Andrea Zorzi: Speed is at the heart of modern volleyball
“Volleyball today is much faster than it used to be. This is due to a series of ‘natural’ evolutions but also to changes in the rules of the game.
“Serving has changed significantly. Serves today are about 10km/h faster than they used to be and tend to be hit from inside the court. Players in the past privileged vertical jumps while today, they prefer broad jumps that get them closer to the opponents’ side of the court. Moreover, since hitting the net is no longer considered a foul, they can take more risks when they are serving because they can afford to brush against the net and still score.
“Even though new rules have imposed a slightly deflated ball to slow down the speed of rallies, attacks are much faster than before. Setters have become faster. In the past, they preferred high and slow trajectories, while today they tend to set the ball quickly to avoid blocking from the opposite team.
“The shape of players has also changed. Players today are more muscular in the upper body and they tend to be much taller. Paradoxically, this is partially due to the introduction of shorter players in the role of libero. In fact, introducing a player who is exclusively in charge of receiving has allowed players who are tall but not very mobile to be included in teams without creating a defense ‘gap’. This is particularly true for middle-blockers, who can now focus exclusively on attacking and blocking, without being concerned with reception.
“Following the introduction of the rally point system, matches have also become much shorter. Some athletic trainers even say that volleyball has gone from being a marathon to being a sprint. Compared with side-out scoring, the current system - where it is easier for players to score a point - privileges force over endurance.
“All in all, I get the feeling that in the past, players knew how to ‘play’, while today they are more ‘mechanic’. I think we have lost a bit of beauty in this trade-off. It is as if we lost the ability to ‘just play’.”
Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.