devo's volleyball – Australian volleyball: news and views

Net Heights

Posted by devo on July 14, 2009

Coach Michael asks:

There are three countries in the world that alter the height of the net for juniors. The US and Canada stop this at the age of 12 yrs old. Other sports such as basketball do it younger. Why does Australia continue this practice well after kids are developed enough to play by the proper rules? No other sport handicaps it’s game in such a way for kids that age. Are footy or soccer goals wider for? Are the basketball and netball rings lower? Please help me understand why our young men and women are playing an altered game at the state and national level?

Hit the comment tag and give your view. ~ You may also want to look at this devo post from 2007.

23 Responses to “Net Heights”

  1. chiefnic said

    Looking at the Devo post from 2007 reminds me that this is a very old argument but while it is old I can’t believe it hasn’t been changed at a national junior level. A lot of kids playing in the U17 teams last week play for local state league teams in an open division (read full net height) i know of a number of U17 boys who have played honors/ premier division in their local competition and a lot more who have already played for their country. All of the players in the U17 competition are capable of playing on a full net height and it doesn’t do Australian volleyball any favor having them play on such a lower net at the developmental age.

  2. Dan said

    I disagree that all Under 17’s had the capability of attacking at the full height, although I will say in the past that Under 17’s who want to play internationally need to be tested on the full height.

    Tassie had a team of young guys in Under 17 who remained competitive throughout the week, but if the net height was 243 I doubt they all would have coped as well. Most teams had one player or more in the same situation.

    However as a one time national coach, I would prefer (if I was a selector) to see kids hitting on a net that they would play on at Asian Youth or for that matter in any organised international competition.

  3. Caveman said

    This is off the subject a little, but….

    (edited by devo) You’re right – it is

  4. Alexis said

    I remember once that Eldo passionately explained to me that the reason for the lower height nets is so that juniors can play the ball at the same height above the net as elite athletes, thereby enabling them to experience what ‘real’ volleyball is like, as opposed to it being a game where you always hit the ball up and over the net. I politely replied to him that I understood the argument, it was just that I completely and utterly disagreed with him.

    Having said that……….

    Since I last had that conversation with Eldo (and believe me, I had it a few times), I’ve started to change my mind. Is the problem the net height, or the player height? Internationally players routinely play the ball 1m above the height of the net, however, they play against others who can do the same thing, not against people who can’t actually reach the top of the net!

    Maybe the solution is to relate the net height to the player height? Maybe we need to do what I believe Rugby League do (or did), and have the same size players competing against each other rather than the same age? This may help reduce the impact of the Relative Age Effect.

    Having just spent some time with national team coaches trying to account for the different net heights when assessing players of different ages, I was reminded that this has always been an issue too. But in the end, I don’t think this in itself should be a factor in deciding on the net heights.

  5. Michael said

    Okay.. players who cant dunk a basketball still play basketball on a 10FT. basket. They learn to adapt they learn to be as efficiant as they can at what they are able to do. There are plenty of opportunities for volleyball players to do the same thing. As for the elite feeling, we are talking elite athletes if its national juniors right. I hate to say it but volleyball isnt for everyone just like any other sport. lowering the net isnt doing anything to allow average players to play elite volleyball because elite volleyball has nothing to so with net hieght it has to do with the ability of the players. I am all for letting little kids be successful but at 13 or 14 years of age I think its time to expect a little more. Lowering the net does not facilitate elite level playing it facilitates false positives that lead to our athletes that actually continue to play the sport being left behind domestically and internationally. You are not doing these athletes any favors by playing on a lower net. You are allowing them to create bad habits that they can get away with until they have to be tested on the real deal. Why are we tayloring the game to a social level instead of having a true respect for the game and except it to be played like its intended. Why are australian kids any less athletic or talented than any other country? Cause thats infact what we are implying by keeping the standards and the net low so they can be successful. How about this, how about we teach them to hit, serve, and block on a regular height net and give them something to strive for if they cant do it. Instead of lowering the net and making them think they can already do it and two years later when they have to move up they dont loose every schred of confidence they had because they are not as successful anymore doing the same things they did on a smaller net. If not that, then open divisions at schools cup are standard hieght and the other divisions can play at the atlered heights. Nationals should be played a regular height. Stop hadicapping the athletes that may have a future in the sport other than schools cup by allowing them to be pacified by a lower net. No way in the world should under 17 men be playing at 2.35 absolutely rediculous. I just think your doing the kids an injustice by underestimating them. And nor are we doing anything to boost the standard orlevel of quality athletes we send abroad. Lift the bar and see what these kids can really become.

  6. mickmurphy said

    Basketball isn’t the best comparison in my opinion…

    By taking dunks out of basketball, you develop the long range shooting ability of teams, which is a great positive.

    By taking the spikes out of volleyball, you develop up and down tipping or spikes that go up and then down. I don’t think its as much of a positive.

    My comments are neither for or against the net height change, just offering a perspective on the basketball analogy.

  7. Christian Stapff said

    The argument about net height will not go away–unfortunately.

    Alexis is right in that the relative age effect does create issuesbut consider the following:

    1) Having played co-ed sixes here in Canada at 2.35 m an then playing at 2.43m it took some time to regain my ability to JUMP; a higher net will make players work on their jump–something all players should do given where the action is!

    2) wWe introduce players to play mini-volleyball at a reduced net height. Why not do this with recreational leagues, masters(aka. “Where did my jump go?”) and learners.

    3) What creates advantage for a player at a junior level is not necessarily skill but height. SO lets create leagues based on height with a division which is open to anyone; the net height can be raised but players are on a level playing field–remember a 3-4inch(7.5-10cm) height difference translates into almost double a reach difference. The open division is for anyone of any athletic ability; consider also divisions with 2-3 age cutoff’s to reduce the relative age effect further.

    A lower net height is unlikely to identify/produce athletic players capable of playing at the highest level–jumping ability is a primary skill in volleyball!

    On the non-elite side, consider if people were still playing if the net height could accommodate their lack of ability to jump and their love of the game!

  8. Ross said

    I am for putting the net height up at U/17 NJC. Having worked with Youthand Junior National team players in the girls we have struck the following problems:
    1. Tall girls who don’t or cannot jump because they have never had to on the shorter net
    2. Setters who have to go through a re-adjustment because of the net height
    3. Poor serving development because the lower net allows for a different angle of serve
    4. The need to re-adjust passing mechanics (some would say the lower net helps – I disagree)
    I don’t think any of the above points assist us in developing elite volleyball players. Often you will find that girls who are very good players at the U/17 level are passer hitters. I think that by the very nature of the game the ball is forced outside. Often these players are the mid-size mobile players who can bang the ball on the lower net. Once the net goes up these players need to be a lot smarter. This aspect of development is occuring a lot later than our competitors in Asia and consequently put us behind the eight ball.
    I get caught as to whether our game at NJC is about developing elite players or particpation. My problem is that I think its called the National Junior Championships. This means that it is by it’s very nature an elite event that identifies players who can move on to represent our country. Put the net up and use the other State and local events to develop our players.

  9. Michael said

    Even if we just change the heights at juniors most of the kids volleyball contact and training come from school ball or social comps that feature those smaller nets so it might not make a difference.

  10. michael said

    Okay.. why are australian kids incapable of doing what every other countries kids do. How does volleyball ever survive without lowering the nets in these other countries? I really think you uderestimate kids ability to adapt and overcome. I think you condem volleyball to being a 2nd tier sport by tayloring it to lower standards. Maybe if we hold our athletes and ourselves to a higher standard we would have more kids getting the opportunity to wear the green and gold and the minority then becomes the majority. It seems like coaches dont expect their kids to go anywhere in volleyball so we dont facilitate growth. The kids who have the talent already, get pushed but all the others get the net lowered for them. I believe those kids can do it too. I believe they dont need to be pacified but need to be encouraged to keep trying and train hard to get better. It is ridiculous that a non junior olympic athlete doesnt get to play on a regulation net until they are in year 12. Thats why there are so many have and have nots. How will we ever know what these kids can do if we dont push them or give them the opportunity to do it? Yes some kids wont be able to do it and believe it or not thats alright.

  11. Christian Stapff said

    Or should we say:

    “Grasshopper must learn to jump first, then play?

  12. Michael said

    I will entertain an argument about mens heights for schools but the womens height from 2.17 to 2.24, 3 inches is not even close to being an unreachable task for female athletes. National Juniors there is no argument to be had they are the elite athletes we have been talking about and they should get no such help.

  13. Christian Stapff said

    (ELDO, TO CLARIFY:I lost inches in my jump over time, so jumping lower is maybe not a good description. I suspect playing occasionally does not affetct jump and it is FUN to hit at a lower net height. I certainly loved those occasions.)

    The argument about net height perhaps deserves more analysis.

    Eldo is right in saying that there are multiple weights/ height adjustments in other sports to nurture the development of athletes
    Lighter implements for growing kids is certainly important to protect against injury or to aid skill development.
    And yes the starting bar in high jump is at 1.85 cm, but the finalist are tall and can they jump–the rare shorty has to have a jump into the stratosphere to be successful

    In the discussion, basketball was cited. If the basket was lower would the women’s game be more spectacular?
    In tennis, if the net was a little lower would we see a serve volley game like the Men have.

    We are living with rules made by folks ( a long time ago!!!) who would not have known the impact.

    It would be of interest, if a study in Motor Learning could determine the impact net height has on skill development–in my view the primary reason for a lower net height for kids. For us older folks, we could still crush the ball albeit on a lower net height.

    To close my argument:

    1)Appropriate net height for elite volleyballers–’cause the FIVB won’t lower the net for us
    2)appropriate net height for everyone else in their league/division/comp
    3)create leagues/competitions for the average volleyball nut, which restrict player height–leveling the playing field, and maybe, just maybe, we get more people playing and loving the sport; this by the way was tried by FIVB in the eighties and Indonesia won( country not known for 2m tall volleyball players!)

  14. schachty said

    Having attended some of the national juniors for the first time in about 16 years, when I last played, I was really surprised at how big the u/17 men and women looked….Until it was pointed out to me that they were playing on a lower net height. A lot of people have commented on this blog about jumping and the height above the net the kids play. For me this is a moot point as at this stage of their development the athletes need to be playing on the full net height. The critical reason for this is the the concept of reaching high to spike. I saw so many different spiking techniques over the week, ranging from really good to absolutely atrocious, even among the older age groups. It is pretty clear that the level of technical development in Australia is not where it needs to be at the junior level. Putting the net height up for the u/17 wont fix this but it will make the younger athletes have to spike from a higher point which is exactly what they need to be doing at this age. I understand that the ability for the hitters to get the ball to the right places to score is important for the teams success at this level but for me ultimately it is the way the ball gets there and how you did it that will ultimately bring success at a higher level. Poor technique always is found out at international level, it is either worked out and exploited by the opposition or breaks down under the stress of the competition. I realize I may be drawing a long bow with u/17 net height and Olympic Games but poor technique ingrained at an early age for short term success is really hard to change as athletes get older and move through the ranks…..

  15. Jye said

    Off-topic question, but could anyone tell me the height of the antenna on an A grade mens net?

  16. There are a lot of good arguments here, and I can’t say that I have an opinion either way… but I will say that when I was at the age where I was playing juniors on a lower net and state league on the mens net, I wasn’t really worries by the higher net, I just knew I needed to reach a little higher, and my game on the low net became much more agressive when I realised how much easier it was.

    I don’t think that my power game would have developed as fast if I had ever needed to hit upwards, which I would have needed to do if I had started out on a mens net in under 15 boys.

    So, is it more important to teach the power game early, or is it better to teach young kids to hit line rolls, cut shots and dinks… I think I could write a convincing argument for either side.

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