Volleyball

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to coach my kids in several different sports. Missy and I want our kids to try out as many as possible but we aren’t pushing them toward any of them. We just think it’s a good experience, good exercise, good to learn rules, sportsmanship, make friends, etc.

In addition to doing dance, art, drama and music at different times, Addison has played T-ball, soccer, basketball and volleyball. I’ve coached all of those sports except volleyball, which I know next to nothing about (incidentally, that equals my knowledge of soccer). That’s not a problem because Missy was a great volleyball player in high school and is a much better coach/communicator than I am anyway. So Missy is the coach of Addie’s YMCA volleyball team.

Except for when she’s out of town. Then I have to take over.

That’s what happened last weekend. Of course, that was also the one Saturday all season when they scheduled a doubleheader. Thankfully, Missy had already set up the rotation so there wasn’t too much work to do. Or so I hoped.

The name of this team is The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named. I’m not joking, that’s the name they came up with. Ten year old girls be crazy. Anyway, Missy has really done a great job with them, and Addie has shown that she has some natural talent in the sport. Several of the players had never played volleyball before, and Missy and Addie are both super encouraging. We’ve only played half the season but you can already tell a huge difference.

Missy’s parents and brother came to town, and her mom wanted to watch Addie’s games. It was raining cats and dogs on Saturday, so I dropped Addison and Karen off at the front door of the Y and parked the car. By the time I got inside (which was only a minute later) the game had started and the score was 5-2. What the heck?

My star volleyball player Addison and her amazing coach.

I looked at my watch, it was 10:55. The game was supposed to start at 11. The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named had exactly the minimum number of players so of course they weren’t lined up the way Missy had drawn it up.

Generally we have the same referee for every volleyball game. He knows the rules inside and out and is very encouraging to the players. But he wasn’t reffing this game. We had a high school kid who literally didn’t know the rules. If a ball was anywhere close to the line he would look at me or the other coach and ask if it was in or not.

Turns out, the other team’s coach had wanted to start early since they had played another game at 10 a.m. and already had all their players there. Had I been there I would have gotten them to wait until at least 11 so our substitutes had a few more minutes to show up. But this coach kind of railroaded the 16-year-old ref into starting the game early, and it was my fault for not being there early myself.

The reason the score was 5-2 already is that the referee didn’t know the scoring rules. You’re only supposed to get a point if your team is serving and they win the point. Awarding a point for every play regardless of who is serving is called “rally scoring.” It’s used as the scoring for tiebreakers, but the first two sets are supposed to be played using the regular scoring. When I pointed it out, the kid looked at me like I was speaking Portuguese and the other coach said, “We’ll just play this set out with rally scoring and then we’ll play two regular sets after that.”

So we did. And the teams were very even — with one exception. This is a coed volleyball league. Last year, Addie’s team had one boy on it, although he was one of the shortest people on the team, and not one of the better players. This year’s team is all girls. The team we played in the second game was all girls. The team we played first was all girls except for one dude. And this dude was serving overhanded lasers all over the court at will.

It was like Roger Federer jumping into a youth tennis tournament. Our girls were afraid of the ball and I really couldn’t blame them. Addie had the courage to get her arms on a few and they literally left red marks. Even when the girls tried to hit them back, they never went over the net because they’ve never practiced against anyone who could serve like that. The team called this guy the “Mr. Spiker.”

When anyone else was serving, the teams played evenly. Funny thing was, when our team hit it to this dude during the regular run of play, he wasn’t any better than anyone else at getting it back over. He just had the overhanded serve down pat. Hardly anyone at this age group can execute an overhand serve. In fact it’s very rare to see a serve make it to the second row of defenders, much less coming in at high velocity like this. Six points is the maximum allowed for each server and this kid got the full six every time he served.

So we lost both regular sets with scores of about 15-4, and 12 of those 15 came on aces when this kid was serving. Real fun game. I was just proud of Addie for making a full effort to get to all of his serves. The most frustrating point came when Addison actually got to one of these balls and hit it a mile into the air. It was 100% going to come down in bounds on the other side of the net but it hit one of the folded-up basketball goals hanging from the ceiling and came down on our side. I figured that would at least be a do-over but evidently the rule is that it’s a point for the other team. Oh well.

Before I talk about the second game, I want to give the YMCA some props. I really love how they organize and run their youth sports programs. Basically every sport below age 8 is played without keeping score, and coaches are supposed to give all the kids equal playing time. That’s how I coached and that’s how it should be at those ages. As the kids get older the games can become slowly more competitive, and that’s what the YMCA does.

Under age 8, it should be all about learning the rules and the basics of the game. There is no need to keep score; the parents are the only people who care about the results anyway. After that, it’s a good time to introduce scoring so kids can learn how to handle winning and losing appropriately, when they have a modicum of emotional ability to do so. But it’s still a very friendly and encouraging environment. In fact, although they keep score in Addie’s games, the standings on the website show all the teams with a 0-0 record.

The coach of our opponents in Game 2 took this to the extreme. She was wanting to let all the kids who hit crappy serves have a second chance. She let several of her girls serve from the front row. I actually didn’t have a problem with any of this because these were clearly players who hadn’t played volleyball before. But it seems like if you’re going to take that much liberty with the rules, you might as well not keep score.

Maybe it was just that I was frustrated by watching Mr. Spiker pound our heads in 20 minutes earlier, but the scoring aspect of this second game was starting to stress me out. The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named was clearly better than our opponents, but because the referee kept allowing all these do-overs and telling the scorekeeper not to count some points, the game was very close. Again, I would have been fine with just not keeping score but if you’re going to keep score why not keep it right? Then if we had extra time after the game we could scrimmage just for fun and practice.

As it was, the match was very close. In fact it went to the tiebreaking third set, and that was close too. But eventually The Striking Asteroids Pink Cheetah Lightning Whose Name Shall Not Be Named pulled out a 15-13 victory. It’s great for the girls, but more importantly I became the Vince Lombardi of YMCA volleyball and picked up the first of what will surely be one career victory. Thankfully our great (and hot) coach is back on the sidelines.

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