For a lot of volleyball players, it is a dream to become a professional sporter. To get there, you will have to go through multiple levels of club volleyball. Let’s take a look at how this can be done.
There are several leagues in the USA. They depend on the level of the players. For example, there are several college and high school-level competitions. Players in teams in the higher levels are older and have more experience.
In general, there are 3 regions that players can be active in: national, state, and regional. Players that are active in national competitions are active in more difficult competitions and have to travel quite a lot. These players often already have several years of experience and compete in single-day and multiple-day events. Not every club has a national team as this requires a high skill level. Players that are active on the state level also have quite some experience but are less experienced. The beginners focus on regional competitions. Most teams participate in regional competitions to avoid having to spend a lot of time traveling across the country. The goal is to build up from regional to state and then national competitions; This can take several years to accomplish.
Next to regions, the competitions are also divided based on age of the players. Let’s take a look below:
- Junior volleyball: beginners
This is overseen by USA volleyball. These teams are organized by a local organization and the goal is to teach volleyball players the basics. This can help players to start and is the perfect preparation for high school volleyball teams as coaches recruit from junior clubs. Teams compete to be able to play in National Qualifiers. At the end of the year, there is one big tournament to determine the winner. This event is Volleyball Festival and is called one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Players still evolve a lot during this period and they have to find their favorite position on the court and learn the five basic volleyball skills.
- High school level: intermediate level
Once players have some basic skills, they can join a high school volleyball team. NFHS organizes volleyball on the high school level. Each state can have its own rules. Most of these competitions and tournaments are on the regional state level. Schools often have a varsity and junior varsity team. There are also some schools that have freshman teams. These teams often compete on a state level and have to travel quite a lot.
The rules are different on this level and players have to make sure that they are followed.
- College level: advanced level
NCAA is the most well-known organization of college-level volleyball competitions. They have competitions on three levels:
Division I: This is the highest level of college volleyball. It is typically played by the last 2 years of college. Not a lot of players are able to attain this level and you need to be really serious about the sport to get there. Coaches select these players based on tryouts.
Division II: This is the middle level of college volleyball. It is played by players that have attended college for a few years. There are fewer male volleyball clubs so Division I and Division II overlap. Hopefully, more people will join these clubs so that they can create a separate division.
Division III: This is for the youngest players at college. These players often have less experience. Once they have proven that they are able to meet the required skill level, they can go to Division II.
Once players in the USA reach this level, they get stuck as there are no professional volleyball teams in the USA. This forces them to go abroad if they want to continue playing. They often go to the best volleyball leagues. In the USA there is no big professional competition (with the exception of Athletes Unlimited). The best competitions can be found in Italy, Japan, Russia, Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey. A lot of USA-based players are active in these competitions.
This makes it quite hard to become a professional volleyball player for USA-based players. There are initiatives such as Athletes Unlimited that are trying to set up a professional volleyball competition in the USA but this could years to complete. International competitions often have different rules than NCAA competitions. Liberos, for example, are not allowed to serve in FIVB competitions whereas they are allowed to do so in NVAA competitions. Players that switch between both competitions have to make sure that they know all these nuances. In general, the rules are quite similar but there are some key differences that can make it challenging to adapt to them at first.
The FIVB organizes a lot of international competitions such as the World Championship. The best teams compete against each other to win this. There are also continental competitions. The Olympics are also an important tournament but this is on with national teams instead of clubs. The female USA volleyball team won the Olympics in 2020 and was able to beat Brazil in the final. This is volleyball on the highest level as each team wants to prove themselves to the world. This tournament is only organized every four years so it can be a unique moment in the career of a player.
To conclude we can state that there are several volleyball leagues in the USA. As players progress and get better at volleyball, they are able to level up and join a better competition. Players start in local competitions and can move to statewide competitions to end up in national competitions. It takes a lot of commitment to participate in these as you have to train and travel a lot. Only the best players are able to do so and you need to be very serious about the sport if you want to get there. Each league has its own rules so you have to check what is allowed and what is not when you join a new one. It is a great journey to be on as you will learn a lot about yourself, the game, your teammates, and life. Enjoy the trip!