By Karina Rajtar
College volleyball fans may notice some changes in the game next year.
The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has implemented three key rule changes, effective at the start of the 2008 season.
Read more... Games will now be played to 25 points instead of 30, ball handling calls will be more lenient, and teams will only have 12 substitutions, as opposed to the current 15. These changes are intended to increase intensity and reduce stoppages due to imperfect ball contacts.
Saint Mary’s University head volleyball coach Mike Lester, along with most Division II and Division III coaches, disagrees with the changes, as they will limit playing opportunities for the student-athletes. “People want to play,” said Lester, who maintains that one of the basic premises of Division III athletics is to provide students with chances to play and improve. Removing five points from each game will cut the season by 16.7 percent.
Lester does not believe that removing points will change the intensity during a game. “There is just as much excitement at point 15 as point 30,” Lester said. He does believe that many coaches will need to change their timeout strategies, by taking timeouts earlier and not always allowing their teams to play through rough patches.
The change that will likely have the biggest impact during matches is the one concerning ball handling calls. This rule will prevent officials from stopping play for an imperfect set or contact. Only the most obvious lifts and double-touches will be called. As this is still a very subjective part of the game, Lester is “interested to see how [the officials will] interpret the rule.”
The decrease in substitutions will affect how many players will have a chance to play in any given game. Although the proportion of substitutions to game length will not change much, Lester said that it would have a psychological impact on the team’s players.
What concerns Lester the most is the process the NCAA took to pass the new rules. Although the majority of coaches and a third of the officials were against the changes, they were still passed. Lester also notes that the ones who will be most impacted, the student-athletes, were not surveyed on a national level. However, a group of coaches within the MIAC informally polled their current student athletes and found that approximately 80 percent opposed the new rules.
Despite his concerns, Lester remains optimistic. “Hopefully it makes the game better,” Lester said. “Whatever the rules are, we’re going to step on the floor and play.”