A very sad factoid crossed my desk recently from Athletic Business magazine. The publication cited a study stating that only 5 percent of high school varsity players still participate in their sport when they are 30 or more years old. It might make sense with football, but not for the lifetime sport of volleyball. We have masters national championships for the age groups that start at 30 and over and in five year increments, go all the way up to 75 and over. Many younger players might not know of the myriad ways to get even better at volleyball while also helping grow the game. Here are highlights of those ways to keep playing this sport made in America.
Play USA Volleyball
Many players are aware of what USA Volleyball does at the junior volleyball level, as one in six high school players are found playing junior ball in their offseason. The thing is, for almost 80 years, kids had to play with adults, as there was no junior volleyball programming until the late 70s. So even when in high school, and certainly after, you can get on teams at the USAV skill levels of Open, AA, A, BB and B, and work toward competing in the U.S. Open National Championships. This same event even has the masters age groups, but skill level nationals have no age definition, only talented competitors of many ages. For more information on adult programs in your area, contact your local region.
Play Varsity With a Scholarship
Volleyball is one of the top three scholarship sports for women. This is the gold ring many riding on the training carousel of junior volleyball are seeking. In the last decade, beach volleyball has become a scholarship sport for women at more than 50 Division I universities. Though significantly fewer, there are scholarships and varsity opportunities for men as well, with Division III adding the first men’s national championship in 15 years to any sport in NCAA programming. More than 100 schools now sponsor a varsity team.
Play Varsity Without a Scholarship
Volleyball is a varsity program at 90 percent of the Division III NCAA schools, 442 in 2018; however, no volleyball athletic grants in aid are allowed for any sport at the Division III level. At the Division I and II levels, not all schools have a full complement of scholarships, so varsity team slots exist for players getting only partial scholarships and even no scholarships.
Walk on at NCAA Division I, II and III, NAIA and NJCAA
At all levels, even if you are not recruited, most programs encourage you to “walk on,” or tryout and train with the team. While the traveling roster is 12, injuries and, in the spring, graduation of seniors, means programs seek more than just the recruited team members. There are a couple thousand NCAA Division II programs, where eight or more nonscholarship slots exist in each program, and more than 200 NAIA colleges have women’s volleyball with varying numbers of nonscholarship openings.
Play Collegiate Club
The National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) sponsors a national championship for collegiate club teams, now in its third decade. More than 400 men’s and women’s teams compete in the championships every April. The club teams have tryouts and generally train two or three times per week. They compete regionally against other club teams prior to ending the season at nationals. IF you do not have a club at a college, start one!
Play Collegiate Intramurals
Volleyball is the most popular fall intramural sport on every college campus. Both coed and single gender competition at various levels exist. It is a great way to start a new school year, representing your dorm, making new friends and improving your skills. Winter and spring leagues also exist, and in some warmer climes, beach or grass competition is programmed during the warmer months.
Play Park and Recreation
Whether you are in school or out working, every town with a park and recreation program offers volleyball, both coed and single gender competitions. Form a company team or a school team, find the right level and make new friends. Many park and recreation centers also have open gym on the weekends (also a good way to hook up with teams, and social opportunities as well). There also are classes offered, where you can keep improving your skills through such education. There are also many dedicated volleyball facilities in larger cities which host coed and single gender adult leagues at all levels-places you likely played in junior volleyball tournaments on weekends, so go back there to play!
Play With Other Organizations
Through religious organizations, many churches organize leagues. USAV partners with the Jewish Community Centers (JCC), which have some fairly competitive leagues in many areas. The YMCA and YWCA offer great places for both classes and competition in well-run leagues. You can also often get a racquetball court there and play some fun Wallyball games and even leagues. Sport and social clubs feature volleyball in the larger cities, while dedicated volleyball facilities for both beach and indoor exist in hundreds of cities.
Play Beach or Grass
Ask for a portable outdoor court for the holidays, and you can play anywhere! Set it up in a park or on the beach, and you will have new friends in a short while. Good outdoor courts can be found in even the smallest towns, and most places have a grass park that volleyball enthusiasts congregate in-just ask around.
Coach and/or Officiate
Finally, there are countless opportunities to coach or officiate at the middle, junior and high school levels, as well as at the junior and recreational level. You will be a better player if you take the time to coach. Volunteer to coach or teach, as everybody is looking for help. This can also be income if you officiate or coach/teach in some programs. Form a club or a club team, and programs for both boys and girls can be set up for 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10 and under.
Help youth at the YMCA/YWCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, police athletic leagues, park and rec, and other programs. There also are opportunities to develop or coach disabled athletes, all the way up to the Paralympic level. Help create programming for sitting volleyball for males or females, standing teams for men, or Special Olympics programming, where volleyball is a hugely popular sport in the fall.
In many leagues, the coaches do the officiating, where a clinic is required but no test. It’s better to take the test and become a USA Volleyball rated official, you can even make better money in many programs.