In the US we have school sports seasons that are pretty short and intense. For example, in NCAA Division III women’s volleyball the season starts on September 1st, or shortly before. The regular season runs basically through the end of October. During that time, teams are allowed 22 dates of competition. Because some of those dates inevitably feature multiple matches (e.g. tournament days or tri-matches), teams often play 25+ regular season matches.

The Division II season is a couple weeks longer, finishing their regular season in mid-November. Division I is a bit longer still. Naturally, that means more matches for those teams. They often play 30+ matches in a year.

By comparison, teams in the European leagues generally play somewhere around 20 league matches in a regular season. Those seasons usually run from early October through February or March. That’s an average of about 1 match per week (potentially less). Yes, we have to add in Cup matches. And in the case of the upper level teams, matches in CEV competitions too. Even with the added matches, however, these teams rarely play more than twice a week. And most teams, most of the time, only play once a week.

When I coached in Sweden we only sometimes played more than once each week. Multiple times we didn’t play at all, plus we had a holiday break. That gave players additional rest and recovery time. Oh, and we also didn’t practice on Thursdays. Even more recovery time! The only time we played matches on consecutive days while in-season was in the Gran Prix. In that case it was semifinals one day, final/3rd place the next. The only time we played multiple matches in a single day was during a preseason tournament – and those were best-of-3.

So are US college teams playing too much given the length of their seasons? Or to put it another way, should US college seasons be longer given the number of matches they play?

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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