Volleyball’s surge in popularity changing US sports industry landscape
The sports landscape in the United States is currently witnessing a remarkable surge in the popularity of volleyball. This dynamic sport is on an upward trajectory – and its influence is undeniable.
In the 2022-23 season, the membership of USA Volleyball experienced a hefty 9.6 percent increase, totalling an impressive 408,000 members. This growth marks the most significant percentage increase since 1998 and is a testament to the sport’s widespread appeal.
This swell in participation transcends demographics, with growth evident in all age groups and genders. Junior women’s membership expanded by 9.2 percent, junior men’s by 9.7 percent and adult memberships soared by an impressive 11.6 percent.
Volleyball has firmly established itself as the leading team participatory sport for high school and college girls. Boys high school volleyball has seen an astonishing 40 percent increase in participation since 2017, making it the fastest-growing high school sport in the nation.
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference recently welcomed six new college men’s volleyball programs, thanks to a grant from USA Volleyball and the First Point Volleyball Foundation. The NCAA has awarded the conference champion a coveted automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
— NCAA Women's Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) October 29, 2023
This enthusiasm for volleyball extends beyond the junior level. Historically, the United States lacked a sustainable professional volleyball league, forcing top players to seek opportunities abroad. This is about to change in a significant way.
In 2021, Athletes Unlimited launched professional volleyball in the US and it is now in the midst of its third season, receiving national coverage on ESPN platforms. The upcoming winter will witness the inception of the Professional Volleyball Federation (PVF), introducing new leagues with franchises in seven cities. Looking ahead to 2025, League One Volleyball (LOVB) will introduce a professional league with six locations across the nation.
Increasing interest in volleyball as a spectator sport is equally striking, exemplified by the astounding turnout in August, when 92,003 fans packed the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium to watch the Cornhuskers’ women’s volleyball team face Omaha, setting a new world attendance record for any women’s sporting event. This achievement even eclipsed the previous record set during a Champions League soccer match in Barcelona.
Nebraska Women’s Volleyball breaks the world record for the largest crowd ever at a women’s sporting event (92,003) 🎉pic.twitter.com/QnSfh6x0Cn
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) August 31, 2023
The growing fanbase has led to a substantial increase in media coverage. ESPN, for the first time, is broadcasting multiple regular season college matches on their premier channel, garnering impressive viewership numbers. The national championship game will also be aired on ABC. The Big Ten Network’s sustained investment in women’s volleyball has paid off, making it the third most-watched sport on the network, trailing only football and men’s basketball.