What is the average size of a volleyball player? (answered)

An average is calculated by summing up all the sizes of the players and dividing it by the number of players. This is a very broad question as we have to look at the different leagues and positions. The differences amongst them can be quite big as players are still growing when they first start playing volleyball. Therefore it is difficult to give a general answer and we have to divide it up into different categories. Let’s take a look at the data.

What is the average size of a male volleyball player?

For male college players in the USA, the data is as follows:

The height of a college setter is mainly between 6’1″ – 6’5″. Liberos are often smaller and their height in college is mainly: 5’8″ – 6’2″. Outside hitters in college are often taller and measure between 6 ft 3″ – 6 ft 6″. We have to note that players can be smaller or taller than these ranges as they just provide an overview of the most common sizes amongst this group of players.

 The average height for a professional male volleyball player is around 6 ft 5″ (195 cm). A few outliers can skew the mean, so let’s take a look at the range that most players are in: from 6 ft 1″ (185 cm) to 6 ft 11″ (210 cm). We can already see that we have a broad range of sizes. There are also differences between countries as we will see below. Professional volleyball players are often quite tall and we see that players in the lower leagues are not that tall and that there is more variety amongst them. It is quite noticeable that the higher the league, the taller the players are. Given that the liberos are smaller, players of all sizes can participate in the game. 

The tallest professional volleyball athlete is Dmitry Muserskiy is 7’2”. Unsurprisingly he plays as a middle blocker and is able to leverage his length to create very big blocks and reach over the net when doing so. At the moment he is playing for the Sunbirds in Japan and for the Russian national team. 

We also have data for Olympic volleyball teams. The best players of each country participate in this tournament. The size of the top 4 teams in the 2012 Olympics can be seen in the table below. The liberos are the shortest players whereas middle blockers were the tallest players. Libero’s can replace middle blockers in defense as you need agility to dive and dig and taller players are often not that good at this. Taller players are great at blocking so when the middle blocker goes to the front row, they are able to do this. This indicates that only selecting tall players for a volleyball team is not the best option as you might not get the best players for each position. 

Size of the top 4 Olympic teams of 2012 (in cm) Source FIVB

We can also take a look at the evolution of the size of the players that participated in the Olympics over time. We can see that these players are getting taller over time.  Lately, it is stabilizing and not increasing that much anymore and we might start to hit a plateau. A few tall players can skew the results. We also can see that it is not always the tallest team that is winning the tournament. The differences seem to persist and are quite significant. There are also differences between countries and it is possible that the winning streak of Brazil skews the results somewhat. 

Size of the winning Olympic teams over time (in cm) Source FIVB

How tall is the average female volleyball player?

For a women’s volleyball player, it is 5 ft 9″ (175 cm). There is some variance in averages because one outlier can skew the result. Therefore it is better to look at the main range of size instead of the average. For women, this is between 5 ft 7″ (170 cm) and 6 ft” (183 cm). The shortest Olympic player, the libero Debbie Green was 5ft 3’ (162 cm). This indicates that there is a wide range in sizes. Once again we see that the size of the players increases with the level that they are playing on. This is quite unsurprising given that players are still growing when they start out.

The average height of a female college volleyball player in the USA is 5’10”.  The biggest jump is from Division 2 to Division 1 (from 5’10” to 6’0”). The differences between Division 3 and Division 2 are less pronounced. We also have to take a look at the different positions on the court to get a better idea of what is going on. Middle blockers measure on average 7’9” whereas liberos measure 7’0” on average. The other players are in between this. Once again, you have variation and outliers in this. It has to be noted that some players overstate their height because they believe that they make more chances in the tryouts in this way. 

If we look at data of the winning Olympic female teams, we can see that the height is also increasing over time but it is not as pronounced as we saw with males. We can even see that it is quite stable over time with some outliers. The average size of the biggest teams also seems quite stable over time.

Size of the winning Olympic teams over time (in cm) Source FIVB

We once again see the differences between positions if we look at the average size of the players of the top 4 teams during the 2012 Olympics. Libero’s measure on average 5’4” (with the Japanese libero players measuring 5”2’ on average). This is followed by setters that measured on average (over the 4 teams) 5ft 6’ and receivers that on average measured 6ft. Opposite and middle blockers are taller with the respective averages of 6ft 1’ and 6ft 2’. You can notice that there are big differences amongst these players. 

Size of the top 4 Olympic teams of 2012 (in cm) Source FIVB

To conclude, we can say that professional volleyball players are often taller than players on the lower level. However, the introduction of the libero a few decades ago has made it possible for shorter players to play a big role in the game as well as these are more agile. Middle blockers are often the tallest players on the team as they have to be able to reach over the net. We see that the average size of the winning Olympic teams has increased over time but not it is staying stable. Volleyball teams need players of different sizes if they want to win. The idea that volleyball is exclusively for tall players is wrong.

Sources:

FIVB

NCSA