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Double Touch, Double Drama

The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Committee Is Now Allowing Players to Contact the Ball More than Once in an Attempt to Keep the Ball in Play

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Volleyball is a sport of strategy, skill and split-second decisions, which has long captivated both players and spectators with its dynamic pace and intense rallies. However, with the introduction of the new double touch rule, the game is headed for a shift that will redefine the game. The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee had put forth a recommendation that allows players to make multiple contacts with any part of their body during the team’s second touch on the ball. However, if the ball is directed over the net in this situation, it would result in a fault, causing the team to forfeit the point. This recommendation was made into a rule on Feb. 20, 2024, for all collegiate athletes. This new rule takes away the importance of having a setter as a designated position and slows down the speed of play entirely, making it unnecessary.

Throughout the years, discussions and disputes over double contacts have sparked heated exchanges between both coaches and volleyball officials during matches. The committee believes that eliminating this judgment call could enhance consistency and continue the flow of play, rather than losing time due to a misinterpretation. Moreover, this would enhance the game’s entertainment value for both players and spectators.

A setter in volleyball is the most important position, for they control the speed of play and the game plan. Part of being a setter includes having a clean second contact, meaning that the ball is contacted at the same time with both hands. If the setter contacts the ball with their hands at two different times, however, they are called at fault for “doubling” the ball. This results in the opposing team earning the point for that rally. By implementing this new rule, it takes away the purpose of having a setter entirely, as now any position may make a double contact on the ball, no matter the technique.

“I think that setting is an art form–  it takes discipline and detailed training,” junior Landri Ross said. “Setters are trained to have clean hands and not everyone can set; that’s why it’s so specific. Allowing the double rule takes away the setting isotope itself because then, the setting isn’t unique.”

Although time may be saved and it would reduce potential disagreements, ultimately the game is about who can score 25 points first, no matter how long it takes. Data gathered from an experiment tested in spring of 2022 indicated that the proposed adjustment–allowing double touches–would result in only a minimal number of altered calls. Additionally, having a clean second touch from the setter is their job in its entirety; provide a clean contact to continue play. By implementing this rule, it takes away the purpose of a setter, resulting in a less competitive game.

“I think that it [the double touch rule] is going to lead to a very messy and sloppy looking game,” senior Katelyn Eldred said. “The setters will no longer need as good of technique to be able to set the ball.”

Players argue that this rule change risks interfering with the fluidity and spontaneity that makes volleyball such an exciting sport. By penalizing players for unintentional or minor mistakes, the double touch rule may create unnecessary interruptions in gameplay, disrupting the rhythm of matches and diminishing the overall entertainment value for both players and spectators. Moreover, the subjective nature of interpreting double touches could lead to inconsistency in officiating, potentially undermining the integrity of competitive matches. Instead of enhancing the sport, some fear that this rule may inadvertently detract from its essence, dampening the excitement and strategic complexity that define volleyball at its best.


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Andy Poll

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