devo's volleyball – Australian volleyball: news and views

‘golden formula’

Posted by markleb on November 6, 2009

The World Club Championships is being right now in Qatar using the experimental ‘Golden Formula’ which demands that the first attack after reception must be from the backrow.  I haven’t seen any of the games but I have read the first review of the ‘new’ rules.  The review was written by well known international coach Roberto Serniotti on the site  It is entitled ‘The Golden Formula? For me it is horrible’.  You can read the original here.  Here is a quick ‘translation’ of his main points.

  • The middle blockers are virtually completed excluded from the attack.  In one match Trento played one quick attack in five sets.
  • The load for the outside hitters and opposites will increase, not just in matches but also in training, leading to much greater risk of injury.
  • The variation in first attack is virtually non existent.  Most attacks are either forward or back.  The pipe is no longer a factor as it loses much of its context without the quick attack (most pipes in the tournament are facing a triple block).
  • There is no reason to pass the ball close to the net so the technical level of the game will diminish.
  • Tactics become much simpler as there is little possible variation.
  • The role of the setter will decrease.  The setting skills in using the first tempo in relationship to outside attacks to control the block will virtually disappear.
  • The rallies don’t get longer. The average rally is 6 seconds.
  • These are some of the consequences for high level men’s volleyball.  What will happen to junior volleyball or women’s volleyball?  Will we reach the stage where different levels of volleyball have different rules?

50 Responses to “‘golden formula’”

  1. Big Ren said

    Brutal rule change which should not have been introduced at this tournament. The highest level teams in the world have been unable to train with these rules, therefore will probably struggle with them. After reading all the coaches comments, they havent been able to prepare due to their own seasons being in full swing.

    What you have to ask is “Should i even have a libero on the court?” If you have a back row setter and libero this leaves you one option – the pipe. Having the old rules and having a middle hit out of 5 would be more beneficial in this golden formula….. but how many middles have the defense or passing to do this though.

    I really hope this rule does not fly and that the surprise and variation in attack continues.

    • markleb said

      The rule says that the attack has to be from the backrow. It does not say the attacker must be a backrow player. There is still a place for a libero.

  2. Golden Formula FAIL!

    The role of passers. setters and middles diminish, and wait for it, “The rallies don’t get longer. The average rally is 6 seconds.”


    this is ridiculous!

  3. But seriously, this is what we would expect when no one has had time to prepare for it. Give it some time and someone will crack it:

    – They’ll find a way to get an advantage and whatever it is, it will involve a high level execution of skill.
    – They’ll find uses for middles, setters and accurate passing. might not be what we think of as conventional volleyball, but a smart coach will work out a way to use all six players on a court. so their roles won’t be diminished for long

    But if the rallies aren’t longer now, they won’t be later

    • Whosin said

      You really need to get all the facts right, teams have known about this since early on this year. Devo posted something about this topic ages ago.

      • The Chief said

        It think Hugh was referring to all of the Coaches comments about not having enough time to prepare for the new rules in this one off tournament because they have other leagues that they play in that don’t use the ‘Goldern formula’.

        Best place for coaches reaction is the link down under ‘World Club Champs underway’

    • markleb said

      Personally, I can’t really think of anything that coaches, however smart, can do to. One mention is that the pipe will become a first tempo attack. But this is a very difficult attack (people have tried it every now and again for at least 20 years) and I’m not sure that middle blockers would even be utilised for it.
      What I’m sure would happen is that the balance in offence with change from speed to power. So faster, skilled (ie smaller) outsides and opposites would disappear and big bangers would take their place.
      But Hugh is 100% right. If rallies aren’t longer now, they won’t be later.

  4. ScottL said

    I hope this rule doesn’t filter down to lower levels, especially to a Junior level. Some teams stuggle to hit standard outside ball, and they certainly won’t cope with these new rules.

    To the FIVB, good experiment, but I don’t like it, and it is not practical. Keep trying to come up with the better solution, because this isn’t it.

  5. Batesy said

    Yeah, thumbs down from me for pretty all the reasons listed above.

  6. Dinosaur said

    Forward thinking and moving with the times is one thing….These changes are another.

    The bit I hate is that there is no skill in service reception. Just be safe and pass it off the net…..Which leads to the fact that there is no use serving tough and doing more errors (free points) So just get the serve in…..There goes the art/athleticism of the big jump serve

    Going backwards if you ask me!

  7. Ben Hardy said

    Watching some of the action on T.V. I have a couple of different ideas about this formula. Having potentially 5 hitters back row doesnt work at you must have 5 people approaching to attack in 9 metres and its too crowded. Ok maybe the attack as we know it passes to the 3 metre line but it will be more difficult to execute and won’t be as effective. There is less angle for the middles to hit on side/out so its easier for the block than the current situation. Plus other factors with reception precision.
    The setter will have to be skilled the same as now. I can see something like the libero becoming a specialist backrow hitter and doesn’t recieve. Middles exist only in the history books. Most of the teams are not prepared for this tournament and it shows with the middle becoming block only. With these rules they will have to pass again there skill set will change under these rules.
    Just a couple of ideas.

    • Dreamer said

      They are some great ideas!

      Perhaps this will reduce the specialization in the current game at the top level and require more all-round skilled players.

      Good to see what a top level player thinks of these rules and already working within them! Trying to beat the system!

      • markleb said

        There are plenty of people thinking about the rule and trying to beat the system as there always is. The question is what the final effect will be on the game and whether it will achieve the desired effect. It is worthwhile remembering that changes don’t always have the desired effect. For example, the libero was designed to be a defensive specialist to make rallies longer. Once coaches started working in the system they quickly realised that the libero makes the reception (and therefore the first attack) stronger and rallies actually became shorter.
        It certainly seems a likely outcome that middle blockers will cease to exist as we understand them (decision making would be reduced and first tempo would be unimportant) and I can imagine a scenario where the libero would be less relevant (slower attacks and better blocking makes defence easier). Maybe teams would play with three ‘receivers’, two ‘opposites’, no ‘middles’ and a libero who defends but doesn’t receive.
        Maybe they won’t change the rule at all.

  8. markleb said

    A couple of clips of what it actually looks like.

  9. Ezra said

    tbh… don’t like it. It’s good for a once off tournament or for a charity event, but not for the real deal. To me, it’d be like the NRL saying you have to score your first points from a play that originates outside the 30m line… or the AFL to say first goal must be from behind the 50m line… that stuff works in pre-season events but not in games that really count.

  10. devo said

    We need to remember that this new rule is only being trialled during the FIVB Men’s Club World Volleyball Championship in Doha. It is hoped that the new rule will “keep the ball flying” and add value to a rally for the spectator. From the clips and published comments, this does not seem to have happened. As Markleb says above, the intended changes are not always what happens.

    The rule was designed by Hussein Iman Ali who is a member of the World Volleyball Federation coaches’ body and a technical advisor to the Qatar Volleyball Association. He is getting a chance to put his pet theory into practise, because this tournament is in Qatar.

    The published comments would suggest that this will be the last time that we see this rule in action, except for in the Qatar volley league.

  11. Statistics of the event show that the conunter attacks percentage jumped to 31% and the contribution of services halt reduced to 17%.It is not attractive for neutral fans ,TV and participants to 80% repeat the current mono-typies sequence of ( service-receive-set-excessive attack -rally halt in seconds). Likewise other sports why not to add introductoy part to the story of scoring then after defense the palyer have many variations .The three European teams quick attacker did not even try the back row quick attack others did the game should be flexible

    • Troy M said

      isn’t that how american football works? snap the ball to quarterback, throw ball to player and play will end within 2 seconds of that throw at least 80% of the time. The game of volleyball is meant to be short intense bursts. I don’t think they are having troubles with fans or feel an urge to change things so that the play lasts longer. If there is a necessity for the fans in certain regions to have longer rallies, then the simple solution is increase the net height so that no one can hit the ball downwards.

      • markleb said

        It is a nonsensical argument. You can say that a basketball game the ball is in play for 48 minutes and is therefore more interesting than volleyball where a rally lasts seconds. But there is not 48 minutes of ‘action’.
        And that is not even considering that the first 36 minutes are more or less pointless anyway ;)

  12. despite the fact that the three European teams selected not use the quick attack other teams were flexible they did very spectacular back row quick attack combinations , and the pecentage of counter attacks jumped to 31% ane rally halt from service was lower 17%.Mens Volleyball is loosing neutral fans , TV etc because of the current repeated mono-typed sequence of (service-receive-set-exessive attack- rally halt in secounds )why not developing scoring stories after the first defense after balancing attack vs.defense then spotting volleyball stars will be easy

  13. markleb said

    I’ve had a chance to watch a couple of games thanks to and If this ever came to pass (and Devo makes the excellent point that it is only a TRIAL) there are some obvious areas where the game would change and develop (eg attacking the second hit). I will make a couple comments on the game as it was actually played.
    My first reaction was the the game was dull. The game is obviously slower (that is the objective) and more predictable. In attack here is a lot less team variation (the possible points of attack are reduced), tempo variation (virtually all attacks were medium speed, there is effectively zero quick attack and little second tempo to the outsides or pipe) and a lot less individual variation (less off speed attacks, less using the block to advantage etc). There seemed to be less pressure on the serve because if the attack was going to be away from the net anyway, there is no need to take the risk. The game was literally big, strong guys taking it in turns to smash the cover off it. High reception, high set to the outside, hit as hard as you can. I think the East Germans played like this in the late 60’s. The final showed that exactly. Trento with three big guys who can smash the cover off it (Kaziyski, Vissotto, Juantorena) won easily against Belchatow who had only one such guy (Kurek). The (relatively) little, skilled guys who use use speed, subtlety, variation and intelligence to win points, had no chance.
    I stress that there are obvious areas that would evolve, but the game as it was played in the last week was boring and dull and I didn’t see any longer rallies. And certainly no rallies that were interesting. If Hussein is correct that volleyball is losing neutral fans (which I don’t believe) because it is a ‘repeated mono-type sequence’ I don’t see how reducing variation makes the game more attractive.
    Maybe it is time to EDUCATE people about the game rather than changing the rules. Or worry more about keeping the fans that are already there.

  14. StevenB said

    Anything that extends the duration of rallies is a positive for the appeal of the game.

    As a coach I might be inclined to adopt a front row setting option to ensure I have 3 attackers with plenty of room to attack from behind the attack line. I’m thinking that would get him out of the way of the attackers too.
    We train with wash drills because we know that good dig/good set/good spike = good bye to the opposition. Wash drills = less down time at training and the game should be that way too. I’ve used the back row attack only option at training to develop player defence and transitional play.
    It would be interesting to know if the fatigue levels were higher for the players with the longer rallies.

    • markleb said

      The rallies weren’t longer (see original post), but the demands on the spikers are greater because they are attacking more (effectively there were only three attackers in each action instead of four) and with more intensity. High ball hitting is the most physically demanding action in volleyball and in this ‘form’ of the game, the hitters were hitting a majority of their attacks as high balls.

  15. If rallies longer then it is easy to magage by ending the set’s at 23 , 21 , 19 point and that will add suspense to the game but as per the Golden Formula test the increase in rally for seconds or faction of a second still within the anaerobic capacity of the players

    • markleb said

      if the rallies will only be fractions of a second longer why change the rules? If the spectators are so uneducated how would they even notice a difference of a second ON AVERAGE?

  16. volleyballer said

    giba is a “small, skilled” player yet he is one of the best back row attackers in te world and would still probably excel in this new rule. That said he is almost one of a kind

    • markleb said

      As mentioned in the original post, the pipe as it is played now only has a context in combination with the other attackers. When Giba, or anyone else, plays the pipe it is as the fourth option and is very close to the first tempo. The reason it is such a weapon is because it is the last play that the block pays attention to. With no first tempo to play around and to draw attention from it, it is a high ball off the net which is the easiest ball to block.

    • devo said

      Giba’s view: quoted on inside-volley

      The capitan Giba was another that didnt like the new rule. For him, this change, in case taked forward, will extinguish the middle players and full the court with Outside hitters and opposites.

      – The rule has no place. This is not volleyball. And what we are going to do with the middles? They will have to not exist anymore. – afirmed the outside hitter from Pinheiros/Sky. – The game stays ridiculous and weird, you dont force the service anymore.

      • markleb said

        I liked the quote from Bernardinho too. “The rule is horrible. The game was ugly, slow, predictable. Creates misunderstanding for those who are watching. The justification that this will increase the rallies do not apply. Also because the ball falls on the counterattack in the same way. This goes against the popularization of the sport, inhibits the charm of volleyball, which has much to do with variation of plays and speed. I’m against it.”

        But my favourite is from Celso – “…Maybe they should suggest that the serving team should decide the way their opponents would attack the first ball so that they could position their block and defense. That would produce even longer rallies. …”

  17. Yes Giba can do a very spectacular quick back row attack
    specially the pipe that will still works after a middle blocker back row attack.
    Yes , Volleyball player’s specialization is important but not to be confined fixed style, pattern , approach , fixed ready passion and fixed direction and trajectory . More flexible players will enrich the game with unpredictable performance . That will catch the breath of neutral fans , TV viewers , Sponsors and talent stars will show up easily not late after 30 something of age

  18. I have to agree with Mark. I think this rule will only “dumb down” the sport, and if anything we should be trying to educate the neutral fans (and try to get the loyal base of fans to educate other fans).

    I do find that it’s getting hard to see everything happen at game speed in a men’s match. Especially when you’re watching it on youtube with extreme perspective. But what makes it more enjoyable is to be able to see replays in slow motion where you see the timing, speed, duelling and precision.

  19. 1 – I would like to show you videos about how spectacular the quick attack and the quick attack combinations from the Men’s World Club Championship and another video confirming that the 3 European teams selected ( not to play quick attack ) or they did not get time to train the professional player to adapt to the new system. Others did.
    2 – Also I would like to show you statistics ( ready to and easy to be checked confirming that counter attacks jumped to 31% and Interruptions after service reduced to 17%
    If you are ready I am ready to upload the videos&statistics

  20. The counter attacks jumped from 19.16% in the World League 2009 in Serbia to 31% and Interruptions after service reduced From 22% in the World League 2009 in Serbia to 17% ( the last easy to count from FIVB website match info )

  21. Troy M said

    Which teams were playing in 2009 World League and which teams were playing in Qatar?

    • Murph said

      Obviously none, but I’m sure numerous players could be named.

      • markleb said

        Actually not that many players. A few Brazilians, a few Russians, no Cubans, one American, no Serbians, no Argentinians. Less than 10.

    • markleb said

      Good spot, Troy :)
      There was also a huge difference in the standard between the top teams and the rest at this tournament. That can skew statistics considerably. A strong team playing a weak team, you could expect rallies to be longer, as you could with two weaker teams playing each other.
      On the other side, the original article quoted an average rally length of 6 seconds, which supports that case that rallies are not, in fact, longer.

      • Troy M said

        The reason I asked about the teams is because it is difficult to claim statistically significant changes if you are comparing two different competitions with different stakes and different levels of play.

        The counter attacks will obviously increase if the service team is gifted with a down ball rather than a front court attack so I think this is a statistic that can be used deceptively. As for interruptions after service – which to be honest, I don’t really know what that is – but I think it would be difficult to claim that a change in the rate of interruptions as small as 5% could be statistically significant if the teams/tournament are not the same.

  22. markleb said

    The site has an editorial about the Golden Formula. The article is entitled “The Golden Formula or (for middle blockers) golden vacation?”. The major point of the article is diminished role of the middle blocker given that they would no longer attack and don’t play in the backcourt anyway. In (melo)dramatic Italian fashion they mention the increase of power and decrease of subtlety, the great middles of the past who we would never have had the chance to see, and of the impoverishment of volleyball as a whole.
    They show distribution statistics comparing the Trento attack in the Club Championships and in the league. The short of it is that in the league the middle blockers attack about 16% of the attacks and in the club championships that figure is about 3%. They also have a nice chart.
    The article is here

  23. Whosin said

    Can i just say, this is a huge topic. I am just really impressed that Hussein Imam Ali – who is part of the FIVB Coahing Committee is actually:
    1) reading Devo’s web site and
    2) actually responding and having a frank open discussion about the rules, reasons behind it etc.

    • Thanks ,Whosin
      I am happy to have the opportunity to share with others some ideas . In current Volleyball front row attack point is about 50cm far from the net and the back row attack is 2 meters far from the net the difference is 150 cm . Is our game is very confined and restricted to pre designated positions ,roles ,approach ,hitting points and patterns to the extent that players can not adapt to such variations!!!!!!

      • curiosity killed the cat said

        Hehe the poll cracks me up. The only vote who supports it is Ali the inventor of it. Ali you are fighting a losing battle. I think you have thought about it so much you have convinced yourself it is a good idea.

        it sucks.

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