Volleyball players take new approach to understanding success on the court
Sophomores Lindsey Frazier and Sarah Carvo spend a lot of time on the volleyball court as members of the Cornell College volleyball team, but this summer they rotated off the court and onto the computer to research volleyball data.
“We are comparing the height of college volleyball players to their statistics,” Frazier explained. “We are looking at if a taller player has better statistics then we are generalizing that maybe height does have an effect on the level of play. But if we see that a taller player and a shorter player have about the same statistics then we can generalize height may not have an effect on level of play.”
During the eight weeks of the Cornell Summer Research (CSRI), they worked with Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Justus Hallam to examine statistics from the 2018–19 season found on rosters and websites for more than 800 players in all three NCAA college divisions.
“This is the first time I’ve really worked with data and it has been really interesting,” Carvo said. “It has been a good learning process using Excel and Google sheets and learning just how the data looks once you put it all together.”
The volleyball players learned that height does play a role in recruitment among the divisions with D1 players being significantly taller than other divisions. They, however, were surprised to see their findings ultimately reveal that while height is a large component of volleyball and can provide advantages to certain positions, the success of a player is not determined by height alone. Several actions such as digs and assists were not impacted by height.
“It is important for players and coaches to see that once a player finds a place on the court, their height does not define them,” Frazier said.
“We’re seeing that once you pick a position, height doesn’t matter,” Hallam added. “Once a coach selects them and say ‘we want you to play middle,’ we have determined through some of the statistics that it doesn’t matter anymore how tall you are. People are being picked for positions based on height when really they should be picked based on skill.”
Frazier and Carvo hope to continue their research in the future by studying other variables that could have an impact on collegiate volleyball player success such as vertical jump, reaction time, agility, and arm length. They spent some of their time researching tests for that future research during the summer, and some of that research will involve going into the Kinesiology Department’s new movement analysis lab in Law Hall where they can see the body’s precise movements in detail through a computerized system.
“We would like to take this study and do more human subject research and look at actual measurements of these athletes,” Hallam said. “For example, arm length–do we see that people with longer arms are better? Is speed on the court more important than other things? Is jump height or second jump height more important? Now we are working on developing a series of tests that might be good to test each volleyball player and then determine if one of those things is more important than the other or are they all important.”
The students say their research can help coaches know what to look for when recruiting new players. They also both say these new-found data analysis and research skills from CSRI will help them as they work toward careers involving prosthetics.
“I think the Cornell Summer Research Institute is a really good experience to have under my belt, working with different people and learning all the different technology and systems,” Carvo said. “I think it will be really helpful as I go into grad school and as I finish my years here at Cornell.”