College volleyball outside the USA

In the U.S. college volleyball is a pretty big thing. As I show in this post, the number of schools with varsity teams approaches 2000. The vast majority are women’s teams. These numbers don’t include school club teams. There are hundreds of those as well.

For none American readers, a varsity team is one administered by the school. It’s budget is part of the Athletics budget. A club team, in contrast, is student run. They might get some funding support – often through something like the school’s recreational program – but otherwise they are self-funded and self-managed.

College volleyball outside the U.S.

In Europe and elsewhere there are also college (university) teams. They follow a primarily club structure, however. It’s much like the one US college club teams use.

Let me use the University of Exeter (U.K.) as an example.

When I coached at Exeter the club comprised of something like 120 members. It had a board lead by a pair of Club Captains. All board positions were elected annually, toward the end of the Spring term. Members of the club paid an annual fee, part of which went to the Athletic Union (AU) to cover administrative and facilities costs.

Think of the AU as the Recreation Department for the school. It oversees all sports clubs, manages facilities scheduling, and ensures clubs stay within their budgets. The AU also manages the clubs’ relationship with BUCS, the rough U.K. equivalent of the NCAA. Actually, it’s probably closer to the NAIA in terms of its rule set.

The Exeter volleyball club featured three levels of participation. At the top were the teams playing in BUCS competition. In my last two seasons there we had two each for the men and women. Those teams also played in regional adult club tournaments, and some individual players played on higher level National League (NVL) teams.

Below the BUCS teams were the Intermediates. They played in an Exeter city league. There was also a Beginners group run entirely in-house.

All three levels had weekly training sessions.

Very loose rules

I mentioned above that the BUCS rules are probably closer to NAIA than NCAA. The bottom line is there aren’t a lot of rules. Pretty much as long as you’re a registered full-time student at the school you’re eligible to play for the team. Doesn’t matter whether you’re brand new to the sport or have played professionally.

There also aren’t any sorts of limits on training/playing hours. Nor are there differences between what you can do in-season and out-of-season.

Really, the focus of the BUCS rule book is on scheduling and competition. Everything else is at the discretion of the universities and the clubs.

Multi-national competition

Recently, one of the top U.K. college programs – Northumbria – competed in the European University Games (EUG). There’s a short write-up about how their men and women did here. The 2016 Games took place in Croatia and featured university teams from some interesting places. I count 13 different nations on the men’s side and also 13 on the women’s side, though not all the same. Not surprisingly, the host country had more entries than most. Overall, though, Germany was tops in terms of team count.

One can’t help but wonder how a U.S. college team would do in this kind of competition. The European teams would almost certainly have more experience given the inclusion of older players. The U.S. teams, though, would very likely have more in the way of resources and support.

As and aside, I saw that the University of Split was one of the entries on the men’s side. I’ve been to Split and really liked it. Wouldn’t mind coaching there. 😉

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman

John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women’s team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women’s professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women’s Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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