As a result of the COVID pandemic a lot of volleyball events adjusted procedures such that teams stayed on one side of the court the whole match. In other words, they didn’t switch sides from set to set, or when the first team reached 8 in the deciding set.

Even before that, though, I occasionally heard people argue against changing sides. Below is an example of why I feel side changes remain necessary, however. It’s from a boys’ high school match I attended. Look to the ceiling. See the netting for a batting cage hanging over what is the away team’s side? That’s why we need side changes. No, they didn’t do so in this match, and yes, the netting did impact play on multiple occassions.

NKHS vs Hendricken boys volleyball

Now, clearly not all facilities have that kind of issue. Even in ones without them, though, the site lines can be different for each side. If we didn’t have side changes, home teams could actually do things to intentionally disadvantage visitors in that regard.

Oh, and here’s another aspect to the discussion.

If we don’t change sides, as coaches we only ever get one viewing angle on the action for the whole match. Either we’re always looking at things from the Position 1/2 sideline, or from the 4/5 sideline.

And sometimes that’s even more extreme. During the 2021 Medaille Mens’ season it worked out that I only got to coach from the 1/2 sideline. Normally, I would have been on the 4/5 side for home matches, but due to COVID protocols we had to shift our benches to the same side of the court as the R1.

One other thing to consider here is the spectator perspective. If we don’t change sides then viewers will essentially always have the same positions on their near side (e.g. OH and Libero when you’re on the 4/5 side). That strikes me as lessening the viewing experience.

If the court is truly even, I don’t have any issue with teams opting to stay on the same side. Both coaches need to agree, though. In that case, it’s been suggested by some that the line judges change sides from set to set to balance out any potential issues there. That strikes me as a good idea.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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