Is it time for video reviews in college volleyball?
|Washington and Nebraska players plead their respective cases to the referee|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
When we were coaching, we learned a drill that made players howl.
During intense training scrimmages, we’d intentionally call a ball hit outside the lines as in, or vice versa. “No fair!” they’d scream.
Fairness is a pretty big deal for high school girls. Playing time. Equal treatment. Equal opportunity. But during an actual volleyball match, injustices can’t be debated. Bad calls happen. Deal with it and move on.
During Washington’s wrenching 3-1 NCAA Tournament loss to Nebraska, two questionable line calls--one on a serve, one on an attack--probably cost the Huskies the fourth set and, perhaps, the match. Now--and for perhaps years to come--it’s fans who are howling about injustice.
Here’s our take.
IN VOLLEYBALL, BAD CALLS USUALLY EVEN OUT
Back in 2010, Washington beat Nebraska 3-1 in another dramatic Sweet 16 match in Seattle. Cornhuskers fans still grouse about a controversial line call, late in the fourth set, that may or may not have been wrong.
What those fans conveniently overlook was another call, just a few players earlier, that went Nebraska’s way. Replays showed that Washington should have been awarded that point.
We call it the red light phenomenon. Drive down a busy street, and you’ll surely notice whenever the traffic light turns red, adding time and frustration to your commute. Green lights are barely noticed, and quickly forgotten. By the time you’re off that street, you’ll swear you hit just about every red light, even if (as is usually the case), the red/green ratio was closer to 50/50. And even if it didn’t balance that day, over time, it does.
We’ve coached, played, watched and reported on thousands of volleyball matches in our careers, and barely a game goes by when we don’t comment, “That was a bad call. But that other bad call went the other way, didn’t it?”
BAD CALLS SHOULDN’T HURT GOOD TEAMS
You hear it from nearly every coach in nearly every sport: “We might have gotten some questionable calls tonight, but we shouldn’t have let the score get close enough that a bad call cost us the game.”
IN D1 VOLLEYBALL, OFFICIALS ARE SCRUTINIZED
At every Pac-12 match, observers meet with officials before and afterwaeds to clarify expectations and critique performances. During NCAA Tournament matches, one or more “evaluators” sit in the arena and prepare detailed notes on the four officials’ performances. After the match, both head coaches are asked to fill out an officials evaluation form.
Officials selected for the first two rounds of the tournament are chosen by an NCAA committee from a list of nominations submitted by conferences around the country. Performance evaluations from earlier rounds are a major consideration when assignments are made for subsequent rounds.
THE TIME HAS COME TO EXPERIMENT WITH VIDEO REVIEWS
These days, nearly every big-time sport has adopted some form of video review of certain calls. Such reviews are already in place for indoor volleyball at some major televised international competitions, like this year’s World Championships. It’s high time that major college volleyball conferences experiment with their own version.
Because one of volleyball’s strengths is the uninterrupted action--and building tension--toward the end of close sets, video reviews should be rare. We’d suggest that each coach gets no more than two challenges per match.
THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING ONE’S COOL
Our intentional bad call drill was meant to teach athletes to focus on the things they control, and ignore those they don’t. Great volleyball players concentrate only on the current point, and quickly forget that point once it’s over.
So, too, great coaches tend to mellow as their careers grow long. USC’s Mick Haley, Cal’s Rich Feller, and former UCLA head man Andy Banakowski are just three examples of coaches who readily admit they used to get far too animated by bad calls. A good coach has every right to approach the R2 (the down official at the net) for a clarification or even a brief complaint, but, in volleyball, the game should go on. If a coach loses his cool, his team is sure to follow.
Your turn. What do you think?