August 15, 2020

TO:             Head Volleyball Coaches, MSHSAA high schools in the Kansas City/northwest Missouri areas

FROM:        Ken Corum, Vice President for Volleyball – Greater Kansas City Officials Association (GKCOA)

On behalf of the volleyball referees in the GKCOA, welcome to the 2020 season!  Most of you receiving this are schools that use GKCOA to provide your sub-varsity (and some varsity) referees.  If not, you’ll probably see officials from our association as the year progresses.  We are sending this to head varsity coaches, so please feel free to forward this or inform your assistant and junior high/middle school coaches of the topics below to keep them in the loop.

Before I get into the main purpose of this email, let me just say that I hope you, your families, your teams, and your communities are safe.  Volleyball takes a back seat to our individual and collective health, and I trust that all of those close to you are well.

Even though we are a week into practice, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty in many areas about how this season will play out.  With MSHSAA’s announcement this week regarding alternative fall seasons, that potentially adds another layer.  From the officials’ side, we have tried to stay positive and approach our preparation as normally as possible with the attitude that we are going to have matches to officiate this fall until we are told otherwise.


Over the summer, we normally officiate at area summer leagues to prepare for the fall season, but all of our opportunities for improvement in that way were cancelled.  Instead, we got together on Zoom for several other learning opportunities.  One of those, from July 19, was a dialogue between many of our officiating members and three head varsity coaches from the Kansas City area (April Fleming from Liberty, Jennifer Morgan from Lee’s Summit West, and Katie Straka from Blue Springs) regarding a number of topics, including a discussion regarding various ideas and approaches to calling ballhandling.  Please take time to check out the recording of this session because I believe there’s beneficial information in this Zoom for both officials and coaches:  

PART 1: 25 minutes, then we got cut off)

PART 2: (about an hour – most of the discussion occurred here)


We assume that you’ve seen and had time to become familiar with the NFHS/MSHSAA volleyball rule modifications (link below) meant to assist in decreasing exposure to respiratory droplets.

There have been a few points that MSHSAA has emphasized with officials, so we want to make sure we’re on the same page with coaches and administrators:

  1. The pre-match captains and coaches meeting will take place at center court, so if your teams are ball handling during that time, please make sure to allow socially distanced space on your side for that meeting to take place.
  2. There will not be a pre-match coin toss this year.  The VISITING TEAM will serve first…notice that the visiting team is NOT being given the choice of serve/receive.  The NFHS rule modification says that the visiting team will have first serve in the match.
  3. There are a number of health provisions on the modification sheet that could be subject to local rules (i.e. masks/face coverings, etc.), so we have instructed our officials to be open to having one set of rules at one school on one night and different rules at a different school the next night.  We are encouraging flexibility on many fronts with our officials to work with you and your administration to conduct successful matches each night.
  4. MSHSAA acknowledged the possibility that, due to illness of an official and short notice, it is possible to only have one certified official on a varsity match and still have it be a legal match.  We have discussed this possibility with our officials, so we are prepared to take on that potential situation.  Please discuss in advance with your administrator of what your preferences might be in that situation, ranging from postponing the match to working with the single referee that night, or (this idea was floated by MSHSAA) having a faculty member at your school become MSHSAA-certified to fill in at the last minute.
  5. Lastly, we have been instructed by MSHSAA to NOT control certain items unrelated to the NFHS rules book.  Namely, monitoring social distancing and masks on the bench or at the scorer’s table, sanitizing of volleyballs or use of hand sanitizer by participants, colors or wording on masks/face coverings, and how pre-match and post-match ceremonies will occur are examples of items that are left up to coaches and administration to monitor and execute.

Hopefully, we can all work together and show grace, flexibility, and patience with one another in an extraordinary time to have a successful season for the student-athletes we ultimately serve.


Before COVID, as an officials association, this was going to be our #1 topic to cover in pre-season!  We are embracing the challenge of officiating best-of-five set matches and look at it as a positive development for volleyball players and teams in Missouri!

Cutting to the chase, though, there has been concern expressed across the state regarding how much more time it will take to complete an evening of matches. So, MSHSAA has put out a document called “Checklist When Hosting/Working a Volleyball Contest.” (link below)

This document says that we all (administrators, coaches, and officials) have a part to play in making sure we aren’t in the gym until midnight.  As officials, we have been instructed to be as timely as possible with items like getting subs in and out and whistling for serve more efficiently.  As coaches, please be aware that we are now supposed to START (not set) an 18-minute clock as soon as the previous match ends.  The pre-match captains and coaches meeting needs to occur right away so that can be completed by the 16-minute mark to start the warmup procedure on time.  So, please have your teams ready to take the court and have you and your captains immediately available after the completion of the previous match.  That will help get the next match off to a positive start and lead to a more efficient evening overall.


Thank you to those of you who participated in our coaches survey at the end of last season.  Our goal as referees is to partner with you to help make volleyball a great experience for your players and programs.  We believe that is better accomplished by positive interaction between referees and coaches instead of pitting our two groups against each other in a negative fashion.  The complete and unedited results of that survey are at this link: We have taken those results to heart, and we are working to improve on the areas you indicated through improved instruction in our meetings and through video.  We are encouraged to see that there is evidence that coaches believe referees are showing a great deal of professionalism in the vast majority of matches and our attention points regarding calling ballhandling better were positively recognized.  Any reports of unprofessional behavior have been and will continue to be dealt with on an ongoing basis.  Again, our belief is that referees and coaches are partners in making volleyball a great experience for young people.


For your information, the GKCOA volleyball officials have four meetings per season where we gather to view videos, have on court demonstrations, guest speakers, and discuss issues pertaining to the opportunities we have to make this incredible sport of volleyball even better.  In addition, weekly memos go out to our members with more video clips and announcements from MSHSAA and NFHS regarding rule interpretations.  All of this is above and beyond what MSHSAA mandates for referees to maintain their licensure.  Because we believe that it’s important to keep up with the sport, our professional development structure reflects that belief.


Just because I’m reaching out to you like this, doesn’t mean I’m upsetting the apple cart with regards to the communication system that MSHSAA already has in place.  All rule interpretation questions should still be directed to Dixie Wescott in the Kansas City area (, and the Kansas City area representative on the MSHSAA volleyball coaches advisory committee is Mike Espinosa at Winnetonka (  I am not attempting to substitute for those already established methods of communication, so please continue to contact those individuals with rule questions and potential future NFHS rule and MSHSAA by-law changes.  


At GKCOA, we believe that there is a reason why high school volleyball is continuing to thrive in Missouri.  The adults involved in coaching and officiating are making a real effort to work together to make a positive difference in the lives of young people, and last season’s survey provided concrete data and examples that prove that statement to be true.  Despite all of the uncertainty this season, we are ready and prepared to serve you, your players, and the sport of volleyball whenever that may be.  Good luck and have a great season!