By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Bill Norman of Winsted didn’t invent volleyball, but after 30 years of high school officiating, he definitely knows the meaning of “bump, set, spike.”
“I’m always comfortable when (Bill and his officiating partner, Lee Hingst) are around,” said Holy Trinity High School varsity volleyball coach Emily Lynch. “They’re very good at what they do.”
The Minnesota State High School League recently presented Norman with an award for his service, which began in 1980.
At that time, the sport of volleyball looked a little different.
“There used to be far more lifting,” Norman said.
“Within the last 10 years, the game has changed dramatically,” Lynch added.
Within the past decade, a player called a “libero” was introduced at the high school level.
“She’s like a defensive specialist, really,” Norman said. “She can play any back-row position.”
Another recent rule change is allowing serves in which the ball touches the net, as long as it goes over the net into the opponents’ court.
“Once or twice a year, out of habit, someone will still blow the whistle on a serve that hits the net,” Norman said.
Scoring has also changed since Norman began officiating. Until a few years ago, points could be given only when a team had the serve (side-out scoring), and all sets went up to 15 points.
Now, high schools use rally scoring up to 25 points.
“I think they were trying to make the game faster-paced, and more like college,” Norman said. “I like it better.”
Before, games could go on for much longer, he added.
“If you had two really weak teams, the games could last until almost 10 p.m.,” he said. “Now, there’s a score in every single rally.”
Another change is the use of a colored ball for games, Lynch said.
“It’s supposed to be for fan enjoyment,” she explained.
Volleyball was originally developed by Massachusetts YMCA physical education director William Morgan in 1895. Called “mintonette” until 1896, it was designed as an indoor sport that was less rough than basketball, according to www.volleyball.com.
There was no limit for number of players or number of ball contacts.
Gradually, the rules evolved, and now, the complete list of rules for volleyball is extensive.
Some people may think that officiating volleyball is easy, because it doesn’t involve running up and down a court or field, Norman said.
However, being a skilled volleyball official takes a great deal of knowledge and focus.
“You have to be confident in yourself and your partner,” Norman said, adding that he and Hingst of Silver Lake have been working together for all 30 years of his officiating career.
Volleyball officiating has a long history in the Norman family. Norman’s late father, Kenneth, was an official, and his brother, Dick, has been officiating even longer than Norman.
In the late 1970s, Dick and Kenneth’s enthusiasm for the game rubbed off on Norman, and he began watching the games where they officiated.
“Now, I love it,” Norman said, adding that he closely follows the women’s college Gopher volleyball team, as well.
Norman said his favorite part about officiating is when play is tough at the net.
“When there are two teams that play the net, it really makes you concentrate,” he said. “It makes you a better official.”
Having a good official is crucial to the game, Lynch added.
“As a coach, I appreciate a technically-sound referee,” she said. “It makes the greater team come out on top.”
Games that determine which team will go to state are always nerve-wracking for Norman.
He still remembers one such game in New Ulm, during his second year of officiating.
“I was just kind of thrown into it,” he said. “And I say ‘thrown,’ because I felt like I was thrown into the lion’s den. Every call you made was wrong, according to one of the two sides.”
Only once has Norman had to tell someone to leave a game, however. About 10 years ago, a coach was complaining about a call, and things got out of hand.
“He just came unglued,” Norman said. “You don’t kick people out in volleyball. It never gets that bad. But that night, it did.”
For the most part, Norman’s officiating experiences have been pleasant ones.
“You get to know the scorekeepers and timers,” he said.
Before and after the games, one can usually find Norman laughing and joking with friends he’s made. Even during competitive parts, Norman keeps a lighthearted, fun attitude.
“I like that he brings his personality into it,” Lynch said.