Change and Progress in Roundnet: Players Have a CHOICE - Part I - By: Tom Witt
Updated: Mar 31
The roundnet rules, equipment, attitudes, strategies, and much more have been altered since the inception of the sport.
Those changes have not always been influenced by ‘the powers that be’ but by mainly the PLAYERS.
Ahead, changes throughout the history of roundnet, examples in other sports, and thoughts on the future of changes in roundnet.
- In This Article -
History of Change in Roundnet
Examples of Player CHOICE Leading to Change
Examples of Change in Other Sports
Change - It Is Up to US
It is up to US as roundnet participants and enthusiasts to be the leaders in that purposeful change in our sport.
With this power in our hands, we literally have the opportunity to mold the trajectory of the sport of roundnet, and how future generations play the game.
That is an opportunity that most sport participants do not ever have!
WE must take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Roundnet, Rallies, and Progress
One topic that has been on the forefront of the roundnet nation over the last few years has been how can we increase rallies?
The term ‘serveball’ has been thrown around and has caught on in the community when describing what some think the sport has turned into.
To increase rallies some people suggest rules need to change, some suggest equipment modifications need to be made, some have other opinions.
Players Have a Choice
Personally, I think those are all solid options that should continue to be explored, and have been explored.
Though, in the end I think that it comes down to us, the players, making choices to shape the future of the sport.
A Meeting in the Middle
To clarify, I do not think aces are bad for the sport. I think aces make things exciting for spectators and give the lower level players an aspect of the sport they can practice on their own, with no one else, to improve and get to the top level. I think one of the problems with the emphasis on serving aces is multifaceted; the slow down of pace of play for second serves slows down the game and makes it less interesting to watch at times. Which is a growing problem that some in the community have voiced concern about in the past, when the two serve rule was first put into effect. Overall, the two serve fault rule seems to be an overall positive. Though, to me the main problem is when newer/lower level players think that getting an ace is the only way to win, move up in the rankings - so they hit lots of double faults.
Instead, they should be taking some off their second serve, getting the ball on the net and playing defense to try and extend the point. While practicing that ace serve, and more serves, and getting better with practice and time.
Aces = excitement, double faults = boring. And in my opinion, this change will be a CHOICE made by us as roundnet players.
Roundnet - A History of Change
Change has been the only constant in the history of roundnet. After doing some digging on the Spikeball Roundnet Association Facebook page, I found this excerpt from 2012 by SRA board member and multiple time national champion, Skyler Boles.
Boles stated, “When we have easy gentlemen's serves the points are over in 5 seconds. there is no flow to the game because it is always start and stop. I find myself purposefully not ending points when I return the easy serve because it is boring and the point never starts. This happens even in tournament situations. I do not want to win like that if that is how I have to win. This is also not a fun way to watch Spikeball. We must think of our fans.”
Boles went on to say,
“I am baffled by how hard it has been to try and change how people serve in competitive tournaments. Hopefully we can keep trying to change people's minds little by little. Just take a few steps back. it is OK if it goes over your head. (i think it is easier to pass or set from this position personally) and if it is too hard, still try to get it but if you can't you just re-do it. SIMPLE, FUN, COMPETITIVE, ENTERTAINING, SEXY!”.
Change has been a constant part of the roundnet scene since the early days.
In the early days of roundnet, players would play different rules across the country; two returners on the serve, the ability to set picks, playing off the rim if your team still has a touch left, 'gentleman' serves, etc.
Now, I am not advocating for the game to go back to gentleman serves but some changes need to be made and they aren’t always going to be the ones written in the rule book.
They will be made by the players on the field making decisions of how this sport should be trained for and played.
Conversation and Roundnet: Crucial to Growth
I was watching former national champion Preston Bies live streaming on his YouTube page, How To Roundnet, and he was asked who he thinks has the hardest serve in the world.
Preston stated that he thinks him or Simon Briebois of Canada have the hardest serve in the world.
But that he (Preston) rarely hits that serve in a game because it hurts his elbow and shoulder and isn’t high enough of a percentage to add into his tournament serve repertoire to help him be successful and win.
Again, it comes down to choice.
I am not saying that aces are bad for the sport. I think that double faults and the notion that you can only get to the top level if you have a cut serve, are not true.
Change… On Purpose!
Change will happen at all levels of roundnet play if top players continue to emphasize via social media things such as:
Game play videos, conversation, etc. talking about how they are choosing to hit a higher percentage serve, instead of the one that may be a sick ace, but most likely end up in a fault, for success.
Influence from top players can go a long way to change our sport.
Another great example is team Hornaboles, a 2019 pro level team made up of veterans Skyler Boles and Chris Hornacek. Chris is known for a hard serve, but he also purposefully practices other aspects, especially weaker aspects, of his game to improve! Skyler has been a top player since the inception of the sport, when many have dropped off. He has done this with using an array of serves, top level hand eye coordination, deception, awareness, while rarely relying on over powering aces or hits, to be successful.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS MAKING CHOICES
An example of top players in the world making choices was showcased at perhaps the greatest roundnet match of all time - the 2019 SRA Nationals in the championship final.
3 time national champion PJ Showalter was hitting a few NASTY fwango style serves that would usually either be an insane ace, or a fault.
Though, he didn’t over-use that serve to his disadvantage.
There was a fine line, and though PJ was able to get some aces with that fwango, he also had some pockets and faults. PJ didn’t go for his crazy fwango every time, for strategic reasons - as it usually ended in either an ace or a fault.
Strategy decided - Hey, I’m not going to hit my crazy ace serve every time because it also pockets or rims a lot. Instead I’ll hit my next best serve and let our defense and a bad first touch help my team win points.
PJ’s fingerprints are on many SRA tournament victory pitchers and national championship trophies for a reason.
He has a choice, so do you.
The Power of Change is in OUR Hands
Change can happen in roundnet, and it does not always need to be mandated in the rules, but sometimes in how we as the players decide to progress and represent the sport.
The increased emphasis on having a serve that can ace people or create an unfavorable first touch has been a MAJOR strategy change in the sport over the years.
In the early years of competitive roundnet aces were rarely a thing.
Other new rules such as the addition of the two serve rule in the recent seasons, which has also been a catalyst for conversation. I think that community members throwing out ideas is helpful, and it doesn’t mean we are going to implement them all.
But talking about it more progresses the sport, and that is awesome!
If we bring up ideas/test something out and it doesn’t make things better, then we have just validated what we currently do as best practice, and if we find something better, well then we improve an already awesome sport! A ‘Win-Win’!
Change will continue to happen, how will we as players help shape that change?
- Tom Witt
Check out PART 2 of “Change and Progress in Roundnet: Players Have a CHOICE” By: Tom Witt on RoundnetWorld.com