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Increasing Rallies in Roundnet - Part II

A rally from 2015 recently resurfaced in an amazing way, racking up nearly 3 million views on House of Highlights alone. This rally convinced thousands of new people that roundnet is worth giving a try, including Drake who started following Spikeball™ after viewing the video...expect to see The Drizzy Drop Shots at the next Montreal tournament.  

Back in July, we posted about the need to increase the frequency of rallies like this one and the methods we were using to experiment with rule and equipment modifications. Since then we were able to test out some more ideas out and wanted to share those results.

Modifications

How we picked what to test

We looked at the suggestions from the community and compiled them into one document. We tested out things that we thought were practical to implement, kept fundamental aspects of the sport intact, and seemed like they could make a significant impact. Keep in mind, this is a small sample size. A lot of what we did still needs more testing and refinement, but it was helpful to get a better sense of what could be viable options.

How you can help  

To get more reliable results we need lots of people testing things out, sharing their experience, and confirming findings. If you see a modification on here that piques your interest, try it with your friends. Maybe you have a slight variation that makes a crucial difference or maybe you have a completely different idea that we never imagined. The important thing is to film it so that we can capture both the quantative and qualitative data. If you've got something you think is working please share it on the SRA Facebook group or email me directly at jack@spikeball.com.

Results

In the latest round of testing we tried out 7 variations. Overall the raised rim had the biggest effect on rallies. The taller set and double fault were the most well received by players that participated. The outside setter and looser net were a flop. More detailed descriptions below.

Center Line

How it works - There is a center line on the court. The serve return must be hit into the opposing team's half of the court. After the ball is returned, there are no sides.
Rationale - Removing 180 degrees of defense will allow more rallies to develop.
Results - We tried to variations 1) The server always stays in the same position and the defenders switch spots to alternate who is receiving the serve. 2) The server rotates according to the existing rules.

The second variation led to a lot of confusion and actually decreased rallies. The first created more rallies, but 90% of those rallies were only 3 changes of possession, meaning they weren't the really fun, highlight reel plays we're hoping for. None of the players polled liked this as a solution.

Verdict - This could use more testing. It's a little bit of a mental switch for players so they need more time to adapt to the advantages that this rule creates.

Outside Setter

How it works - On the serve, the setter cannot hit the ball from within the 6 foot service circle.
Rationale - Setting from farther away will lead to less accurate sets making it harder to hit winners.
Results - This was the worst thing we tested. It decreased all the stats we were hoping to increase (changes of possession, rallies, touches, and even serve percentage). It also made the players look really awkward. No one liked this.
Verdict - This is a dud.

Outside Hitter

How it works - On the serve, the returning team's hitter can only enter the six foot circle after the ball has been set.
Rationale - The hitter will have less time to set up their shot making it harder to get positioned and hit winners.  

Results - Players were mixed on how they felt about this. Some liked it and thought it helped, others felt it wasn't a viable solution. Statistically, the initial testing didn't show a significant impact.
Verdict - This could use more testing but likely doesn't have enough upside.

Double Faults

How it works - You always get two faults for a legal serve. Hit the rim on the first attempt, serve again.
Rationale - Part of the reason rally percentage is so low is that we're seeing there's about 65% completed serves. This means there are fewer chances for a rally to develop. Side benefit, it makes the game easier to explain.
Results - Adding the double fault increased made serves by about 10%. It didn't show significant changes in aces or rallies, but with more data I would expect to see slight increases in both. Overall players like this.
Verdict - This could be a keeper, though it won't mean a significant change for rallies.

Raised Rim

How it works - We add additional rim pieces creating a ramped lip around the set.
Rationale - The extended rim makes it harder for players to hit crazy angles, drop shots, and low, line drives.
Results - We've tested this previously and seen significant increase in rallies. In this round of testing, we saw 20% rallies vs. 10% from the control games. Mixed feedback - some players liked it a lot, others thought it took away from the creativity and athleticism.
Verdict - Lots of potential. Needs to be refined and possibly combine with another modification.

Loose Net

How it works - We asked players to tighten a net to what they typically played at and we found that a ball dropped from 5 feet bounced 21 inches high. We then loosened the net as much as we could while keeping the tension consistent throughout. After that the ball bounced 15 inches (yes...according to the official rules this is still too tight, but that's another topic).
Rationale - If the ball doesn't bounce as far, there will be more defensive opportunities and rallies will increase.
Results - There was a lot less predictability in the play, rallies actually decreased slightly, and players really hated it.
Verdict - Maybe this could work with a different net material, but loosening the current net to an extreme doesn't work.

Taller Set

How it works - We raised the height of the set 5 inches higher by taping boards to the legs.
Rationale - A higher set cuts down the angles you can hit at when you're right over the net making it harder for the offensive team to hit winners.
Results - The taller set increased rallies. We saw 15% of points result in rallies. 40% of the rallies were more than 3 changes of possession. Players liked this modification.
Verdict - A lot of potential. Needs more testing and may need to be combined with another modification to make a significant impact.

 

Up Next - In the next round of testing we're going to experiment with some different types of balls to see how that affects gameplay.

What counts as success?

For any changes to be considered a success, aside from just increasing rallies, they must also:

  1. Maintain the fundamental aspects that make roundnet special
  2. Promote creativity and athleticism  
  3. Preserve the simplicity of the sport

In other words, increasing rallies isn't the end goal, but rather a vechicle to making the sport more fun to both play and watch.  

Test out some modifications of your own or experiment with the ones we've tried and let us know what you find!