Volleyball in the United States
|First played||1895, Holyoke, Massachusetts (USA)|
|Categorization||Volleyball in the United States|
Volleyball in the United States is popular with both male and female participants of all ages. Almost all high schools and colleges in the United States have female volleyball teams, and most regions of the country have developmental programs for girls of all ages as well. While many areas of the country are forming male teams and development programs, there are still fewer opportunities for young male athletes to play volleyball in the United States than for young females.
Brief history of professional volleyball in the U.S.A.
As a professional sport, volleyball has had limited success in the United States. Numerous attempts have been made to start professional indoor women's volleyball leagues. In 1987, the latest attempt went bankrupt due to lack of fan interest and hence advertiser interest. Two-man and two-woman professional beach volleyball leagues have done better, most notably the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), but none have gained a wide following that would get them consistent coverage by the major television networks. In 2002, United States Professional Volleyball League was begun as a women's professional indoor league, but only lasted one season. In 2004 and again in 2005, NBC aired the Nissan Championship series, with Fox Sports carrying the majority of the season. It is thought that one of the reasons for limited coverage is the small stadium audiences that beach volleyball competition attracts, which convey a degree of unpopularity to television audiences. Part of the reason for such small stadium audiences is the difficulty of erecting high stands on loose sand. Those trying to make beach volleyball succeed as a professional sport are trying to pattern it after professional tennis. Those seeking to make indoor volleyball a professional sport are trying to pattern it after professional basketball. Some think a possible breakthrough for professional indoor volleyball will come with the new emergence of indoor sand volleyball. A new indoor professional league, the Premier Volleyball League (sanctioned by USA Volleyball), began in 2012. The league was launched by Steve Bishop, PVL Asst. Commissioner, of Florida. Tom Pingel (USA Volleyball) serves as the League Commissioner. In 2013 the PVL incorporated and launched a men's division. Information on the PVL can be found at www.usapvl.com.
College and University volleyball
Volleyball is a popular NCAA sport, mostly for women. In the 2011–12 school year, over 1,000 NCAA member schools, more than 300 of them in the top-level Division I, sponsored women's volleyball at the varsity level, with nearly 16,000 participants across all three divisions. At the same time, fewer than 100 schools in all three NCAA divisions combined sponsored varsity men's volleyball, with only 23 of them in Division I; the number of men's varsity volleyball players was less than one-tenth of women's participation (1,529 to 15,890).
In 2012, NCAA sanctioned college beach volleyball (or, as the NCAA calls it, "sand volleyball") teams for women for the first time; 14 schools sponsored the sport, with slightly more than 200 participants. Also in 2012, the NCAA established its first-ever men's Division III championship.
High school volleyball
High school volleyball is a fall sport for girls and spring sport for boys (except in a few states). Schools typically have a varsity and junior varsity team, and many schools also have freshman teams. Teams play in pre-season and season competition, generally followed by a post-season that includes a regional or sectional championship and often a state championship.
While each state governs its own high school volleyball competitions through their state athletic associations, most follow the lead of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) for the governance of the sport. Most volleyball rules from state to state are basically the same in the United States. However, because of the individual associations, some minor changes and variations may occur. For example, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) may allow competition to be the best of five while the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) or the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) may only allow competition to be the best of three. Today, however, most state associations are now using the same guidelines and are also using rally scoring, the best-of-five competition format, and allowing the libero to serve. In addition, most states, if not all, have adopted the plain, white polo shirt for officials as opposed to the black and white striped shirt worn in the past.
Junior volleyball is played in the U.S. in many organizations such as churches, the YMCA and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), but the largest sponsoring organization is USA Volleyball, which oversees what is commonly referred to as "club volleyball" and hosts a Junior Olympic Championship each year.
In club volleyball, junior players develop their skills and knowledge of the game, usually with the purpose of playing for high school teams. Elite players also prepare for college volleyball. The club season typically lasts from the end of November until July, with the annual Junior Olympic Championships (JOs) taking place in late June, early July. Teams typically play tournaments throughout the season, establishing their ranking in the various regions and preparing for JOs or a season-ending tournament such as the Volleyball Festival, which claims to be the largest annual sporting event in the world.
To qualify for JOs, teams must compete in JO Qualifiers, also referred to as National Qualifiers. There are nine qualifying tournaments across the country, to which teams travel to gain an invitation to JOs. Top teams attend these tournaments to earn their bids, and college coaches will attend to view the year's crop of players.
The club season, long considered a supplemental place for girls and boys to gain experience in preparation for their upcoming high-school seasons, is now an almost necessity to stay competitive in the local high schools. It is also extremely important in the college recruitment process, as most college seasons coincide with state high school seasons, causing the college coaches to miss the entire season. This time is made up during the club season when college coaches are able to travel to various tournaments and meet with club coaches, watch club players, and recruit for their teams.
Volleyball is one of the most popular girls' sports, and strong high school and club programs are found throughout the country. According to a 2012 survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations, volleyball is the third highest sport for female participation at the high school level behind basketball and outdoor track and field. One of the biggest events in high school-age sports is the annual Volleyball Festival in Reno, Nevada, (formerly in Sacramento, California), which draws as many as 10,000 players and three thousand coaches for its five-day tournament.
Boys' volleyball is popular on a regional basis, and by far the greatest number of boys' teams are in Southern California. However, on the national stage, boys' volleyball remains far less popular than the girls' game at the high school level, as borne out by the following statistics from the aforementioned NFHS survey:
- For every boy currently competing in high school volleyball, more than eight girls are involved.
- While all states as well as the District of Columbia sanction girls' volleyball, a substantial majority of states do not sanction the boys' game. Only 23 states reported any participation in boys' volleyball, indicating that the sport is not sanctioned in other jurisdictions. Thirteen states reported participation of over 10,000 girls in high school volleyball, and a fourteenth (Indiana) fell less than 20 participants short of that mark. Of these states, six have no boys' high school volleyball—Texas (#1 in girls' participation), Michigan (#4), Minnesota (#8), Iowa (#10), Washington (#12), and Indiana (#14).
- Even those states that do sanction volleyball for both sexes typically have considerably fewer schools sponsoring the boys' game and thus fewer participants. Of the remaining eight high-participation girls' volleyball states, none had even half as many boys competing as girls. Even California, with more than 40,000 girls' players, had fewer than 16,000 boys' players (which still constituted nearly a third of all boys' players in the country).
In the four years from 2004 to 2008, high school participation in boys' volleyball rose by more than 15%, from about 42,000 to nearly 50,000. However, since 2008, there has been essentially no growth in boys' volleyball participation.
- 2008–09 High School Athletics Participation Survey (PDF). National Federation of High School Associations. . Downloadable from the NFHS site here.
- Associated Press (AP) (2003-09-04). "High school sports participation at record high". CNN.com. Archived from the original on 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
- "2011-12 Participation Study – Women's Sports". NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report, 1981–82 – 2011–12. NCAA. October 2012. p. 71. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "2011-12 Participation Study – Men's Sports". NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report, 1981–82 – 2011–12. NCAA. October 2012. p. 72. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- 2011–12 High School Athletics Participation Survey (PDF). National Federation of High School Associations. . Downloadable from the NFHS site here.
- Youth sports go big time. Sacramento Business Journal.
- NFHS (2004–05). "High School Volleyball Participation". National Federation of High School Associations. Retrieved 2007-06-27.
National Governing Body
- Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)
- USA Volleyball's Regions
- Junior Volleyball Directors Association (JVDA)
- American Volleyball Coaches Association
- VolleyCentral - Volleyball news in the U.S.
- Volleyball Magazine