Talkin’ inside Volleyball


Humber Men’s Volleyball team in action. | Courtesy of OCAA

Slangs and terms only a volleyball player would understand


Surely at any sports event, hearing players throw around words like tuna, penetration and deep-dish, spectators would think they’re speaking a foreign language.

From a sport that used to be called Mintonette, it is understandable that the jargon and descriptions of the rules be just as unique. Volleyball was created by William Morgan of the YMCA and is played all over the world in gyms, parks and beaches. It’s also the fifth most popular sport in the world, having over 800 million players.

The intense sport improves flexibility, balance, and coordination. According to Sean A. Pellow, Fanshawe’s women’s volleyball coach, a number system is used for offence systems, plays and straightforward slang.

Durham College’s women’s volleyball coach Tony Clarke says sometimes players don’t even realize what they say.

“It comes so naturally to us that we say things that we don’t know if it’s slang or not,” Clarke says.

Common slang terms include: chucker, dump, floater, joust, pipe, tandem, tape, telegraph, tip and six-pack according to Fanshawe men’s volleyball coach Patrick Johnston.

“I think the volleyball community itself is pretty small and tightknit so any of the really good terms that you hear a team use, it’s not very long before everyone’s saying it,” Johnston says.

He adds most athletes and coaches learn these terms at clinics where they are trained from a young age.

Certain terms like pancake and tuna may seem bizarre, but are quite comedic. Nothing seems as funny as penetration which is the block in which the player reaches across and breaks the plane of the net.

However, Johnston says that particular one isn’t even considered a slang term.

“That’s actually referring to them penetrating the net. Like getting over the net. It’s not a slang term,” Johnston says.

Similarly, chester is not a name, but a ball hit on the chest. “Sizzle the pits” isn’t about raising the temperature of a barbeque or sweaty underarms, but a spike that whizzes past players’ raised arms.

Some slang created are specific to the team as well. The players come up with a word to describe a situation and it just catches on.

The Fanshawe men’s volleyball team use scuup (pronounced scoop) instead of dig, and apple instead of assist says Johnston.

Clarke from Durham says that the terms differ each year due to the players and teams.

“One that we kind of got going the last few years, we used the word spicy. One of our players, few years back, when a big hit was coming she would always say ‘Ah! The spicy one!’ And we started saying that all the time in practice and stuff like that as a joke,” Clarke says.

According to Johnston, some terms are made-up as a result of a team member doing something funny or repetitive.

And other phrases are just descriptions of the players celebrating a win. According to Clarke, at Durham they call celebrations something else.

“One thing we do when we score is we call ‘around the world’ so the person who serves it, that gets that ace they go around the centre of the court with all the players and give everybody a high ten,” Clarke says.

The volleyball-specific jargon also has its own advantages and is an effective way to hide plays. However, the Durham coach says he has to keep them hush-hush.

“We don’t like to say [certain slang words] out loud because other teams that might catch up on us. So, I can’t disclose some of the things that we use,” Clarke says.

But Clarke relies on numerical systems for location, service or an off-hand signal. Too many descriptive plays can be hard for the athletes.

Johnston says nothing beats plays in another language, like French. The OCAA French teams Boréal and La Cité might have  the edge, but Johnston says that does not always mean they have full advantage.

“We have no idea what they’re saying,” Johnston says. “It’s not what we’re focusing on during those matches.”

Clarke tends to give hand signals to the other coaches to indicate when their players are crossing the line and be mindful that there are other players that can understand them. It’s all apart of maintaining good sportsmanship.

Volleyball’s quirky jargon is all fun and games, almost all the time.

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