Net Tension: Can You Control the Variables?

There are always those points. The points you lose because the net seems to take sides. That serve that trickles over onto the almost-unplayable first few inches of the front row, is often considered lucky, or unlucky, depending on which side you’re on. But it’s not luck. It’s net tension.

Net tension is a variable often overlooked in the sport of volleyball. We know what a tight net looks like, but we don’t know how much tension a volleyball net really needs, and therefore any given volleyball match is played on a net with inconsistent net tension.

This difference in tension creates that unpredictable trickle-over effect that we have learned to love and loath. To create a range or target tension for volleyball nets would mean minimizing that inconsistency and creating a more predictable reaction when the ball hits the top of the net.  Sam Winterbotham, Tennessee men’s tennis head coach said, “Balls do hit the net.  If the ball’s consistently going to hit the net and bounce off the net in the same manner on every court that’s played on, that’s only helpful to the game.”

The Tight Right net tension gauge, an invention originally introduced for the tennis court and in current use at the US Open, NCAA Championships, and many other tournament events, has been recently introduced into the volleyball world. This device attaches easily to a volleyball upright and top net cable, and measures the amount of tension in pounds when the net is tightened.

“Tennessee Volleyball had the opportunity to use the Tight Right gauge during its development, throughout the 2012 season. It makes the net respond predictably and consistently with its tautness.  We often vary our net height for practices and the Tight Right gauge has allowed us to come up with a predictable and consistent measurement. It has cut our match preparation time in half as we now have a consistent system in place that ensures regulation dimensions every time. The Tight Right gauge is a helpful, necessary tool that helps standardize our netting system and we hope that it gets used everywhere.”

   – Rachel Cooper, Assistant Volleyball Coach, University of Tennessee

The Tight Right remains linked to the upright for the duration of play, without affecting play against the net. When tearing down the net system, this travel size net tension gauge can clip to the upright, or be removed for safe storage.

“The Tight Right allows anyone setting up a volleyball net system to achieve the ideal net tension for competitive play,” said Rob Ebright, VP of Product Development for Sports Imports. “It is a valuable tool that puts our net systems in spec for optimal performance.”

Developed by an engineer in Tennessee, the Tight Right net gauge evolved from the originally patented idea of a device that safely sets, holds, and indicates the tension on control cables for light aircraft, sailboats, and other cable applications. While the aircraft version is still in testing, the first wide use of the technology has made a difference in tennis, where language for consistent net tension requirements is in the approval cycle for the first time.

The Tight Right gauge also improves the safety of volleyball net play, as well as extends the life of a net system.  It allows heavy shock loads on the top cable, like a player impacting the net, to be absorbed by the device, without affecting the net tension or ball play. The Tight Right also protects uprights from overstress, extending the lifespan of both the net and the uprights by eliminating over-tightened top net cables. Patented features of the Tight Right gauge ensure its durability and consistency as well.

Having a net tension gauge offers the possibility for an ideal net tension range for competition, and therefore a more consistent game. If net height and net tension were both predictable, static factors, we could see a whole new philosophy on reaction to balls played out of the net.  This consistency, coupled with the many other benefits of the Tight Right net tension gauge earns it some consideration as a standardized measurement device in every level of volleyball competition.

The Tight Right net tension gauge is available for purchase exclusively at Sports Imports.To shop Tight Right, click here.