The Growth of Men’s Volleyball

Rallying Together to Help Grow the Game
Men's Volleyball, USA Men's Team, AVCA, NCAA

The 2016 Rio Olympics helped draw a lot of attention to the sport of volleyball for both the USA men and USA women’s teams.  During the Olympics, the staff at Sports Imports gathered together to watch and cheer on Team USA.  The love of the sport of volleyball is strong within the company, and helping grow the game is a goal among all.  At Sports Imports, we make it a goal to help grow the game by supporting our partners at USA Volleyball, the NCAA, the AVCA, the NFHS and the Art of Coaching.  We want to grow the game because we are a part of the game.  To us, it’s personal and it’s our passion.  We believe the sport of volleyball is a lifelong game that we want all to experience.

Over the years we’ve seen the sport of women’s volleyball take off with record amounts of participation in both indoor and beach.  On the men’s side, the growth has continued, but we want to see that growth take off as it has with women’s.  President of Sports Imports, Rob Ebright, says, “We all have to come together to support all aspects of volleyball, just like we’ve done for beach volleyball.”  As we rally together with our partners, discussions of what can be done to excel the growth in men’s volleyball is always a topic of conversation.

Many areas of the country are forming male volleyball teams and developmental programs, but there are still fewer opportunities for young male athletes to play versus the opportunities for female players.  Nationally, boys’ volleyball remains far less popular than the girls’ on the high school level.  According to an NFHS survey, for every male competing in high school volleyball, more than eight females are participating.  Also, many states do not sanction the boys’ volleyball.  From 2004-2008, boys’ participation increased by more than 15%, but since 2008, the growth in boys’ volleyball has significantly slowed.

USA Volleyball, Sports Imports, the AVCA, and several USA Volleyball regions have teamed up to kick start a study around the sport of men’s volleyball to help grow the game.  According to USA Volleyball, “MOTOR-MV (Making Opportunities/Transforming Our Reach for Boys’ and Men’s Volleyball) is a historic effort that is part advocacy campaign, part awareness campaign and part capital campaign.  Our goal is to grow the number of opportunities for men and boys in volleyball, at every level, over the next 6-8 years.”

As we see men’s volleyball conferences begin to develop around the country, we continue to ask ourselves how we can support this growth and development.  According to USA Volleyball, “Boys’ and Men’s Volleyball will grow at a significant pace in the next decade mostly because we have decided to relentlessly create opportunities.  The MOTOR-MV campaign is designed to underwrite and track this growth, build our community of influencers and celebrate our success.”  After speaking with Pete Hanson, the Head Men’s Volleyball Coach at The Ohio State University, and winner of the Men’s 2016 NCAA National Championship, he believes gaining support from individual schools, presidents, conference commissioners, and athletic directors would help create more opportunities for men’s volleyball athletes.  Coach Hanson said that “getting a conference to say we are supportive of this idea has as much impact as an Athletic Director.”

The MOTOR-MV will place a large amount of focus and attention on growing the Division I Men’s Volleyball programs.  Coach Hanson said, “Clearly the growth has been on the DIII level, and now some at the DII level, but DI has been stagnant.  We have gained one or two teams, and then have lost one or two teams.  When a school considers starting a team in an area of the country outside of the current Men’s Volleyball Conferences it becomes a question of who do we play?  The travel becomes difficult and cost prohibitive.  This is a great reason for current established conferences like the Big Ten, Pac 12, Big West and others to be targeted for growth.”

The goal of the MOTOR-MV program is to double or triple opportunities for boys and men in volleyball.  President of Sports Imports, Rob Ebright, feels we need to “get kids exposed to volleyball at a young age.”  He says, “The more you can expose it, the more you will give opportunities to play it.”  Both Ebright and Coach Hanson feel that Social Media has also helped give exposure to Men’s Volleyball.  Coach Hanson said the world of social media is growing tremendously, and young people are beginning to get their news through that route.  He said, “our attendance has gotten better” at The Ohio State Men’s Volleyball matches because of their presence on Social Media.  Ebright and Hanson were also in agreement that continuing to televise Men’s Volleyball matches, and bringing in Division I schools to play in tournaments that have been promoted on social media and television would be great ways to expose people to the sport.

Coach Hanson remembers when Sports Imports founder, Ken Dunlap, referred to the DC Koehl Sports Imports Classic at OSU, he said, “if you are going to do it, you need to do it well, it needs to be an exclusive event, bring in the cheerleaders, the band, the press, and make the crowd phenomenal!”  He felt this was a great way to help grow the game a little more by giving your time and energy to a high quality volleyball match and event.  We also believe these kinds of opportunities for volleyball players and spectators will only aide in the growth of the sport.

Our partner at USA Volleyball believes there has been a life-changing benefit that a competitive volleyball experience has on the lives of boys and men of all ages, and are asking that we join together to help grow the sport.  At Sports Imports, we believe in this movement, and invite you to participate as well.  For more information, visit: http://www.teamusa.org/usa-volleyball/grassroots/mens-and-boys-volleyball.

For more information on participation statistics, visit nfhs.org.