Catching up with rule changes has become just another part of the preseason ritual. This year, some significant changes make their way to the FIVB beach volleyball age-group championships and the NCAA women’s game.
On the beach, the FIVB has decided to experiment with making the block not count as a touch. Originally, they planned to test this change on the senior world tour, but a few weeks later recanted and announced they would instead test the rule at the U23 and U21 World Championships in Myslowice, Poland, June 10-15, and Porto, Portugal, June 22-27, respectively. The official language of the new rule 14.4.1 is as follows:
A block contact is not counted as a team hit. Consequently, after a block contact, a team is entitled to three hits to return the ball.
In addition, at the U17 and U19 Word Championships in Acapulco, Mexico, July 15-20, and Porto, Portugal, July 29-Aug. 3, respectively, the FIVB will test out the use of overhand reception of the first ball. This means disregarding rule 18.104.22.168 that is currently in place and reads:
At the first hit of the team, unless it is played overhand using fingers, the ball may contact various parts of the body consecutively, provided that the contacts occur during one action.
These changes are part of a long-term goal to make beach volleyball and indoor volleyball more similar (leading Casey Patterson to joke that he might show up to the first tournament with knee pads and shoes on). The FIVB plans to analyze and collect data from video of the age-group tournament matches to see what impact the changes have on the game, the results of which they will present to a group of FIVB experts and eventually the FIVB World Congress in late October. Testing these changes this year, they say, leaves enough time for players to adjust to whatever final ruling they decide on before the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
These possibly permanent changes to the sport angered many members of the beach volleyball community, especially when it was first announced that they would be tested on the senior world tour. Holly McPeak expressed her frustration on Facebook, saying, “Overhand passing? I give up.” Ryan Doherty wrote a whole blog post to address the subject, declaring he didn’t so much mind the blocking rule, but really didn’t want the overhand receive to catch on. “Even though it would be in my best interest (as a guy that struggles with passing float serves), it just turns into a sloppier game when you can run up to the 10-foot line and pop everything up with your fingers,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the NCAA has made yet another change to their fluid set of net violation rules in the women’s game. In an article on its website, the NCAA described the new ruling thus: “A player will not be called for a violation if she touches the net, ropes or post outside of the antennae as long as it doesn’t interfere with play or is used as a means of support while playing the ball.” This change was made in an attempt to bring NCAA women’s play up to speed with other levels of competition.
Originally published in May 2014