A Case for the Two Point Play

by Orest Stanko

The Federation Internationale de Volleyball’s (FIVB) latest tinkering with the rules of volleyball has done nothing to make the game more exciting.  And, it’s nothing new.  Net violations of any kind are once again not to be tolerated.  WAHOO!  The officials will be afforded the opportunity to pucker-up and blow their whistle more frequently.  How does this make the game more exciting?  In actual fact this rule change promotes “over-officiating”.  Now won’t that be exhilarating?!  For the record, “over-officiating” does not equal “poor officiating”.  My 18U boys’ team has a tournament in a couple of weeks so I have to cover my ass.

Rather than reinstating a previous rule what the FIVB should be doing is evaluating potential innovations that could make the game more exciting rally point scoring, which was implemented in 1999, notwithstanding.  Other sports have found ways to inject more excitement and specifically on offense.

  • The NBA introduced the 3-point arc which has had a dramatic impact on the game…see Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. At different times the NBA has even looked at moving the rim up to 11 feet from the current 10. Not likely to ever happen.
  • The NFL, a tortoise when it comes to rule changes let alone establishing ethical standards, adopted the 2 point conversion. Given the behemoth-like size of the athletes the NFL should look to the CFL and adopt a larger field. But that’s the stuff of another dialogue.
  • The NHL implemented a 3 on 3 overtime format with what to date has been resounding success.
  • FIFA…well, nothing at the moment. Too busy trying to resolve the Sepp dilemma and internal corruption in general. Eliminating the drama on the field with respect to what are often phantom fouls would be a good start.
  • The World Darts Federation recently eliminated the cap on beer consumption at major competitions and especially in the UK…actually, I’m making this one up. There never was and never will be a cap.

A banner for the Spikes volleyball program

Very few individuals today remember the International Volleyball Association (IVA). The IVA was a fledgling, short lived, co-ed professional volleyball league that operated in the United States from 1975 to 1980. It was one of the few examples of a professional sports league where men and women competed on the same teams. Canada’s Olympic bobsled champion Kailie Humphries would like that. However, the IVA’s most dramatic distinction featured the ultimate in specialization, i.e., no rotation. Athletes could play the same position all of the time. Teams merely had to submit a service rotation order at the outset of the match and always have a minimum of two (2) women on the court. For example, if you were a middle hitter/blocker, after you served you would hustle to your designated position at the net.

The IVA attracted many international stars including Canadian players such as Garth Pischke, Peter Stefaniuk, Debbie Vitt and many more. The late NBA Hall-of-Famer Wilt Chamberlain was the star attraction for the Seattle Smashers. In 1978, I was briefly employed by the El Paso/Juarez Sol franchise (Pischke’s team). Home matches often featured a special promotion, 25 cent beer night. If you brought ten bucks to the match you could afford to buy rounds. Only in America!

This brings me to my brainstorm regarding how to inject more excitement into volleyball, at least to the indoor variety. The two (2) point play. So how does one score or award two (2) points? I think there might be a couple of very plausible options:

  1. A back-row scoring attack where the player jumps and lands behind the 3M line. Given the size and athleticism of today’s players the 3M line doesn’t represent much of a challenge.
  2. An outright or “clean” ace. The ball hits the court without having been touched by the receiving team. There might be merit in considering awarding two (2) points in any ace situation, even if the player touches the ball but the pass is mishandled.

Consider a scenario where a team is receiving serve down 24-22. There would be an opportunity to run a 2 point play to tie the set. More compelling would be a situation where a team is losing 24-21. At an elite level a difficult position from which to mount a comeback and win the set. A successful two (2) point attack could be followed by an ace serve. The tide has turned and the team surges into the lead. Teams would be motivated to take risks. Wouldn’t that be exciting?

By the way, if the FIVB elects to experiment with this format remember where you heard it first.