Tag Archive for BUCS Volleyball

UK university volleyball options for Americans

I received a question from an NCAA Division I assistant coach asking about US players going to the UK to play volleyball as post-graduate students. In this post I will address that subject as best I can.

The 2017-18 figures released by USA Volleyball show at least 45 players receiving international transfer certificates to play in England. There could be more playing for UK universities who did not get an ITC because they don’t play in the top level of the National League (NVL) there. For example, I had a couple of Americans play for me at Exeter. Since we did not play in the NVL they didn’t need ITCs.

The point I’m trying to make is there are quite a few Americans playing in England each year. A number of them are even on scholarships. Mainly, those are post-graduates. Think players who finished their NCAA playing career, but weren’t quite ready to stop playing competitive volleyball.

If you’re looking for a scholarship you need to find a university where volleyball is a performance sport. Most universities have volleyball clubs that compete in BUCS, which is the rough UK equivalent to the NCAA (the NAIA might be a better comparison). The performance programs, however, are a different situation. They are much more akin to what we would call varsity sports in the US. There aren’t that many of them, though.

Universities with performance volleyball programs

Here are at least some of the universities that have volleyball as a performance sport. I’ve included links to their information web page.

On the women’s side, Durham and Northumbria have been the top teams for several years. For the men, Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria have consistently been at the top, but Bournemouth is a regular championship contender as well. Essex and East London in recent years have also pushed themselves into the conversation.

Bournemouth was in the same BUCS league as Exeter when I coached there. I also got to coach against Durham (men) and Northumbria (women) in Final 8s.

Recruitment

If you go to a university without a performance program – or you just want a less intense volleyball experience – you’ll simply be part of the school’s club program. Generally speaking, that just means turning up for their tryouts or something along those lines when school starts. Easy enough.

If you want to go the performance route, however, you should think of it like the college recruitment process. You’ll want to reach out to the program(s) you’re interested in, provide them information about yourself, give them some video, etc.

Placement service

Several years back a service was developed by a woman who herself played in the UK as a post-graduate. It is called TeamGleas. Think of it as an athlete promotional service that universities subscribe to. They don’t just cover the UK. If you, or someone you know, is thinking about playing and going to school abroad, it might be worth having a look.

There may be other services out there as well. I just don’t know of them.

Keep in mind

A word of warning is required here. You should not expect the same level of support and facilities in the UK as you see at US colleges and universities (especially the higher level ones). Volleyball just isn’t that big a sport over there. This goes doubly when talking about the non-performance club programs. Training for them might only be once or twice a week, possibly with no coach.

And the competition in BUCS won’t be spectacular. Since most teams are club programs, they just aren’t that strong. The performance programs, though, are generally linked in with a club playing in one of the top divisions of the National League. That’s much more serious, and in some cases includes professional (or at least semi-pro) players.

I bring this up not to discourage anyone from going to the UK to study and play volleyball. I just want to make sure the expectations are realistic. If nothing else, it’s could be a great experience on many levels. Certainly, it provides opportunities to do some interesting travel.

Questions?

I hope this post provides the information you need to at least start thinking about things and exploring your options. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them if I can. If I can’t, I might be able to get them from my contacts among the coaches over there.

Could Brexit kill UK volleyball?

This isn’t a place for political discourse. It’s a sports coaching blog. I’m not going to get into a debate as to whether I think it’s a good idea for the UK to leave the EU or not. What I will say, though, is I think volleyball there could take a real hit after the British voted to opt out of the European Union.

During my time coaching at the University of Exeter, and for the Devon Ladies in the National League (NVL), I worked with players from something like 25 different nationalities.Here’s the list as I can remember it:

  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Bulgaria
  • Belarus
  • Taiwan
  • China
  • USA
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Brazil
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • England
  • Malaysia
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Ukraine
  • Lithuania
  • Japan
  • Denmark

Obviously, not all of the countries above are from the EU, but quite a few are so. I wouldn’t expect there to be much impact on the non-EU representation among students playing for university teams in BUCS. Nothing much changes for them, but UK schooling does become a little less financially attractive to EU students who can’t get local tuition rates. Also, there could be an impact on exchange programs with EU universities, though I don’t really know that mechanism (Erasmus).

Beyond the universities


Alex Porter, former England national team player and current director of volleyball at the University of Essex (which ties in with the Tendring NVL club) was asked on Facebook, “How many NVL clubs will go to the wall now through lack of players coming from Europe?

His reply was, “Most.”

I’m sure he means from Supers 8s right down to Division 3, and perhaps all the way to local leagues. Most of the players we’re talking about aren’t professional or semi-professional ones. Rather, it’s mainly about EU citizens working in England and playing volleyball on the side for the love of the sport. There is already an issue with requirements for foreign players to pay a transfer fee to be able to play in the NVL, and the Brexit decision seems to just pile on that.

I wonder if this negatively impacts Volleyball England’s funding. A big chunk of what they’ve received from above in recent years is for growing involvement in sport among young people (I think 14-24). How many of those being counted are EU citizens and thus won’t be available to be counted in the future?

It’s not just players. I know of a number of foreign-born coaches across the country as well.

I can’t speak very well to Scotland or Northern Ireland (both voted strongly in favor of staying in the EU, by the way). Volleyball in N.I. is not very strong, even by UK standards. Scotland, though, has a bit of history and has maintained a senior national team even when England was forced to drop theirs for a few years (only this year brought back). My impression is that Scottish volleyball is also quite diverse, but I don’t have direct experience as I do with England.

I don’t know, but I fear

It will be a while before we see where the results of this referendum takes the U.K. A lot of decision need to be made, and it will take time for things to settle out. My fear is in the interim a lot of good work by a number of people in the UK to try to grow the sport is disrupted by the uncertainty, and that is a very sad thought.

 

Cementing my coaching reputation

In May of 2013 the Devon Ladies team I coached won the South West Championships at the end of my first season coaching in England.

2013 South West Championships

Courtesy David Cranch

The players on the court for championship point shown above represented six different nationalities – English, Polish, Czech, Italian, Spanish, and Filipino. That’s a taste of the ethnic diversity of U.K volleyball. I figure I coached players from about 25 different countries in my time there.

That tournament win was really satisfying. I took over the Devon team midway through their National League Division 1 campaign that season. They were 1-7 at that point, sitting on the bottom of the standings. We turned things around and won seven straight after I took charge. It was tough going at the start, with lots of 5-setters, but we built momentum and handled teams easily later. Our only loss was on the very last day of the season. We dropped a 5-set match away to the team that won the league. We beat that same team in the finals of the South West Championships tournament to take the gold.

I couldn’t help but have a laugh at being able to do that. That probably sounds a bit odd, so let me explain.

From the first time I stepped on a court in England – even before I made the decision to go there for my PhD – I would hear whispers of, “That’s the American coach.” There was this sense of awe that seemed to follow me around during my first year.

It was very strange and kind of unsettling. I did not bring some big, amazing track record with me. By American standards I was pretty middle of the road, most likely. The fact that I was a coach from the States, though, apparently gave me an aura of volleyball majesty.

The reason I was laughing about winning South West Championships is because I couldn’t help but think doing it just tended to support people’s perceptions of my quality as an American coach. This was especially so given how the Devon team did in the league and how the Exeter University teams I coached did in BUCS competition that year.

Fortunately, that American aura thing eventually wore off as people got to know me. Any respect toward me thereafter was earned. That was a much more comfortable feeling.

As an encore I led the Exeter women’s team to the national semifinals the following year. 😀

Coaching Log – Oct 16 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.

Wednesday was our first BUCS match of the year. To say things didn’t go optimally would be an understatement. We had to drive over 4 hours (players driving) leaving before 7am to get to the match, closer to 5 hours by the time we got parked and across campus, changed and into the gym. Then we found out we had basically zero time to warm up before the official pre-match routine started because our Athletic Union failed to inform us that said warm-up was set to begin about 25 minutes before the team was changed. Needless to say, we weren’t anywhere close to mentally or physically prepared to play the match.

The opposition was solid, but by no means overpowering. They reminded us a lot of the third place teams from our league last year in terms of style of play. I have no doubt we have the players capable of beating them. Not, however, if we play the way we did on Wednesday. Way too many mistakes driven by tentative, fearful play. And our blocking and defense weren’t nearly good enough (the latter definitely a function of the former). Lots of work needs doing – technically, tactically, and mentally.

It was an early training session on Thursday as we swapped spots with the men’s team since they played a late-day match Wednesday. Not surprisingly, there were some sluggish minds and bodies. We only had six balls, which put some serious limits on what I could do with them. It ended up being a session developed dynamically.

I had them start with rotating pepper after the dynamic warm-up, then moved to a variation of the hard drill. My decision to do that latter was to get the players doing more thinking on the court. After that, I did half court (narrow) winners 4s with fixed setters.

It was not a great session. Too little focus. Too little commitment. Balls dropped. Players made numerous bad decisions. I was sharper with them because of it than I’ve been so far this season. I actually ended training early after yet another ball hit the floor with two players standing there looking at each other (which got the team captain shouting at them).

I told them at the end of training that certain players need to get more focused (no names) and were at risk of being excluded from training because they were negatively influencing the ability of other players to practice at the necessary intensity. They were warned that Monday’s session had better be MUCH better in terms of intensity and focus.

On the plus side, after telling the two setters I would make them do a push-up (just 1) if I caught them leaving target early (which they both had been horribly guilty of up to that point in the session) they were much more disciplined about that.

It’s trial day!

This is a story from back when I coached the teams at the University of Exeter (U.K.).

I have to run two try-out sessions this afternoon for the university teams I coach. The first is for the women. The second is for the men. Each will be an hour in length. We were supposed to have 3 hours, but somehow had the last hour we requested lopped off. We only found out yesterday! I will be the only coach there, though I should have a bit of support from returning players. At least I will for the women’s session, anyway.

How many prospective players will turn up is a big question mark. Last year we had about 24 women and 18 men on the first day of the 3-day trials. On the men’s side we took things a bit slow. We did not feel rushed to make any immediate cuts, but we wanted to try to trim the numbers for the women right away in the case of the obvious No’s. We cut about half a dozen after that first session, but ended up with something like 26 players for the second one!

No surprise if something similar happens this year. Yesterday was the last of the club’s “taster” sessions. They use them to introduce themselves prospective new members. There were about 80 of them, mostly female.That’s been the clear pattern in my time at Exeter.

I was on-hand for the taster (the third and final held during Freshers’ Week) to scout out prospective BUCS players and to advise the club leadership on ways to run the session more smoothly (different drills and games they could employ). We don’t normally see a lot in the way of likely BUCS contenders at the tasters, as mainly the experienced ones go straight to try-outs, but sometimes one or two will turn up worth having a look at. Ended up being a few more than that this year – particularly for the women.

Today’s the real test, though. This is when we find out if the rumors about this player or that player which always seem to be flying around are actually true.

The situation is this. The women return only three from last year’s BUCS semifinalists, while the men have back four of the guys who featured in their victory over Durham in the 7th place playoff at Final 8s, plus a few of the second team members. I saw a few women during the tasters who could probably be in the team, potentially even as starters. Wasn’t quite so dazzled by the men, but maybe a couple of squad players.

Adding complexity to all this is the fact that we have to consider things from the perspective of two teams for each gender. The club runs teams in the new BUCS Premier League (teams promoted up from Division 1) and in Division 2. Last year we just trained them all together as one unit and had the second string group play the Div2 matches. Don’t know yet if we’ll do the same this year. The gap between Premier League and Div2 will be markedly bigger than the one between Div1 and Div2.

Fortunately, we don’t have to make final decisions today. We have sessions the first half of next week as well to be able to take a longer look.

Looking back to think ahead

This is a review I wrote of my second season coaching at Exeter. I wrote it a few months later as I was starting to think about the new one ahead.

The other day I talked about facing the start of a new volleyball cycle and my coaching commitment moving forward. Over the next couple of posts I want to take some time to reflect on last season’s coaching and where I would like to take things this season.

2013-14 Recap

Last season was really intense. The Exeter university club (EUVC) expanded by one men’s and one women’s team. That put us at one each in BUCS Division 1 and Division 2 for each gender. The BUCS1 and BUCS2 teams (as we call them internally to designate 1st and 2nd teams) trained together, splitting out for competitions. The BUCS2 teams both played in the Western Conference Cup as well as league play. As unified squads, both groups played in the regional league (SWVA) and in the Volleyball England Student Cup qualifiers. Adding in the post-season play for the BUCS1 squads, the teams had a combined 87 matches

It ended up being a very successful year for EUVC.

The BUCS1 women finished 8-2 in their BUCS league, putting them in a first place tie. The tiebreak went against them, but it was still their best result in many years. They went on to Final 8s where they reached the semifinals. That’s likely the best an Exeter women’s team has ever done. The BUCS2 squad also finished second in their league. They fell in the quarterfinals of the Conference Cup. The combined squad went 14-4 in SWVA to take third place. This would have been second were it not for a bit of a facilities snafu on the last fixture date. At one point they’d won 30 straight sets.

The BUCS1 men finished 4-4 in their BUCS league. That saw them finish 2nd in the table for the second year running. They went on to Final 8s where they took 7th, improving on the prior year’s finish. The BUCS2 team finished third in their league and made the semis of the Conference Cup. The combined team finished 6th in SWVA play.

All together, the EUVC BUCS teams collected the third highest total points of any school. Both BUCS1 teams also gained promotion to the newly formed Premier League.Not bad for a club with no scholarship athletes.

I personally coached almost 60 matches all together. Most of the ones I did not coach were the men’s SWVA matches as I only coached the women in that competition. The rest I mainly could not coach due to schedule conflicts between the teams. In May I also coached the women in South West Championships. We finished among the NVL 3 teams in the middle part of the standings (tournament included teams from NVL1 down to SWVA). Some of the guys also played in the tournament with their NVL 3 team Exeter Storm (moving up to NVL 2 next season).

Reflections – Women

The advantage I had with the women was the common objective. They wanted to make BUCS Final 8s and the returning players knew from the prior year’s playoff experience that we needed more offense to be competitive with teams at that level. Having everyone on the same page made it really easy for me to sell the process to the team. I’d seen the women’s teams at Final 8s the season before. That made it so I could communicate requirements to the players. It also gave me an added measure of authority with them because of it. Importantly, the squad’s new players offered sufficient talent to give us confidence in having the strength to do well.

Everything we did was with an eye toward being able to play at the level of the teams we might have to beat in the playoffs to reach Final 8s. More than that, we wanted to have a good showing once there. With that season-long objective in mind, and the confidence that we’d finish high enough in the league to qualify for Championships given the strength of the squad, I was able to take a patient long-term approach.

I think a couple of things I did along the way were beneficial. One was making everything very team focused in a positive and supportive context. I tried to spin everything in terms of how what each player was doing contributed toward the team’s play. I also wanted to make them feel less uptight about making errors. The time and focus on serving I think paid off quite a bit. I also I feel I did a good job in matches against weaker teams of keeping the team focused on things other than the score. Having individual meetings with players each term – and getting feedback from them between terms – I think was important. It made sure players knew their roles. They understood what as going on, could feel connected to the process, etc. I didn’t do them the year before and regretted it.

What I feel like was a big factor for me was my total commitment to doing whatever the team needed for their consistent development and success. If that meant saying I’d wear a kilt if they reached Final 8s (it was in Edinburgh), then I’d do it. If it meant giving up some of what should have been my PhD time to focus on team stuff, so be it. That sense of commitment and my part of the team effort was important, I believe.

In terms of the things I think I could have done better, integrating the quick attack was one of them. That actually links in with passing. I just wasn’t as consistent in working on those things as I probably should have been. As a result, we never got it into the offense. Player availability was a factor there, but that speaks to an issue regarding planning I’ll circle back to later. I could have spent more time on blocking as well. It wasn’t something that hurt us, but we could have done better at times. In the first term there were probably a couple of situations regarding individual players I could have handled better.

Reflections – Men

The men were coming off their first Final 8s appearance in a number of years, but doing so having lost several key players including their captain and setter. We started the year with a very thin squad in terms of talent and experience. In all honesty, the expectations for the year were low. I thought just finishing high enough in the league to qualify for Championships was going to be a challenge. If I’m fair, that may have tainted my attitude toward coaching the men, though it wasn’t helped by other issues which developed at times.

Throughout the year I had a feeling of unevenness about the guys’ training because of the nature of their coaching situation (at least partly). On the women’s side I was the lead coach without any question. On the men’s side there was another coach as lead, though he could only run trainings one night a week and couldn’t attend matches. This had been the case the year before as well, but the other coach had so many schedule conflicts that year that I basically ran everything almost the whole year. This time around the schedule conflicts were few, resulting in an inconsistent approach to team coaching as who ran training alternated. The other coach and I communicated about focal points, but more needed to be done to ensure a smoother progression.

The diversity of skill level in the team (keeping in mind BUCS1 and BUCS2 trained together) created a number of challenges which we coaches probably could have handled better. Either or both may have also tied in with some issues we had on the commitment and attendance front. One particularly angering instance during first term really turned me off coaching them and encouraged me to focus even more on the women’s team, which is probably not the reaction I should have had. The uneven commitment was also probably contributory to the unevenness I perceived in the training focus.

A major issue with the guys was that they played too little as a unit and too much as a collection of individuals. They handled adversity very poorly. It was so glaring that even the women’s team became incredibly frustrated watching them play – or even train. Some of this was poor leadership in the squad that needed to have been addressed from the outset.

The setting position was problematic. We probably stayed with one setter much longer than should have been the case because the other option was such a useful attacker. This only became clear at Final 8s when illness forced a change.

Overall

Just the other night I was talking with one of the women’s team players about how amazing the season was. None of us would have even dared think that we could be national semifinalists. I noted some things I felt I could have done better, but when I look back on the 2013-14 season where the women were concerned I can’t help but feel like it went just about as well as any coach could ever hope. The men, of course, were a different story. Even they, in the end, surpassed expectations, though. I feel like I’ve learned from both experiences, though. I share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the next post.

The new annual volleyball cycle begins

This is a post I wrote leading into the start of my final season with the Exeter university teams.

Back when I coached in the States, August was generally the month when things got going for the new season. The turning of the calendar over from July usually was the trigger for the serious planning process for preseason training which started later in the month. Here in England, my on-court work with the university teams won’t start until late September when school begins again. I still feel those old “eager to start” feelings now that August is here again, though.

Last year I spent a chunk of August and early September visiting with the USC, UCLA, Long Beach State, Rhode Island, and Cal State San Marcos women’s volleyball programs. That was while they were in their pre-season and early season training mode (read about that here). For me that trip served a couple of roles. One was to reconnect with US collegiate volleyball, which I’d been away from since the end of the 2006 season. Another was to see what developments there have been in training techniques and tactics in the last several years.

This year I’m again going to be spending a fair portion of August with teams in pre-season training. This time, though, I’ll head east rather than west. I’ll be hanging out with teams in the German professional league. The details are still coming together, but it will most likely be a combination of men’s and women’s teams. I’m always interested in seeing other coaches at work, so that’s part of the motivation. A higher priority, though, is gaining a deeper understanding of how things operate at the professional level. I will, of course, report what I see and hear along the way.

After Germany I’ll begin what no doubt will be my final season in Exeter. In fact, it may not even end up being a full season. As you may be aware, I am doing my PhD at the university here. I’m aiming to submit my dissertation by December or January. That won’t mean I’m finished then, though. I’ll still have to go through my Viva (defense) within 3 months and potentially make corrections before my final submission. So it could be upwards of another 6 months before all is said and done. It will mark the end of the main sustained research and writing effort. I intend to start looking for jobs after I submit. That impacts on the commitment I can make to coaching the university teams.

I’ve told the club captains that I can commit to the first semester in terms of training and BUCS matches for the first teams – men and women. I cannot commit to second team BUCS matches or to South West league fixtures. My PhD workload will dictate my availability on a week-to-week basis, depending on my progress. Of course there’s no telling how long the job hunt process will take. It could very well be that I’m available for the whole season (which ends in March). I just cannot make that commitment at this point. The club is in the process now of trying to find some additional coaching to work alongside me, and prospectively take over when I leave.

I’ll admit to having a number of conflicting thoughts about what sort of coaching commitment I could/would make for the upcoming season. At points I was thinking for a number of different reasons I shouldn’t coach at all and just focus on my PhD work. Part of that thinks was how much it would bother me to leave in the middle of the season if that comes to pass. At the same time, though, I really do want the experience of coaching in the new BUCS Volleyball Premier Leagues after doing everything we did last year to get there. I’ll be with the teams for enough matches that hopefully we can assure them of at least staying up for another season before I have to move on.

As for what those teams will look this year, it’s an open question. The women have lost the majority of last year’s national semifinalist squad. At most only three will return, so we’ll be very reliant on the incoming class to reload. It’s a better situation on the men’s side (7th at Final 8s last year) where a solid core of players will be back. A couple of positions need filling, but it should at least be a competitive group.

I’m sure I’ll report more on all of that once we get things rolling next month. Chances are I’ll resume the coaching log entries I did last year. I did that specifically for my Volleyball England Level 3 coaching certification (now completed). It was also a generally useful exercise for me – and hopefully something others found interesting as well.

In my next post I will look back in terms of what I think I did well last year and what could be improved upon for the new one.

BUCS volleyball 2014-15 schedule out

BUCS has posted the schedule for the new UK collegiate volleyball season ahead. It actually strikes me as being earlier than was the case last year, but don’t hold me to that. With the introduction of the new Northern and Southern Premier Leagues for the upcoming season, there’s had to be a restructuring through the divisions and various competitions. Somewhere along the way, it was decided not to do the relegations from Division 1 they had originally signaled, as I wrote about in early June.

As it turns out, that means the Exeter women’s 2nd team won’t move up to Division 1 after all. That may have an impact on how we structure training this year. Last season we trained the Division 1 and 2 teams together. I don’t know if that will be practical this year, though. I’m sure I’ll write about that later as things develop.

The introduction of the Premier Leagues has resulted in a shift in the structure of the Championship and Trophy competitions. In the past, the top 3 teams in each of the five Division 1 leagues qualified for Championships with Final 8s capping off the season. The rest went to the Trophy competition, which is a knock-out cup structure. Moving forward, only the Premier League teams will qualify for Championships. If the Final 8s structure is kept, which I think is the plan, then presumably there would be some kind of preliminary entry play-off, perhaps with the top teams byed. All Division 1 teams now go into the Trophy bracket, which turns into a season-long cup competition – in addition to regular league play, of course. The lower divisions retain their League Cups alongside the regular season.

The promotion/relegation system for the Premier League will involve the last place PL team in each league playing off, presumably against the winners of the geographically appropriate Division 1 leagues. That means relegation isn’t automatic, unless that bottom team has forfeit one or more matches. In the case of the Northern PL, two teams will be brought up this year to get their final count to 6 as they only start with 5.

As for scheduling, we shall see. I’ve written before about my frustrations with how that’s been handled. BUCS has posted a schedule based on their standard Wednesday fixtures. Given the distances involved for the PL teams, they have at least made a pair of concessions. The first is that they seem to have had both the men and women for schools where both genders are in the PL playing at home on the same dates, and playing other schools with dual participation on the same dates. This is what the Exeter schedule looks like:

Men Women
15-Oct @Warwick @Sussex
22-Oct Cambridge Cambridge
29-Oct @UEL @Oxford
5-Nov UCL KCL
12-Nov @Bournemouth @Bournemouth
19-Nov Warwick Sussex
26-Nov @Cambridge @Cambridge
4-Feb UEL Oxford
11-Feb @UCL @KCL
18-Feb Bournemouth Bournemouth

You’ll notice that the Exeter teams play the Cambridge and Bournemouth squads on the same dates, both home and away. Both teams are also home on the same dates. Not only does this help out in terms of travel, it also helps out in terms of coaching. I have coached both the men and women the last two years. Mostly, it wasn’t an issue because we generally avoided direct conflicts in the schedule. The risk this year was that there was going to be a load of conflicts, making it quite unreasonable for one coach to handle both squads. The schedule above only has three conflicts when the teams are away at different places.

Again, who knows if this will all hold. Exeter is certainly not keen to host on Wednesdays and I know some of the other schools – based on conversations I’ve had with coaches – aren’t keen on playing Wednesdays in general terms. They prefer weekends. We may yet end up with a very different looking schedule – perhaps one which features triangulars or something along those lines.

Actually, something does need to happen to adjust things. The last round of fixtures is currently scheduled for after the February 11 cut-off to get them all played!

However they do it, I hope it at least is sorted out ahead of time. There’s very little that’s much more frustrating than not knowing from week to week what the match schedule looks like.

BUCS Volleyball Structure for 2014-15

BUCS has published the provisional leagues for the 2014-15 season. It’s always interesting to see which schools are added or dropped and which expand the number of teams competing (as I observed last year). For the upcoming season, though, we have the addition of northern and southern premier leagues sitting above Division 1.

The advancement of teams up from Division 1 and into the Premier Leagues meant there would have to be additional teams promoted up from Division 2 beyond the league winners already designated to do so in place of the bottom Division 1 finishers who would be relegated.

The Men’s Premier Leagues are as follows:

Northern Southern
Northumbria East London
Strathclyde Bournemouth
Durham Exeter
Sheffield Hallam UCL
Edinburgh Cambridge
Warwick

The Women’s Premier Leagues are as follows:

Northern Southern
Northumbria Oxford
Durham Kings
Glasgow Exeter
St. Andrews Bournemouth
Edinburgh Cambridge
Sussex

Both leagues were meant to have six teams (as I noted previously). Not sure why the North only includes five in both cases. The documentation says they will expand that to the full allotment for 2015-16.

In terms of my own coaching, as you can see, both the Exeter women’s and men’s first teams earned a spot in the Southern Premier League for the new season. They move up from Division 1 on the basis of making Final 8s this past season.

At the lower levels, the women’s 2nd team has gained promotion to Division 1 from Division 2 thanks to a second place league finish last year. This would not normally be enough to gain promotion as only the first place team advances. The way it fell out, though, was that the two bottom teams from Division 1 were relegated (Bristol and Cardiff), so with Exeter and Bournemouth promoted you get 4 spots to fill. As a result, the top two teams from Divisions 2A and 2B (A/B being a geographic split) were promoted.

On the men’s side it was a similar situation. Two teams were relegated from Division 1 (Southampton, plus Gloucestershire by dint of withdrawing) while Bournemouth and Exeter were promoted up. The four slots were filled by the top two finishers in Divisions 2A and 2B. Unfortunately, the Exeter 2 guys finished 3rd last season, so they remain in Division 2.

One could certainly question relegating two teams from Division 1 and bringing up four from Division 2. The formula isn’t quite made for these sorts of situations. There doesn’t look to have been anything said yet about promotion/relegation to/from the Premier Leagues after next season. We are all quite curious to find out what BUCS is planning on doing for scheduling.

A number of new schools/teams are shown in the chart of the provisional league assignments, but we need to wait and see how that all falls out. Some of the names I see were listed as being in the mix last year, but didn’t end up taking part in play for whatever reason. We’ll see what ends up happening there.

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