High school volleyball: Fair or foul?

By: Danny McDowell - Sports Writer

Although I now only attend volleyball matches as a reporter and photographer, I have more than a passing interest in the sport. I coached it for many years at such schools as Lakewood, Rosewood, and Midway. The game has evolved into a fast moving and exciting game.

When I started coaching volleyball in 1983, we played best 2 out of 3. Matches often were often completed in less than 30 minutes.

Since then, there have been many changes. Coaching is much more complicated and the players are more athletic, but it’s the officiating that concerns me most. Something that has bothered me about the sport for many years is the fact that student line judges are used to make calls that may determine the outcome of the game. There is no other team sport on the high school level that allows this. Certainly golf, tennis, and track are officiated differently, but not in such a way that a kid who doesn’t get paid has to make a big call, while the paid official breathes a sigh of relief that he didn’t have to make that call.

When I started coaching volleyball, there were no line judges and the game was much slower. As time moved into the late 80’s, we started picking parents or students out of the stands to call lines for us. It didn’t matter if they had never seen the game played. They just had to call the ball in or out.

Later, it became a requirement for each school to provide a line judge. That way if one judge was overly partial to his home school, the other could counter and keep things balanced. I thought it was ridiculous that the guys getting paid were avoiding delivering some of the big decisions. I still do.

I have seen the line judges go home in tears because of the cruelty of a coach or fans. I have also seen them intentionally make the wrong call to try and help their team. Those calls usually get over-ruled by the paid officials. But what concerns me are the calls that officials don’t see and the student judges miss. Those are the ones that stand, even if the line judge misjudged.

What if we stationed a student line judge on the corner of a football field to call in or out? How would the coaches or public receive that? Or how about putting one at each corner of the basketball court? It would certainly make as much sense and probably help get some things right that may have been wrong.

But the point is, we don’t pay these people and they shouldn’t have to make the calls. Last week in a game at Midway, a student judge made a call that ended the match in favor of Wallace-Rose Hill, or so it appeared. This was a match that was almost 3 hours old and an unpaid student had just decided the final outcome. But after much discussion, the paid officials decided to allow a replay. That prompted much more discussion. Finally, they replayed the point and Midway came back to win the match.

The mere existence of the line judge brought a lot of ugliness to that match that didn’t have to be there. People there from Duplin county not only left very unhappy, they left fighting mad. Until the NCHSAA decides to deal with this problem, these instances will continue to occur. And since NCHSAA doesn’t think there is a problem, stay tuned.

Reach Danny McDowell at mcdowelldannyl@bellsouth.net.

Danny McDowell

Sports Writer


Reach Danny McDowell at mcdowelldannyl@bellsouth.net.