams were still trying to work it out. Back then these were Doug Beal’s observations of the then-modern volleyball. How many of these rules still apply now?
The Golden rules of modern volleyball
When two teams (high level) of the same or similar standard play, some of the following “Golden Rules” will decide the outcome of the match
1. The rule of Libero + 1
The best teams have at least one of their outside hitters that is a very good passer. The player is on the court to pass first and must be able to pass at 65% perfect. The other skills are only a complement to his contribution as a passer. This rule assumes that the libero is a very good passer. This player generally receives serve along with the libero in a 2-man receive formation on non-jump serves.
2. The ability to sideout rule
The team that wins will side out more often on less-than-perfect passes. If one team cannot win “the perfect passing battle” by having at least a 10% higher perfect passing the ability to side out from non-perfect passes will often determine the result.
3. The rule of 1 to 3
The team than wins will have a service ace to error ratio of approximately 1 to 3. Very few teams lose as a result of service errors alone. Team rarely win if they have few service errors along with few aces. Aggressive serving combined with as acceptable error ratio is the best formula. It is not possible to underestimate the impact of serving on today’s game. This ratio can change dependent on the sideout percentage. The higher the sideout percentage the greater the increase in ace/error ratio.
4. The rule of errors
Opponent errors is highly correlated with winning. Opponent errors is defined as a total of:
- Attack errors by the opponent
- Service errors by the opponent
- Ball handling errors by the opponent
- Rules violations by the opponent
The team that wins will score more points from opponent errors than they give up
5. The ‘have 3 bombers’ rule
The team that wins will have a minimum of 3 servers that are legitimate point scoring threats
6. The ‘have 2 terminators’ rule
The team that wins have at least 2 attackers that can kill the ball from poor reception and counter attack situations. Most sets from poor reception and defence should go to these 2 hitters. Most often an outside and the opposite.
7. The ‘carpet sweeper’ rule
The team whose libero passes most balls will likely win. The best teams have liberos who pass 50% or more of all passes.
8. The ‘attack from the middle back’ rule
The best teams are able to sustain a constant threat from position 6. This threat is apparent in all 6 rotations whether serve receive or transition
9. The ‘long-D’ rule
The best teams can kill the ball when set to zone 1 from the left of centre and deeper than 3m line. You need the player to kill this ball (good opposite hitter)
10. The 3 rules defining setters
Setters will contribute to winning most in the 3 following ways
- Set very accurately, and quickly to the sidelines from perfect pass
- Set the quick from a wide range from less than perfect pass
- Contribution the setter makes to point scoring (serving, blocking and attacking)
11. The rule of kill percentage
A team kill percentage of 55% almost always wins. A low error percentage wins most sets.
12. The rule of patience
There are just as many lead changes in rally scoring as there was in old scoring based on the number of rotations played. The team that wins demonstrates patience regardless of the score.
13. The ‘in-a-row’ rule
A team’s ability to score consecutive sideouts and/or consecutive points is highly correlated with winning. If you give up 3 points in a row just once in a set you have reduced to 50% your chance to win that set.