NOTE: This is meant to be 65% amusing, 30% educational, 5% disturbing regarding my OCD.
Traditional opening statement: I’m not gonna complain about officiating, but….
And now, with the amenities and proper form out of the way, we can move on to this bonus spectacular blog.
Okay, so I was driving a couple weeks ago to help move my daughter in today for her final semester of undergrad–since she is on an internship rather than ‘normal’ school. In a coaching forum, someone mentioned yellow cards and I started thinking about this and for a second wondered whether throwing a tantrum and stuff like that makes a difference. –It was just a second. Then I realized, I can still remember all of the cards I’ve been given in volleyball–not the exact date, but the opponent and the year. I even can tell you (honestly) which ones I deserved. Oh, yeah–and my favorite memory from my time with Jim Stone at the Big10/Pac10 Challenge….
(Side Note #1: I don’t mind how volleyball is officiated, but I wish things were consistent across sports. The yelling and berating that goes on in basketball and football is mindboggling–and accepted as normal…and then fans/coaches/observers are shocked at the shortage of officials. Go figure.)
(Side Note #2: I’ve been a head coach for 595 HS/college matches, I’ve coached roughly 400 club matches, and assisted 150 college matches or so. In all that time, I can tell you all the times officials truly decided the match. Through willful decisionmaking: 1. Through unintended poor officiating: 4. That is FIVE matches out of 1,145 or 0.4% with the intentional being 0.08%. If you knew you could generally get the right outcome 99.6% of the time overall in life, you’d be damned happy.)
Without further ado then…my personal history of bad behavior:
- 1996: Crossroads Classic by an official we’ll just call “Bobbi”. I got it for arguing that a non-setter could play a ball overhand legally. She said a set couldn’t have any spin on it once it was set. The yellow came on the next point when their setter had the ball come out of her hands spinning. (We’ll meet Bobbi regularly here….)
- 1997: Crossroads Classic again…two yellow cards. In the first match, it was for arguing a serve that hit the net (when that was illegal). The official, named “Bobbi”, said she didn’t hear it–and didn’t have her hand on the net. Boom–yellow card. The other match, I got it for asking the R2 what the call was–I was writing stats down and didn’t see it (no assistant, no manager, and stats for the paper were mandatory). Yup–“Bobbi” again. (Are ya noticin’ a pattern here?)
- 1998: Tournament at Martinsville. I didn’t have a JV coach and I had the flu. While the prior match was going on, I went to the bathroom. Match ended quickly and the official…”Bobbi” called for captains (apparently before the court was even clear). Since I was..busy…and wasn’t out there, I was given a yellow for delaying the match.
- 1999: At the Casey-Westfield Tournament. We were playing Edwards County and sucking (EC had two great hitters–best two in that school’s history and we weren’t going to win, regardless). I didn’t like a call; it was incorrect, but I was mostly upset at my team. The R1 let me go on for a little bit and then the R2 told me to sit. I said, “I ain’t sitting until I get a card, Chris.” He walked over and about five seconds later–yellow. I sat down. About 30 seconds later, my setter seriously sprained her ankle (career ending since she was a senior)–the R1 gave us a ton of extra time to sort things out. I appreciated that then and now. She came up to apologize about the call after the match–I told her it was fine, that I was sorry she had to give me a card, but I was upset at how we were playing. She said she thought so, wasn’t going to do anything, but then the R2 came over and she was going to back him up. I’ve forgotten her name and haven’t seen her at HS matches in a decade. “Chris”–I now live about three blocks from him and he’s a big-time softball ump now.
- 1999: I’ve got a JV coach for this year, by the way. We’re changing benches, having just lost a set. I make the comment, “I hope they get it right” as we’re passing the scorer’s table, having turned in my lineup–not even talking about officials, but an adjustment we’re in the process of putting in for the next set. R2 walks over to the R1 and boom–I’ve got a yellow for badmouthing the officials. Do I even need to have you guess who the R2 was?
- 1999: The “Non-Card“. First set and we were called for being in the next something like five of the first seven points. Yes–I know that’s possible, but not when your kids aren’t within three feet of the net. The R2 was the sister of the other team’s coach…gee, who hired the officials? The R1, “Dee”, came down off the stand because I was pretty mad. She said she didn’t want to give me a card and I told her–you’re going to need to and explained what I’d found out from the scorer’s table. The R1 hadn’t realized the R2 and coach were related. “Dee” told me to sit down, shut up, and focus on coaching–“Look like you’re having fun, Jim”. She’d make sure there were no shenanigans. She had a word with the R2…no more net violations. A couple weeks later, “Dee” told me it was the one night she’d forgotten to bring her cards…
Dee had some good advice there. Enjoy it. I was still young then, had a good, young team that I knew was going to be great in 2000 and 2001. It’s not the worst ethical breach I’ve seen…that was 2012. We dominated a match, but it went to five sets on some ‘interesting’ calls. We lost the 5th set and when it was done, the R1 got off the stand, hugged the opposing coach, got in their damned huddle and wished the team good luck with the post-season. (No, we haven’t gone back there since.)
- 2000: It was a tournament–Casey-Westfield’s I think. Player’s uniform came untucked and she didn’t tuck it back in before the next play. Yellow card after the R1 gave the other team a sideout for us delaying the match for the untucked uniform. The official? Yup, “Bobbi”.
HS POSTSCRIPT 2000: Flora, Sectional Title Game. We are 34-2 and playing a good opponent. You can ask people who were there and they will tell you it was one of the greatest HS matches ever. Sideout scoring, best-of-three, and it went two hours. The problem was that the R1 had a relative die and we had a replacement official coming that night. By seniority (she was the region’s head of officials), the official declared she would be the R1 for the match. I didn’t get a card–but …you can guess who the official was, right? At 14-13 in the deciding set, we scored match point, my outside slapped the pad in excitement, we piled up, and she blew her whistle–‘sideout, dangerous contact with a playing surface’. I was not permitted to call TO to appeal/protest. The R2 said “She’s the person that runs things, I’m not doing anything.” While I was talking to the R2, R1 whistled for serve and then the R1 called us out of rotation (the receiving team). BHE on the next play before our opponent scored point 16 on a hard swing.
None of my seniors from that team have ever gone in to the gym where that State banner hangs. I have–see it all the damned time as it is where my son goes to school. So what was up with “Bobbi”? Well, a week before our sectional, she made a comment that the wrong ears picked up–a comment she’d made repeatedly within the hearing of coaches: “Men have no business coaching girls. Anything to get them out of doing it is fine.” That sectional title game was the last match she ever officiated. Why couldn’t they have done that sooner? As the last bit of that, I coached those opposing kids during club season. They apologized so many times for what happened–even though it wasn’t their fault. They loved going to State, but for them, they said it was rough knowing how they got there. Those were good kids and it makes looking at that damned banner easier for me over the years because the kids on the other side were classy. Still, of the seven yellow-cards I received as a HS coach over eight years, a single official gave me six of them.
Have you considered supporting this writing? The best way to do that? Buy a book like Like Heck She Isn’t a Volleyball Player. It’s under five bucks. You’re out a Big Mac and get 27 essays on coaching instead. If you want to support in a different way, consider donating to my foundation. ALL of the donations that come in through that link will go towards endowing college scholarships for young people interested in education. ALL. You support my writing habit and together we can help the next generation of young people! …and now back to the story.
So I coached high school another three years before an unfortunate sequence of events. No yellow cards. Nada. Part of this was because I was growing more comfortable with running a program, some was because my athletic director let me have input in who we contracted as officials., some of it was officials getting more comfortable with my mannerisms (and vice-versa) Some of it was also because we were really, really good and its just gauche to argue when you are up 12-5 or 14-6. That brings us to college.
- 2004: Opening weekend for Allen County, 11 days on the job–and yes, I still had to pause for names once in a while. College Yellow #1 in the books. I don’t remember the match details because it was a stupid card–had nothing to do with the official and everything to do with a couple players willfully doing old stuff rather than what I asked them to do. I was frustrated with them and doubting myself–this is the fall after I was fired, after all….
- 2004: Allen County at Butler Community College. They had rowdy fans (the entire football team). I was new, wanted to win, but had several players who still resisted doing things the way I wanted them, always saying, “But Coach K did things this way….” or “I played Position X for Coach….” That didn’t help my mood. So I was standing right on the sideline (Yes, too close while the play was going on). The ball is hit by their right-side, tags *me* in the left knee–no, I wasn’t actually on the line/in the court. The line judge calls it in. R2 calls it out. R1 consults R2…sticks with the line judge’s call. I make a comment regarding the R1’s decision in a loud stentorian voice. Yellow.
- 2004: Allen County. It was away–it was at Neosho County. Line judge blew a call badly. R1 and R2 consult and won’t overturn it. It’s in a set that’s something like 26-26 at that point. I stomped my foot, slammed my notebook. A deserved yellow. To be fair though, before the next set while the R2 was checking our lineup, we had a sotto voce conversation–she said she didn’t doubt it hit the court, but they were both screened from seeing it and the line judge was ‘absolutely sure.’ If a ref is screened, I get the hesitation and why you go with the LJ. The problem is that at the small college level, those line judges are often classmates/students/friends of the VB team. Sucked–we lost that set, then the match. I deserved the yellow. We lost the match, but I won’t blame the LJs for that…the 71,249 unforced errors get the credit.
I didn’t pick up any cards my second season in Iola before coming to LLCC after the 2005 season where I’ve been ever since.
- 2006: Home tournament against Shawnee. Fifth set and I had a player have her shoe come untied (we’re winning, so we aren’t stalling). I say something to the R2 and he steps on the court. Player had looked up at the R1 who nodded at her…and then turned and beckoned for serve. Ace. I pointed out (so did the R2) that the R2 was on the court, that he’d just nodded to my player when she gestured to her shoe. Nope–just a card out of his pocket. Welcome to LLCC Yellow #1.
- 2007: I picked up one in a match against State Fair CC, but I don’t remember where it was at–just not at their tourney. The official was inconsistent in what was permitted with middles and power-tips. Deserved the card.
- 2007: At Johnson County. Totally deserved it. We lost a set 33-35, ending with a couple BHE calls…and I projected my voice: “It’s okay guys, hard to win playing 6 on 7.” They were bad BHE calls, but you can’t intentionally say something like that and get away with it.
- 2007: at John Wood. It’s one of only two times in more than a decade at LLCC I’ve told my AD–I don’t want that official any more. I got a yellow all right. I deserved it. Deserved a Red, but it’s the worst complete match we’ve had from an R1 I can remember. As bad as the ref was, we still lost on our unforced errors.
- 2008: Manatee CC at FSC-Jacksonville, I think (though it may have been Pensacola instead). Inconsistent ball-handling calls–and the match was nothing but close sets (15-13 in the 5th, I believe). I think the intensity of the match that caused the yellow, more than anything else. Deserved? Maybe?
- 2010: Home in a big match. We lost a set because of a replay when the opponent complained of being distracted–would’ve won 3-1. Instead we lost 3-2. Did I deserve it? Totally. Afterwards, a couple of my players thanked me for sticking up for them. In hindsight, I was mad enough, I could’ve been given a Red by the officials. Given things, I think they handled a unique situation and a mad coach pretty well. I still think the replay was crap, though.
- 2010: At the Marshalltown tournament. I told the officials beforehand of a couple things that would go on because I knew our opponent used stalling as a regular tactic. Yup–straight from the get-go and the refs didn’t do anything, so I started calling how/when they’d delay the match before it happened and got them all right just like Ms. Cleo. That was enough for a yellow. On the other hand, the refs then stopped the stalling shenanigans, we built a rhythm and swept the rest of the match.
- 2010: At Kankakee for a tournament. A couple of really bad calls in the 5th set cost us the set–R1 missed a BR attack with the kid wayyyy over the line. It didn’t take much for me to get the yellow. The R1 was the R2 for the next match, so I kept conversation to a minimum. The thing is, when the whole day was done, that official came up and apologized for the blown calls. It shocked my players. I told the R1, “Thanks, but it didn’t cost us the match–23 unforced errors did.” Refs are human. I think he realized the mistake shortly after it happened. Obviously, I deserved the card. Still, the ref didn’t cost us the match–without those errors, it never goes to a 5th set.
- 2011: At Lake Land College. I got it for arguing a ball-handling call. It was the right call, but we were sucking canal water. R1 let me go on for at least a minute, I made sure he heard enough to issue a card–voila, yellow! The thing with it is–he understood the card. Later in the match, I had a player suffer a concussion. He thought I was stalling, I started yelling, and he reached for a card–then he saw the kid, tapped his chest and mouthed ‘my bad’. He apologized for that after the match–and I apologized for going off on him–that I knew his call was right, I was just mad at my team.
- 2011: Region Playoff, 3rd set. Other team had a player lift her uniform on the court between plays to adjust her belly-button ring–that’s jewelry, folks. The R1 decides she can take it out, no need for a sub or any sort of sanction. This is a 2-3 minute process. I got mad. I got the yellow, but the R2 went, talked to the R1, and that player came out of the match…and it took her the rest of that set to get that ring out (I’m not convinced she got it out…I think she left it in and stopped picking at it and lied to the officials).
- 2012: Last away match of the regular season. Some ‘interesting’ ball-handling calls throughout the match go against us. I can chalk a few up to inconsistency, a couple to just whiffed calls. Fifth set comes and I get a yellow for arguing a BHE. I deserved it because by that point I was riding that official–freely admit it. We lost 12-15 with the last two points being BHE. Okay–I’ll calm down and be okay, except…the R1 came off the stand, hugged the opposing coach, wished her good luck in the post-season and did the same for the team in their huddle. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen that. This is one of the matches where the official DID decide the outcome.
- 2015: at Southwestern Illinois. Well, I didn’t mean to get the Yellow here. We were up 18-5 for God’s sake. At that point, SWIC hit a ball well out, but the student line judge was busy talking to her friend sitting in the bleachers and wasn’t watching the court. That annoys me regardless of where I’m at or the level being played, so I pointed over there and projected my voice at the official, “Can you have the line judge pay attention to the game not the bleachers?”…at the exact moment the gym went totally silent. Total. Silence. So, yeah, that’s a card. Then…as I’m sitting there (not even standing), I turn to the R2 and say, “Can you guys just ask her to stop talking with her friend and watch the match? Good or not, she’d expect officials to pay attention when she’s playing.” Out of nowhere, the R1 raises a Red card–he told the R2 to tell me I needed to drop it. (I would’ve been happy to, but then as R1 say something to the LJ ignoring the game in front of her…the R1 never did.) If I had known I was going to get a Red, I would’ve done something worthy of my first. Nope. The funny thing–on our video, you can see the girls wondering who got the card. They thought it was for the ref overhearing one of my players drop an f-bomb. No one believed it was on me…”Dietz isn’t even talking. He’s just sitting there. Did he give the ref the finger or something?” Ahhh, good times.
- 2015: At the conference tournament. It was deserved, but I think it was a necessary yellow card. Opposing coach was complaining about some calls and it felt like it was affecting the R1’s decisions–I have no way to know if that was the case or not, so I started doing the same thing. It felt like it made a difference in how it was called–but the ’15 group by that point was 26-4. They needed to know I was as invested as they were.
It made a difference four days later when I actually “won” an argument with the officials, got them to overturn a call–and I have awesome respect for that R1…we were on the road and after I demanded they look at the rulebook, the R1 reversed his call…our opponent went ballistic. There aren’t a lot of officials in any sport willing to admit a mistake and reverse a key call. I respected what he did immensely. While all of the discussion was going on, my players knew I was fighting for them–it built their excitement, believe it or not–visibly. As a tangent to this whole post–I consider cards tactically; at the college level, they disappear after each set. You can use them for a pause, to get a point across, whether to your team or to an official, but it’s important to know the team or official.
- 2016: at Marshalltown against undefeated Indian Hills. We won, but lost a set. The kid doing the scorebook wasn’t paying attention and while we were serving, gave Indian Hills two points. We lost the set 25-22. I saw the mistake immediately and argued (to no avail) it was fixable. The R2 said they had to go with what was in the book and the R1 just shrugged her shoulders. Not. Happy. The Yellow wasn’t the motivator for the team, but the situation did. We came out and dominated the final two sets. I deserved the card, but still think the officials should have done something about the score–they couldn’t have missed we’d scored the last two points, not IH. Changing the book would have been easy.
- 2016: Home tourney against a ranked team. Deserved–but I appreciated that the official knew I wasn’t really upset with the calls, mainly how we were playing. It was one of those ‘tactical’ cards you pick up as a coach. We didn’t fix it until I subbed out every starter (it was a ‘Sub 5’…left the libero out on the court)–and the bench came from behind to win a set…and then the match.
- 2016: National Tournament vs. Kirkwood. Deserved. I enjoyed the text messages from people afterwards commenting on my ball-handling ‘skills’. I picked up the Yellow for demonstrating what a double-hit looked like as I sent the ball back to a shagger. Through the first 1.5 sets, none had been called. Personally, I think it changed how BHE were called the rest of the way, but who knows? I was upset with the lack of calls, but at that point, I was also annoyed with how we were playing. I’ve had a good laugh about it with the official the past couple years–he remembers it as well–not in a bad way, just that ‘coaches are coaches sometimes.’
- 2017 at a tournament against a D1 opponent. Absolutely deserved, but I think it says something about the R1’s inconsistency that each coach had a Yellow before either team reached 15 in the first set. The other coach picked up another yellow and a Red later in the match. The one thing I’d give the refs credit for though in the match–some of the fans were being rude/filthy/unsportsmanlike towards my kids on the court. The R1 stopped the match, got the tourney manager, and squared things away…of course, those parents left in the meantime. I haven’t ever seen an official willing to do that–or find it necessary. I’ll give credit for that because it WAS absolutely necessary–those fans were vulgar and rude, an embarrassment. I was told he’s a great official–and that may be. Everyone has bad days, players, coaches, and officials, but that first set–whoa, that was rocky officiating.
- 2017 but won’t mention when or where. I blew up. My daughter was there and said she was glad she saw it in person–said it was the first time she’d ever seen me truly angry/furious ever (I’m good about my temper, believe it or not from my OCD listing of all my card-offenses). Basically, I sent the player to ask the R1 about a call and the response was “I’m not going to give your team that call today.” My team? That got me mad–because he’d already called us for more BHE in the first set than we averaged per match (and for the match we wound up at 400% our season average while our opponent was at 50% of their norm). Yellow right here. I told the R2 that was wrong and the R2 went over to discuss things–came back and the R1 called my captain over and asked, “Why did you lie to your coach?” Accuse my player of lying–I lost it….I have kids that will lie to me, I know that–but not this one. The kid started crying. My behavior wasn’t the best–but my players are my kids. You can call them for BHE, make incorrect line calls, but don’t comment on their personal integrity. We’re 18 months past this and I’m still sore. I don’t regret this card at all. I would have defended the kid to the point of ejection from the match and I think any coach worth their weight in salt would do likewise for their players. Otherwise, why are you coaching?
- 2018: Opening Weekend against Longview. Stunningly bad call by the R1. Our back-row setter tried to bring a ball back and played it while it may have been over the plane of the net. As she did so, the opposing blocker swept the ball. No call–play went on for a few minutes. I asked why there was no call. She said there was no foul. Horse-hockey. Either my kid played it over the plane, so it was a back-row attack or else she was setting it on our side and the blocker interfered with the set. An officials supervisor was right there and agreed with me–blatant enough that she said something then and there. Yellow card. I knew we were in trouble because she had my captain come over to come tell me I now needed to sit down because I had been given a card. Ummmm, you know this is college and not high school, right? (It may have cost us a set, but Longview dominated two sets and even if we won the set, they would’ve won the match–they played great.)
- 2018 Opening Weekend against Neosho. Bad whole match by the R2. It won’t be a shock–it was the same official as my other card from the weekend. In the 5th set at 12-12, she called us out of alignment. She said my setter (at right back) couldn’t be in front of the libero (middle back). I told her we were stacked left and she replied, “There’s no such thing. Sit down coach. I’ve warned your players about it all day.” Well, I didn’t let it go and she walked over and the R1 issued me the Yellow. No such thing as a stack? No understanding that the middle back has no relevance for how far forward the setter/right back is? Yikes. Cool thing though–when the match was done, Asya, the opposing coach, went over and told the head of officials how bad the call was. I deserved the card–but it was brutal officiating…and as bad as it was, if we wouldn’t have crapped away the 3rd AND 4th sets, it wouldn’t have gotten to the point of her ignorance mattering–as usual, our mistakes/Neosho’s refusal to give up is what gave them the win.
So there ya go–my cards. 1 Red and 31 Yellow in 22 years of coaching. I suppose that’s a reasonable number, about 1.5 per season. If you’re going to judge me, I suspect it’s going to be on the fact I know the circumstances of 20+ years worth of sanctions. I understand. It’s probably some sort of OCD thing. Same with me and stats and certain volleyball moments. Other than the official for Opening Day this year and Bobbi the HS sexist, I’ve never received a card more than once from an official. I hadn’t really thought about that. I wonder if that’s weird. *shrug*
If there’s a point to this blog this time–other than worrying about my OCD tendencies, think about sanctions. Are there times when you went too far? Are there times where they are potentially useful? Are there times you regret a card or maybe are ashamed of it? If you were an official, how would you react to your coaching behavior? It’s all an art, no real science to it.