USA Volleyball’s Karch Kiraly, John Speraw on getting an Olympic reserve player

USA setter Jordyn Poulter was injured but returned to finish the Tokyo Olympicst/Ed Chan,

Olympic volleyball teams will get an extra practice player and someone who can fill in next summer in Paris in the event of injury.

Volleyball World posted this on its Instagram on Wednesday:

The FIVB has confirmed, that for the first time in the history of the Olympic #volleyball competition, each team participating in the Games will be entitled to include one non-competing (AP) athlete to replace an athlete for medical reasons.

As such, team rosters will increase from 12 to 13 athletes.

AP athletes are non-competing athletes accredited by the IOC and serve as a last-minute replacement if an athlete is unable to compete due to injury or illness.

The replaced athlete shall not be allowed to compete for the remainder of the competition.

While the 13th athlete will be able to attend matches and train with the team, they will not be accommodated in the Olympic Village unless additional support is granted by the respective National Olympic Committee.

There is no story about this on either the FIVB or Volleyball World websites.

And both our USA Olympic coaches, Karch Kiraly and John Speraw, downplayed the change and noted that the rosters are not exactly expanding.

Kiraly, who coaches the women, said the FIVB was hoping for more.

“The FIVB, for at least two Olympic cycles, has been trying to accomplish of having the Olympics allow each indoor team to have a roster of 14 because that’s the roster permitted at every other FIVB competition during every Olympic cycle,” Kiraly said. “The only event that has a reduced roster is the Olympics themselves.”

Kiraly said the ultimate decision maker is the International Olympic Committee.

“The FIVB pleads with, advocates for and continues to advocate for pushing the roster to 14 like every other event.”

Kiraly said the FIVB thought it was going to get two alternates. The goal was for there still to be 12 players in uniform for a match, but “the FIVB was advocating for and thought it had accomplished adding two alternates, which makes training better before and thoughout the Olympic competition with seven on a side, because seven are involved in any given instance in a match, six plus the ‘bro.

“And then the hope was either of those could be switched in for medical reasons. But the FIVB found out from the IOC that it had approved just one alternate player. So at this point there will be one official alternate.”

Men’s coach Speraw said “it’s essentially an alternate to travel. But they won’t be an official member of the Olympic team, they won’t suit up, they won’t have access to the village. They’re only going to be in Paris at the high-performance and only available in case there’s an injury to an athlete.

“And it’s my understanding that if you do make a switch, the person who is hurt can’t come back. So it would only be for that.”

Speraw said that player will benefit, at the least, practice.

The USA men finished 10th in Tokyo in 2021. The roster included two setters, one libero, three middles, four outsides and two opposites. 

“You can use them in training, which is helpful, because they’ve changed the (Olympic) format,” said Speraw, whose team in Tokyo played two matches in two days, had a day off, played a match, had another day off, and then played again. Then it had two days off before its final preliminary match.

“I haven’t seen the exact schedule, and we won’t know that one until the end of VNL, but I’m estimating there will be longer breaks in between so you would want to have real practices, and to have an extra middle, or an extra libero would be very helpful. I haven’t gotten into the thought process of what that position might be, for us in particular, but I’m imagining a middle.” 

The USA women won gold in Tokyo with a roster that also included two setters, one libero, three middles, four outsides and two opposites. 

“Since the alternate can be switched in for medical reasons, part of the calculation will probably end up being based on the health of the active-roster people in a given position,” Kiraly said. “It will be different for each team, and certainly can change a lot between now and June when rosters are likely to be set. Without taking into account health, a generic solution might be a fourth middle or a second libero, but I would expect a wide range of choices from the 12 women’s and 12 men’s indoor teams.”

The USA women battled through two major injuries in Tokyo, to opposite Jordan Thompson and setter Jordyn Poulter, who severely sprained her ankle, rehabbed non-stop and missed just one match before coming back at seemingly full strength. 

“Each team will have to make another tough calculation, including how quickly the person can heal,” Kiraly noted. “Iif a player is switched out, she or he cannot return to the roster later in the tourney. If we had switched either Poulter or JT out, their tournament would have ended.”

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