I came across a game in the comment section of a coaching group. The poster called it Casino and described it like this.

Enter the ball however you want…

Each touch counts as a point. Whoever wins the rally, gets that many points.

If there were 12 touches, the winner of the rally gets 12 points.

Play to 100.

In general terms, it sounds similar to the Bank Your Points scoring system. That’s where the point value of a rally goes up each time the ball crosses the net. Here’s where I have a problem, though. Or rather, where I feel a coach needs to think things through.

There are some mixed incentives going on here.

First, in one sense it incentivizes lots of contacts and a cooperative mentality between the teams. They can basically just rally back and forth a bunch of times before ever getting serious. It would actually be interesting to see at what point they would decide to get competitive. Depending on how much ball control they have, that might not suit your purposes. Or maybe it does and you set a minimum point threshold before things get competitive (like the old rally-for-serve!).

Also, because more contacts equals more points, it encourages 3-contact plays. Not the worst thing in the world in many cases, of course. For more developmental teams that may be exactly what you want. Some teams/players, however, get locked into the 3-contact mentality where they simply don’t see good scoring opportunities that present themselves on first and second contact. Those sorts of teams would only be furthered down that path with this type of scoring system.

And here’s a potential perverse incentive.

Once teams reach a certain level they get pretty good at scoring off a free ball – either immediately or eventually because they’re able to keep the opposing team in scramble mode. That being the case, a smart player on a team that’s about to give up a free ball could decide to just let the ball drop. That would probably save their team at least 4 points (one for their touch plus three on the other side leading to a kill), if not more.

I’m guessing that’s something you don’t want to see happening.

And yes, this is a risk for Bank Your Points as well, but the lower point values there change the math significantly.

Here’s something else to look out for.

As the point value for a rally goes up, the “cost” of making a mistake rises. If you don’t have the right mentality about errors in your culture, the result could very easily be players focusing more on error avoidance than on scoring.

I am 100% all for finding creative ways to score games – like bonus points and process scoring. Just make sure you’re thinking all the way through the implications. You want to make sure you’re incentivizing what you want and not things you don’t.

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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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