Courtesy Rules

In many communities where beach volleyball is played, some unspoked coed “courtesy” rules are occasionally  in use. The most common form in doubles play, is the “guy serves guy” rule. Male players are expected serve the opposing team’s male player, and vice versa (consequently, female players also try to restrict ball serve and receive between them). The penalties can vary – most commonly a female receiving the service from a male player the first time in any rotation is considered a warning, with the second event considered a fault. And at game point, this warning is suspended, and all male to female serve receives are considered faults. Some places are even more strict, where all attacks from males must be directed to the opposing male. In most situations, a male successfully stuff blocking a female is considered verboten.

These courtesy rules are troublesome to implement. Some teams choose to maximize the female covered area to increase the likelihood that the other team is accused of “serving the girl”. And some communities choose to implement some version thereof even in situations with more than two players on the team.  The fuzziness of these “rules” have the effect of creating games built on communal convention rather than codified standards. Rather than shooting balls away from the opposing team, male players have to find an area interpretable as attacking the opposing male player.

So why do we do this? In an unscientific sampling, female players find the practice annoying as it couches them as weaker on the attack, even though most have received more training and ball control than the males. Males justify the practice as being requested by females. And numerous communities do perfectly fine without such rules in place. So who benefits from these arrangements?

The elephant in the room is a chauvinistic idea that male strength at the attack is the determinining factor in the game. In reality, beach volleyball has far greater range and depth of play that supersedes the gender of the players involved. Few other team sports have this kind flexibility and potential. And these outmoded ideas of gender roles are likely the root of controversies accepting transgender athletes into competition.

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