Bat that Ball

volleyball, game played by two teams, usually of six players on a side, in which the players use their hands to bat a ball back and forth over a high net, trying to make the ball touch the court within the opponents’ playing area before it can be returned. – Britannica

It sounds kinda genteel doesn’t it? Like badminton out on the English gentry’s lawn: languidly batting a ball back and forth over a high net before stopping for high tea.

To prevent this a player on the opposing team bats the ball up and toward a teammate before it touches the court surface—that teammate may then volley it back across the net or bat it to a third teammate who volleys it across the net. A team is allowed only three touches of the ball before it must be returned over the net.

I *guess* this was the game we were watching last weekend in Las Vegas at a tournament of high-school teams from across North America. I certainly saw efforts “to make the ball touch the court within the opponents’ playing area before it could be returned” and efforts “to prevent this.”

I certainly saw six strong young women “bat a ball back and forth over a high net” although I might have chosen a different verb, like “hammer.” Or “tip” as they surprised an opponent with a ball that just made it over said net. Or “spike” as they sent the ball “forth and down” with enough speed that it won’t–it can’t–come “back.”

I saw them “bat the ball up and toward a teammate before it touches the court surface,” even when that meant throwing themselves on that court surface to get their hands under the ball.

And I saw them run around the court without crashing into each other and yet, mostly, magically, be in position to support or to complete a play. It’s almost as if they knew what each was expected to do.

I curled as a teenager and played volleyball badly a handful of times in phys-ed classes, but that was the extent of my participation in team sports. Watching a good team in action is a wonderful thing: they do everything they can individually, and then rely on each other; they own an error, and then put it behind them; they celebrate success, and then get ready to get the next point; they are gracious in defeat and in victory, and then move on to the next game.

It gives me hope for humanity. If we can learn to do this, what can’t we learn to do?

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12 Responses to Bat that Ball

  1. barbara carlson says:

    Those six on a side are down to two in Olympic games. What does THIS say for teamwork? (Playing on sand and helps.)

    And watching sports at the Olympian level is transporting.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Ah, beach volleyball, in which absurdly fit young people cavort in bathing suits. Why wouldn’t that be popular? But you’re right. Quite apart from the flesh on display, their skill is amazing.

  2. Judith Umbach says:

    I struggle to see the similarities between my curling and volley ball (and dodge ball) during my school days and the competitive versions of these sports. I can’t even see the plays, let alone execute them. Guess that’s why I am good at walking on relatively flat surfaces, a “sport” I excelled at even as a youngster.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – LOL – yes, it’s like watching commentary of PGA tournaments where they talk about the effect (on the coming putt) of the moisture in the air. We are, indeed, not playing the same games.

  3. Alison says:

    I’m just surprised you were at a HighSchool Volleyball tournament?

  4. Tom Watson says:

    Anything that involves teamwork is a delightful formative, and transformative, experience.
    If we could only incorporate that into some other areas of our lives.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – 🙂 Like governing, for example? Odd how that tends to bring out the worst of our tribal impulses versus the best of our teamwork capacities.

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – I can understand competitive volleyball, although I too played it badly.
    What I can’t get my mind around is competitive table tennis, which is way, way to fast for me. How those players can react that fast and still return the ball to that small area that is the opponent’s side of the net is beyond me.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – 🙂 I have watched table tennis only in passing, but I take your point. Trained reflexes (as in baseball, too) are astounding.There’s a lot of our brain that doesn’t need to operate at the conscious level – and doesn’t.

      • Jim Taylor says:

        Yes, indeed, think about the eye-hand-bat coordination of a baseball player. The brain doesn’t have time to process the track of the ball, yet the bat has to meet it square. Not limited to humans, either — my cat can calculate the trajectory of a leap across six feet of open space with absolute precision, even though it has never learned calculus.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Jim T – I think I read somewhere that a batter has 1/2 second to “decide” whether to swing at a ball: that’s why a batting average better than .300 (success about one time in three at-bats) is a pretty impressive performance. As for the cat, yes, they come “pre-wired” for aerial manoeuvres. Lovely to watch; less lovely to be on the landing end as they dig in.

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