H.S. Coaches Review Rally Scoring

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.5, April 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1305/bbrallyscoring.htm

This past year’s high school volleyball season was the first under NFHS-mandated rally scoring, though all but three of the states that follow NFHS rules voluntarily made the switch in 2003. Now that coaches have experienced the new scoring system firsthand, how do they like it?

At Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, Head Coach Paul Melnick is among those who see the move to rally scoring as a change for the better. "When we were making the changeover I went to a lot of games where they used rally scoring, and I wasn’t a big fan of it at first," he says. "But playing with it all this year, I definitely learned to enjoy it. My players also really liked it, and almost all the parents said they did, too."

Melnick says his conversion started when he saw that rally scoring forced teams to focus more on all aspects of volleyball. "I think it puts a heavier emphasis on being able to do everything in a game—you’ve got to not only serve well, but also put balls down when you need to, make good passes all the time, and avoid making errors," he explains. "Every error now results in a point, and that changes your whole view of the game."

For the Sycamore volleyball team, making the transition meant working on cutting down on those errors, particularly on serves. Since every service fault is now a gift-wrapped point for the other team, Melnick worked with his players on consistency. For one drill, he had athletes perform serves during practice until they could put 25 consecutive balls in play. Some achieved the mark after only one or two attempts, while others took as long as two weeks, but Melnick knew it was a well-chosen priority.

"We actually kept a statistic this year of what happened after our missed serves under rally scoring," he says. "We wanted to know how the other team responded every time we missed a serve. Did they run up three points off of that play, four points, or more? In some cases it was gigantic how much it hurt us to miss getting a serve in."

Gail Nucech, Head Coach at Hibbing (Minn.) High School, agrees that avoiding service errors has become more important under the rally scoring system. "Now in a close match, it can be really costly to take a chance and go for a jump serve or an ace at the end of a game," she says. "If the score is 24-25, one serve into the net can end the game."

Nucech, the sole member of Minnesota high school volleyball’s 700-win club, feels the change has made the game more exciting. "In rally scoring, the momentum can change so fast," she says. "At the state tournament this year, my team was in the fifth game leading 13-8, and I was sure we were going to win, but the other team came back to beat us. With side-out scoring, when you had a big lead you thought you had the game. In rally, everything can turn around much quicker."

Spectators appreciate a more exciting, faster-paced game, says Melnick, and it also brings volleyball into line with most people’s understanding of sports scorekeeping. "In a basketball game, every basket results in points, so I think a running total that counts every rally is easier for fans to understand," he says. "Sometimes there would be side outs back and forth, and it would seem like nothing was happening in the game other than people rotating on the floor."

In addition to coaches, the vast majority of high school players also approve of the change. On the NFHS’s 2004 Volleyball Survey, 42 out of 45 states responding said the general feeling of their players toward rally scoring was positive, and the other three reported it to be neutral.