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Volleyball is PHYSICal :)



Yesterday was Regionals for my club team and as I was shuffling around in the back of the court i realized just how much Physics plays part in a volleyball game. To begin any play in Volleyball one of the teams must serve the ball over the net to the opposite side. With the higher levels of volleyball this always means a jump serve. Whether it is a top spin serve or a floating jump serve the player throws the ball up and jumps to go swing at it. The momentum that is created by the approach towards the ball causes the player to accelerate their arm swing and get the ball to travel the 30 feet across the net to the other team. According to Newtons 1st law an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. The outside force for a serve would be air resistance. Although there is much more air resistance when one would play beach volleyball, on a court in a gym there is also air resistance.

The next step for the team once the ball is served at them is to pass it to their setter. The back row players need to line themselves up with their shoulders squared to the ball and with their arm platform at the correct angle to get the ball up and to the front right of the court. When the passer pass's they get low to the ground and simply stick their arms out to retrieve it. They do not swing their arms in any way shape or form when passing a volleyball. The best technique is to have the ball's momentum from the serve be absorbed into the arms of the passer, thereby decreasing the momentum as it travels to the setter where it will be in a much more controlled setting.

The setter then takes the ball from the air and pushes it towards the hitter. The setters use their legs to add force behind their arms. The more force they have behind the ball the more likely that the ball will travel all the way to the pin, or it will be a quick set to a middle or a pin hitter and the blockers on the other side will not know what happened.

The swing hitter takes an approach, and uses all of the power in their legs to turn potential energy into kinetic as they jump up into the air, throwing up both arms in the process of finding the ball and gaining height on the ball. With a fast arm swing, and a snap of the wrist the ball is then propelled through the air and will hit the ground, there by stopping the play.

When the Referee sees that the ball did in fact hit the ground and was not "pancaked" by the opposing team they will blow their whistle and award the point. The sound waves from the whistle are refracted around each player until they end up registering in the ear drums of each teammate and the play stops. The setter is usually the last one to stop playing because they constantly have their back to the Referee, simply because of the way the court is set up. This leads me to wonder if it would be more productive of them to have the up officials on the opposite side so the sound waves from their whistles are able to reach the setters easier, being that the setters truly control the game.

What do you think? Should the referee stand be on the other side? :thumbsu:


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You're right, tons of physics in volleyball.  As to the referee question, what happens when teams switch sides of the court?

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This is a good point. With this in mind, the down Reff should then be allowed to whistle with the up Reff when the point is awarded.

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Oooooh so exciting. Volleyball is a foreign world for me. All I know is that the net can make a pulse when you hit it. However, I've just learned stuff. A lot of kinetic and potential energy in the players, and as for technical stuff with the ball—seems like a bunch of acceleration, momentum and timing. Yaa-hoo for physics and Eike<3 By the way, it seems my picture is a dog... I wonder who did this...

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You're right, tons of physics in volleyball.  As to the referee question, what happens when teams switch sides of the court?

I was wondering the same thing and agree with the solution to this potential problem. My only concern is that the reffs are two different people and may not always have the same calls resulting in them blowing their whistles at different times. So having the stand on the opposite side still falls with in questioning in my opinion.

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Yes that does pose a problem Monty, however The down official always mimicks the up official anyways so if the up official blows his/her whistle then the down official can right after it and it would be able to assit the players in noticing when the play stops.

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