One of the most confusing aspects of a volleyball game for many players and spectators, is the referee’s hand signals. Today we’re going to go over the distinction between two common calls: illegal back row attack and illegal net penetration.
As you can see in the graphic, the hand signals used by the referee to indicate these two faults are very similar. The signal on the left is for illegal net penetration, which occurs when a front row player puts their hands into their opponent’s court space too soon.
In a nutshell the blockers must allow their opponents a fair chance at setting up an attack. They can’t be putting their hands over the net and interfering with the set, otherwise no one could ever complete a play. This fault occurs most often when a pass is very tight to the net and the setter is jumping up to try and intercept it.
If the setter is clearly attempting to pull the ball back into his/her court space but the opposing blocker interferes by penetrating his/her hands over the net, the over the net call will be made.
It’s important to remember that if the setter is trying to dump the ball (i.e. send it over the net on the second touch rather than set it to one of his/her hitters) then the blocker is free to put his/her hands over the net to prevent this from happening. The dump is considered an attack and the blocker can defend against it just like a hard-driven hit.
If the blocker simply jumps and keeps his/her hands parallel with the net and does not penetrate the plane of the net, they’ll be safe from this call. This is what many blockers will do because they have a chance of rattling the setter by being in his/her face but aren’t in danger of being called for illegal net penetration.
The second image is the call for an illegal back row attack, and it can signal one of several things:
All of these are instances of an illegal play by a back row player and will result in the illegal back row attack call.
The difference in hand motions should be clear if you have a good referee. The over the net call should involve very little movement; just the ref’s hand extending over the net from the side on which the fault was committed. For the back row attack call the ref should make a downward motion with his/her hand, as illustrated in the graphic.
My goal is to cover one or two common calls every Friday for the next few weeks, so if you have a ref call that’s confusing you drop a line in the comments and I’ll answer your question next week.