On the Volleyball Coaching Wizards blog I published a post a while back that shared how little presence volleyball has on Amazon. In it I talked about how Volleyball doesn’t even have it’s own entry under the Sports & Outdoors category. Instead, it’s listed under the sub-category of Other Team Sports.

At that writing Amazon showed 272,756 books in Sports & Outdoors. Of those, 9370 were in the Other Team Sports category. Drill down and it turns out there were 526 books in the Volleyball sub-sub-category. That’s better than twice what Rodeos had (257), but somehow that sport gets a listing under the main category!

By the way, the other Other Team Sports along with volleyball were Cricket, Lacrosse, Rugby, and Track & Field. Aside from Lacrosse (only 236), the other sports all had several times as many books in Amazon as did volleyball.

Best seller isn’t even volleyball!

The fact that it couldn’t get its own individual listing under Sports & Outdoors suggests volleyball book sales weren’t very strong. Further evidence for this came from the fact that the top two best selling books under Volleyball weren’t even volleyball books!

As I looked at the top 20 I saw:

  • 4 mental training books (2 of which aren’t volleyball-linked at all)
  • 2 titles related to high school rules for 2016-17
  • A drill book
  • A work of fiction (looks like a romance)
  • An NCAA volleyball history (described as a coffee table book)
  • A how-to-play book
  • A book on understanding rotations and overlap
  • Misty May’s biography
  • A skill book

The rest, except one, were broadly in the category of “how to coach”. That remaining one was Thinking Volleyball, by Mike Hebert. So we have a category full of what can basically be described as technical books.

Compare that to basketball, where there’s a bunch of biography and story type titles. Aside from a handful of mental/psychological books, which really aren’t basketball-specific, you have next to nothing in the way of technical offerings. No drill books or how-to-coach titles there. No skill books and no how-to-play offerings. The focus instead is on personalities and their stories.

The same is true for baseball, football, hockey, and soccer. Lots of people and stories, but not much in the way of technical type titles.

We need people and stories

The only volleyball coach biography type books I can think of are the ones Mike Hebert wrote, and the first couple aren’t in print anymore. Sinjin Smith wrote Kings of the Beach, which is an interesting history of beach volleyball, but that’s going back many years. There are Karch Kiraly books, but they are dated too.

Volleyball has interesting people, and it has great stories. We just need to share them with the world. This will help people connect more deeply with the game as something other than participants.

Think about coverage of the Olympics. We are bombarded with personal interest stories about the athletes, and sometimes the coaches too. Why? Because the broadcasters know we are more likely to watch if we care about the people involved.

The FIVB posted an article which looks back on the 1996 Olympics, specifically the first beach volleyball competition. It focuses a lot, with quotes from Mark Lebedew, on the rivalry between beach legends Sinjin and Karch. Although their head-to-head match during those Games wasn’t for a medal, it garnered a ton of interest because of the protagonists. Two big names in the sport were on opposite sides of a philosophical divide. It was a great story, which created huge drama.

Volleyball needs to market its people if it wants spectators to engage with the sport and keep coming back for more.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Volleyball Technical Director for Charleston Academy. His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

    1 Response to "It needs to be more about people and stories"

    • Avatar KELLY DANIELS

      John, (light bulb just came on)
      I so agree with your statement, “Volleyball needs to market its people if it wants spectators to engage with the sport and keep coming back for more.” When you made this statement, I instantly realized what you were saying. Everyone says those who play volleyball for a long time, “Love the sport!” When you do break this statement down it’s about the people around you. I’ve played on so many different levels of teams since I started playing at 30. I think back and it always about ‘the people’ that were around me that made me enjoy the sport and not necessarily the sport itself. My partner, ‘Uncle Phil’, Al, and the host of others to include opponents who I like kept me interested. My career as an athlete was about the team members and opponents. We’d play in a league or tournament and afterwards have dinner and or a beer together! I’ve retired from playing VB and I say it’s is my old body, but I just had this conversation last night with a former teammate of mine. I was playing with him when I decided to retired a few years back. Something on the court occurred with someone and it was unacceptable to me. I tried to play a few years ago when I relocated to Ohio in a few coed leagues, but did not continue after each season with those teams. I told my former teammate last night, “Adult volleyball sux where I live and this is why I am not playing”. I didn’t add the excuse of my body in the conversation. hmmmm Yep it’s the people that turns me off. Yet, I coach, referee volleyball and on quite a few VB blogs. So I now realize your statement is about me. It’s the people that keeps me interested in staying with the sport! I looking to play in a masters league and tournaments because one of the guys I know I respect and like. So yeah it’s the people.

      I think about the movie ‘The League of Their Own’ in this regards. In the movie people initially didn’t want to hear about females playing baseball. Yet, Jon Lovitz’s character continuously promoted the women of the team. Eventually ‘fans’ started coming out, even though they were not interested and even booing. All of a sudden a spectacular play occurred and what was stated was about the athlete who made the play. Then Gena Davis’ character became the face of the team. I don’t think people who are sports fans really understand they enjoy the sport they watch are doing so because of the personalities they are watching. I completely agree the volleyball community needs to start promoting the people in the sport, not just the sport itself. You ask the average volleyball youth athlete to name someone on the USA National team and they may know one person or two. Maybe! In an non-Olympic year I doubt it. Yet, you ask the same youths about people who playing on their top club team and they know them! That’s who they admire to be someday!!!

      Additionally, the USA National Team and US professional outdoor athletes need to start marketing themselves to the broad media. They can’t cover what they don’t know about! Other professional sports athletes have marketers. I would think that people will come if they knew who they were watching play the sport.

      Again great article and keep them coming!!!

      Kelly…

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