As the sport of volleyball advances, so does the development of player equipment. Players are wearing equipment, like neoprene sleeves for the forearm or knee, to palm protectors or “skids” for the hands, and a variety of ankle and knee braces and supports. Those items all fit snuggly on the body part or can be fastened securely, but not hand towels.
With no fasteners or straps, hand towels are usually tucked into the waistband of a player’s shorts, as shown in the PlayPic. That shouldn’t cause any concern for referees, but it should raise their awareness.
Setters are the most likely to have a towel handily tucked into their shorts. Since they’re touching the ball on nearly every play, they want to keep their hands as dry as possible to improve the contact with the ball. With the setters regularly wiping their hands and constantly moving around the court, the towel may come loose. Since safety is paramount, referees should be alert to the potential hazards when a towel or other equipment comes loose during play.
Under NFHS and NCAA rules, when a player’s towel or other equipment (glasses, shoe, etc.) comes loose in the playing area while the ball is in play, the rally should be stopped and replayed if the item causes a distraction or presents a safety hazard. No sanction or penalty should be assessed. NFHS rules clarify that unnecessary delay would only be assessed if there are excessive stoppages of play for such an item. USAV rules and interpretations also place emphasis on player safety in that situation; however, if the rally must be stopped to allow the player to retrieve the item, a delay sanction should result. Players are encouraged to mitigate the risk of injury by quickly picking up the item or tossing it off the court so that play doesn’t need to be stopped.
Alert referees can quickly identify those situations and then act accordingly to maintain a safe playing environment.
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