Let’s break down the various types of equipment a volleyball player might utilize.
Granted, the ball itself does have a major impact on the level of your play, whether good or bad. Your familiarity with the material, the pattern of its construction, the amount of inflation, and the way it bounces among other factors all contribute to your execution of the three main phases of the game: passing, setting, and attacking.
But here’s the rub: volleyball is a sport in which you almost never have control of the ball that’s used. During matches, the referee is typically responsible for providing, or at least choosing, the game ball. And even during practices, your ball is only one amongst many that are bouncing around the gym. It’s a tough task to continuously track down your favorite choice throughout multiple drills.
The same goes for the net as mentioned above regarding the ball. It’s not usually something you have any control over. As long as it’s not sagging or riddled with holes, I’d argue the quality of the net doesn’t have a highly direct impact on how well you play. Plus, it’s a common variable. Each player is sharing the same net.
There is certainly a practical value found in knee pads and/or ankle braces as it relates to protecting your body from pain or injury. This can also have a positive impact from a mental perspective when you feel safe while playing.
However, this type of equipment is more defensive in nature rather than a tool to elevate the level of your play. In fact, I never wore either. To me, knee pads or ankle braces were necessary evils that added bulkiness where I was seeking natural movements and responsiveness.
The volleyball jersey and shorts or spandex are almost entirely aesthetic. One may wick away perspiration better than another, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a fairly minimal advantage. It’s not like baseball, as an example, where the material of the pants helps protect against cuts and scrapes when sliding. Basically, you want to feel that you look good in whatever you’re wearing. As a guy, I may be a bit self-concerned if I’m wearing shorts that are shorter than what I’d prefer, but once the match starts I wouldn’t let it affect the quality of my play.
I am often the shortest guy on the team but I play outside hitter because I can jump. The shoes I wear play a major role. I don’t like wearing basketball shoes, although they’re much easier to find than volleyball shoes, because they feel too heavy and boxy. The same goes for running shoes, but because the cushioning and traction doesn’t meet my specific needs for volleyball.
The best fit for me is a lightweight volleyball shoe with flexibility that makes it feel as if it is simply an extension of my foot. I also need proper padding in the right spots to minimize the pain or discomfort resulting from hundreds and hundreds of landings. Of course I want my shoes to look good too. Above all, the most important feature for me is the quality of the traction. If I’m slipping and sliding on the court, I am physically impacted in my jumping ability and lateral movements, and also mentally affected because I’m not as confident in my level of stability.
What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree? Am I missing any key pieces of volleyball equipment you purchase for yourself that could be considered more valuable?