Although volleyball is the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer (football if you’re from anywhere but America), there are a lot of misconceptions about the game and how it’s played. These are some of my favorite volleyball myths, and the truth behind them.
1. Volleyball isn’t all that complicated.
Football/soccer, rugby and American football are played on huge fields, basketball takes up an entire gym and hockey players have a massive ice rink. Compared to these sports, a volleyball court seems pretty small. Even though there are only six players covering the entire court, some people still assume that it’s a simple game without the complex plays that we see in soccer, football, basketball, etc.
In reality volleyball (when played at a reasonably high level) is an intricate game that includes on-the-fly specialty plays and multiple configurations of players based on skills, opponents and situations. Sure the sand game that you played at your company picnic may not seem very complicated, but drop in at your local college game sometime and try to follow one single player during the course of a rally. Chances are you’ll be surprised at how much is going on.
2. You can’t play volleyball if you’re not tall.
As a short player I’ve always taken offense to this statement, even before the libero (a specialized defensive position) was around. I’m sure basketball players get the same kind of assumptions; when you walk into a gym you and your team get sized up (literally) right away, and if you’re not hovering around the 6 foot mark chances are you won’t be considered a threat.
Short volleyball players may not have the opportunity to be superstars at the professional level, at least not yet, but they can certainly hold their own. Volleyball players that aren’t genetically gifted with height can still work on their vertical jump and do their part to block and hit on the front row. They can also specialize at an early age and become liberos, a position that is becoming increasingly valued at high levels of indoor volleyball.
3. Volleyball is easy. Just watch me set this.
One of my favorite things about volleyball is how accessible it is to people at pretty much any age and skill level. Even if you never played college or high school volleyball you can pick up the game, improve your skills and enjoy playing relatively quickly. However, that doesn’t mean that volleyball isn’t a difficult sport. It requires lots of practice to be able to pass, set, serve and hit a volleyball well, and there are strict rules governing the ways that you are allowed to contact a ball.
So by all means, go ahead and grab a volleyball and start messing around. Check out the resources for beginning players on this site and around the Internet. This is a great game that you can play for decades. Just don’t assume that it’s easy and that you’re suddenly Phil Dalhausser or Kerri Walsh because you hit the ball really hard. Speaking of which …
4. Hitting the ball hard means you’re good
Sigh. So many new players assume that if they just haul off and smack the volleyball with as much force as they can muster it makes them an intimidating hitter or server. My friends, that is not true. If you are a good hitter who can combine accuracy with power, then you will be feared. But players who just swing for the heck of it aren’t scary. What they are is a source of free points for the other team because 99% of their hits and serves will go out of bounds.
Think about a baseball player who can swing the bat really fast, but doesn’t know how to time his swing so that he makes contact with the baseball at the right time. If he’s lucky he might hit a few foul balls, but mostly he’s going to whiff every time. Not scary, no matter how awesome his swing is. Same thing with volleyball.
5. Falling on the ground means you’re a good passer
I’ve seen so many players who are suddenly on the ground every time the ball comes in their direction. They seem to think that a dramatic dive or flail, even if they miss the ball completely, makes them look like they’re trying harder than everyone else. You know what does make you a good passer? Passing the ball to your setter. That’s all it takes.
Let me be clear, I spend my fair share of time picking myself up off the court and I’m a big fan of spectacular defensive volleyball plays. But dives, rolls, spins and falls should be our last resorts; they’re the things we use when all else has failed and the choice is dive or let the ball hit the ground.Don’t look for opportunities to hit the floor, because usually it hits back.
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