Tag Archive for volleyball tournament format

Weighted pool format for volleyball tournaments

When you are a college volleyball coach you spend a lot of time at Juniors tournaments. Most of them have a pretty standard format. They feature 4-team pools and the progression is such that the top seeds play the bottom seeds in the early rounds (see this 3 pools of 3 on 2 courts alternative format). This can make for some pretty lopsided matches. I’d love to see more of a weighted pool format for volleyball tournaments.

What do I mean by that?

In a standard tournament you use a zig-zag or serpentine to fill the pools. It looks like this for a 16-team tournament with four pools.

standard pool format

In this method the top ranked team (1) is the top seed in Pool 1, with the #2 team top of Pool 2, and so on. If you add up the rankings of all the teams for each pool you’ll notice it adds up to 34. That tells you they are about equally competitive – in theory.

There are a couple of problems with this structure, though.

First, the degree of theoretical competition for finishing spots in each pool vary considerably. For example, a 1 v 8 match to decide who wins Pool 1 (assuming other results go to plan) is generally not likely to be as competitive as the 4 v 5 match to decide Pool 4. You can flip that around for the competition for 2nd/3rd place in those pools. An 8 v 9 match is probably a tighter one than 5 v 12. Obviously, how widely split the teams are in terms of caliber has a lot to do with it.

The second issue is progression after pool. A lot of tournaments cross over the top two from each pool for the playoffs. In some cases the others are done, while in other tournaments all the 3rd place teams play each others, and the same with the 4th place finishers. What I see happen is teams end up having a hard time moving in the rankings once they are initially set because they are stuck playing the same competition all the time.

Probably the worst issue with this format is the that top teams might only get one decent match during pool play. Flipping that around, the bottom teams may get beat up in two out of their three pool matches. What’s the point of that? Don’t we want everyone playing as many competitive matches as possible?

The solution: a weighted pool format.

What do I mean by a weighted pool format? I mean instead of setting up the pools equally, as shown above, we weight the pools by rankings. The better teams are in the upper pools and the weaker teams are in the lower pools. The Tour of Texas follows this path based on its qualification procedure.

Here’s an example of what a weighted pool format could look like:

weighted pool format

In terms of playoffs, you could so something like have the top two teams in Pools 1 and 2 go into the gold bracket, the bottom two teams from Pools 1 and 2 join the top two teams from Pools 3 and 4 in silver, and the bottom two teams from Pools 3 and 4 be bronze. Of course there are other ways to work that, and there are other ways to set up the pools. The main idea is to 1) create more in-pool competition for all teams, and 2) get more information for team rankings by seeing teams play more against similar competition.

A weighted pool format may not be the way you want to go for a qualification tournament or something like that. For other events, though, it’s a good alternative to give teams a higher quality experience.

Volleyball Pool Format: 7 teams over two courts

In the discussion which followed on from sharing the Volleyball Tournament Format – 3 pools of 3 on 2 courts, someone brought up the idea of odd numbers of teams when planning a volleyball pool format. That made me remember something we used when I was the Girls’ Juniors Scheduler for the New England Region (NERVA).

We sometimes had situations where we only had 7 teams in a 2-court facility. Normally you’d be planning to run two pools of 4. In a 7-team case, I’ve seen tournament directors do one pool of 4 and one pool of 3. In the latter case, they basically did two rounds of play. That meant each team played 4 matches rather than the usual 3.

That arrangement isn’t bad in terms of total amount of play. It kind of stinks, though, that you may end up playing just two teams in the tournament (for example, if you finish third and don’t advance to bracket play). Somewhere along the way we started using a 7-team volleyball pool format in those situations. It looked something like this (courtesy of Yankee Volleyball):

7-teams on 2 courts Volleyball Pool Format

In our normal 4-team pools each match was two 21-point sets. That’s a total of 12 sets played per court, with each team playing 6 sets. If we played two sets in a 7-team format it would have basically doubled the time required to get through pool play. This may be fine if you’re not planning on doing play-off brackets. If you are, though, or you have time constraints, you may want to just play “matches” of just a single set (maybe fully to 25). The end result is that teams still get 6 total sets – same as in a 4-team pool. Now, though, it’s against 6 different opponents. Personally, I think that is a plus. It also provides more data for rankings and such.

Volleyball Tournament Format – 3 pools of 3 on 2 courts

In a Facebook coaching group discussion someone asked whether anyone had a non-standard volleyball tournament format. The coach in question was looking for something other than the classic 1 pool of 4 per court, with the top two finishers advancing to bracket play – and maybe the bottom two going to a lower bracket (gold, silver, etc.)

Back in the days when I was running the Blast club, we hosted a big inter-regional volleyball tournament during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend (third weekend of January). Since it was the first tournament of the year for most clubs, I wanted the focus to be on trying to maximize playing time for everyone, not just the winning teams, and having them play lots of different opponents. That, combined with the need to maximize the available court space, led me to develop a 3 pools of 3 over 2 courts structure.

I shared this idea in the group and was immediately asked for the format by several different members. I don’t have the exact format on-hand anymore, but it would have looked something like this.:

Court 1               Court 2
A1 vs A3 (A2)    B1 vs B3 (B2)
A2 vs A3 (A1)    C1 vs C3 (C2)
C2 vs C3 (C1)   B2 vs B3 (B1)
A1 vs A3 (A2)    B1 vs B2 (B3)
C1 vs C2 (C1)

The letter indicated the pool designation, with the number being the team’s seed. So A1 is the top seed from Pool A. The team in parenthesis is the work team.

You’ll notice that this volleyball tournament format actually takes less time than a standard 4-team pool (5 rounds vs 6 rounds). That allows time for playing two rounds of pool play in most cases – depending on time constraints – in place of running a cross-over bracket.

After the first round you would generate a new set of pools based on the results. For example, you could have all the first round pool winners go into Pool AA. The second place teams then go into Pool BB, while the bottom teams go into Pool CC.

It’s a bit more complicated if you’re doing more than 2 courts. In our case we were running either 4 or 6 courts over two days. We did two rounds of pool per day, so everyone got 8 total matches. The tournament champion was the team that finished top of the highest final pool on the second day.

Obviously, I developed this volleyball tournament format for a specific need. I really like, though, that it doesn’t put any teams at a developmental advantage. Think about how in a standard top-2-advance format, arguably the teams that need the most developmental time are regularly playing less than the better ones.

By the way, you could use a weighted pool format with this structure.

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