Volleyball Player Efficiency Rating, Part 1: Introduction

Statistics: a formal science that applies numerical data to a group of individuals or experiments. Volleyball, like many other sports, has a severe disconnect between media stats and the actual performance level of the players in the game. As coaches we must find a way to bridge this gap if we want to effectively measure our players skills and help them stay focused to achieve their goals. Box scores alone will not give you the empirical information you need to measure the output from your players.

Jim Coleman is credited with the invention of the modern volleyball statistics system. His final contribution “Scouting Opponents and Evaluating Team Performance” in The Volleyball Coaching Bible describes in detail his system of measuring the performance of individual volleyball skills. His methods have been proven to work by coaches at all levels. Case in point, Penn State who has won the last three (’07 – ’09) NCAA Division I championships. How did they do it? Talent and a coach (Russ Rose) who lives by statistics.

Russ Rose attended George Williams College in Downers Grove, IL, with the intentions of becoming a basketball coach. He took two courses, Volleyball I taught by Jim Coleman and Volleyball II taught by Terry Liskveych, and proceeded to play three years on the men’s volleyball team who won the NAIA national championship in 1974. Rose became immersed with volleyball writing his master’s thesis at Nebraska on volleyball statistics. Now he spends his time on the bench charting performance ratings for his players during a match. He focuses mainly on his teams primary contacts and transition plays while his assistants chart the opponents. He may also have someone chart points by rotation with another person working the Data Volley computer statistics program. With these rigorous statistical methods he knows everything about his players.

Rod Schall learned these statistics methods from Jim Coleman early in his career and began development on the first computer program to chart live statistics. After writing an article on “Volleyball Statistics” in 1976 he was contacted by Doug Beal to chart live stats for the USA men’s national team using this program. Sportistics is still used today by schools at various levels. Rod Schall received the 2010 USA Volleyball Medallion of Merit for his contributions.

The system of rating the performance of players in various skills works by assigning a numerical value to the result of a particular skill. The scale most known by volleyball coaches and players is the one for passing which assigns a 3 to mean three hitters available, 2 for two hitters, 1 for one hitter, and 0 for an ace or missed pass. For these statistics to be valid there must be a direct correlation between the skill rating and the probability of scoring a point. The difference in probability of scoring a point when one or two attackers are available is statistically insignificant. With this in mind, Sportistics uses a (0-4) point scale to rate passing with a 3 representing either one or two hitters available:

Pass (Sportistics)
0 = when the opponent scores a point on serving.
1 = when the pass is only good enough to return a free ball.
2 (There is no 2)
3 = when there is a limited attack advantage.
4 = ideal for multiple attack advantage.

The sportistics comprehensive system apples a similar (0-4) scale to all six volleyball skills including serve, pass, set, attack, block, and dig. Since all skills are based on the same rating scale, a composite value can be computed based on all six skills that generalizes a players overall contribution to the team. A sort of PER (Player Efficiency Rating) which is used in basketball that combines a player’s contributions into one number with Michael Jordan at the top of the list.

What is missing is an easy method to record and calculate Volleyball Player Efficiency Ratings. In this three part series I will describe the methods we use at Concordia University Texas to record skill based performance statistics and a simple spreadsheet you can use for your calculations.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

All rights reserved