How popular is volleyball today? Surprising insights 2023

Volleyball dates back to 1895 and was played for the first time in the USA. During that time this sport has evolved and the rules have changed. It also became a worldwide phenomenon after this. Is volleyball still popular after all this time? Volleyball is in the top 5 popular sports in the world. Let’s look at the data to check this in more detail.

Trends in the number of volleyball players worldwide

Google Trends examines trends in Google searches for this term, indicating that volleyball is getting more popular in the past few years. The Olympics and more online attention attract new players. Volleyball is a sport with quite a lot of spectacle (a great smash is wonderful to see). This inspires new players to give it a try as well. Most people play volleyball during their teens or twenties. Once work and family obligations start to become part of life, people tend to stop playing volleyball.

Overall there are 46 million volleyball players in the USA. Worldwide there are more than 800 million people who play volleyball at least once a week according to the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). As the graph below is showing, this is clearly increasing over time. 

In 1964 volleyball became an Olympic sport and this has propelled the sport forward as more people could view it. This has led to more interest and more clubs being founded. This flywheel has kept spinning and volleyball has become more popular over the years. The sport is challenging and remains fresh so it is a lot of fun to play. Players can also practice the sport for a long period of time, resulting in more players as people can see their elder siblings enjoy the game.

As you can see in the graph below, it is only quite recently that volleyball has gained traction as a popular sport. In the past few decades, it has grown very fast and this trend is continuing. As volleyball gets mentioned more in popular TV shows and in films, it should be able to keep up this momentum in the coming decades. Especially in the USA this sport is growing quite fast. It is very popular in certain countries in Europe (such as Italy), Latin Amerika (such as Brazil), and Asia (such as Korea, Japan, and China) already. If Team USA keeps winning tournaments, the sport could get more popular over there. Let’s take a look at some epic plays by this team:

Trends in the number of volleyball players in the USA

We have to divide between college, high school, and junior volleyball. The first two are organized in school whereas the latter one is club-related. We can look at the member count of the non-profit organizations that organize tournaments and games. 

-For college volleyball, there were 1064 NCAA member schools in 2014. Nowadays this organization has 1108 schools as members. College football is therefore getting more popular as more schools are becoming a member. This indicates that there are over 20000 players.

-For high school volleyball, the NFHS is responsible. They scheduled 2087 games in 2020. This is also higher than before. 

-On the club level, there are several associations that support clubs. The biggest one, USA Volleyball supports 5000 clubs and states that they have over 255,000 registered members. 

Data by NFHS shows the most popular high school activity per state. For girls this is so in the following states: WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, AZ, MT, WY, CO, NM, TX, NE, KS, SD, ND, MN, IA, WO, IL, AL, MO, FL, WV, KI, IN, MI For boys this is the case in no state at all. This indicates that there are big local differences.


Recent trends in volleyball:

There are still new variations being introduced, indicating that there is interest in expanding the sport. Here are some examples of other volleyball variations:  

Beach volleyball is just one part of this discipline. It is played in the sand and you have to deal with the sun that can block your vision. Therefore it is important that you have the right outfit. People often don’t wear shoes to play this as the sand is quite soft and makes it possible to walk on it without shoes.

Bribol is played in a shallow pool. This can be very intense as you have to swim and jump. This can be fun for people that are great swimmers but it would be nothing for me! There are not a lot of clubs offering this as you need a pool to be able to play this. It is sometimes played during summer by people that own a pool and want some variety. Some people also play pool volleyball in a deeper pool and then you have to swim more. This can slow down the game.

Snow volleyball: This is something unique. Instead of on a solid underground, the game is played on snow. This can create some spectacular situations as you can slip and slide and get the ball in very difficult situations. Some argue that this could be part of the winter Olympics in the future. It would be a great sight to see. 

Being able to switch between variations of the sport is a lot of fun as they share a lot of similarities but the differences are big enough to keep it fun. We see a lot of players making the switch from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball after a while.

To conclude, we can state that volleyball is very popular worldwide. It is in the top 10 sports that are being played. In the USA it is mainly popular in California and Hawaii. In other states, sports such as basketball and baseball are more popular. The sport is very popular in countries such as Italy, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, and China. Hopefully, it can become more popular in the USA as well.


Google trends