A while back I posted on a new effort from Volleyball England. They announced the creation of what they called senior academies at a group of English universities. I received an email in response to that post from the head of the V.E. coaching commission, Richard Harrisson. It was in response to that post. I thought it worth sharing to provide a bit of context for how things developed.

Volleyball England thinking

In the past we had male and female adult development squads each with a professional coach based at Hallam University (Sheffield) for men and at Loughborough University for women. Many of these players became part of the GB indoor teams at the London Olympics. All players at some stage had professional contracts in Europe.

The idea was to channel the top young players with academic credentials into a regular training and competition programme. The ‘ideal’ new programme would be for a number of universities to have the same offer with more players training and playing regularly in the Super8s. This is separate to the ‘participation’ goals.

I don’t know the details of the programme. But based on the Schools Academies there will be a rigorous process of application (universities to bid for ‘Academy’ status) and selection to ensure the right coaches will be appointed and a sustainable recruitment and training system will be offered.

For a small federation Volleyball England had a good return from investment in the Development Squads. The aim is to replicate and grow the model. I’m interested to see how this develops…

There was a bit more information posted up by Volleyball England here. Interestingly, at that point no school was in at the “gold” level yet. I’m not entirely sure what exactly that means, though.

Will this create an NCAA equivalent?

It will indeed be interesting to see how things develop. Creating this sort of academy structure at the university level would in many ways make for a structure not unlike NCAA Division I or II volleyball in the States. I speak from the perspective of scholarships and linking sport and education in a way that isn’t really done in Europe. There isn’t really professional volleyball in England, at least not how most would think of it. At the same time, basically every USA national team player comes through the NCAA pipeline. That being the case, this new structure might not be a bad idea.

As I wrote before, though, there are some serious issues.

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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.

    10 replies to "Universities as senior volleyball academies"

    • Kelly Daniels

      I was watching a match online btwn Dresdner SC & Hamburg and notice a few things about the officials. I understand the German pro leagues play under FIVB rules. Do you know if this extend to officiating standards as well? I question because first I noticed only two line judges vice four. Additionally the R2 didn’t repeat the R1 signals.
      If you don’t know, maybe your German connections could elaborate? Inquiring minds wants to know. 😉
      BTW…Have a very Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Year!!!

      • John Forman

        I’m sure Germany uses FIVB officiating standards. Hard to imagine it being otherwise. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever really seen the R2 repeating R1 signals in all the matches I’ve coached and watched. If I have, it’s been infrequent. Don’t remember that happening in CEV Champions League matches either. I’ve seen it both ways with the line judges. I’ll see if I can get someone in Germany to comment.

        • Oliver Wagner

          The FIVB changed the rules for the signals this season. And in every competition in every FIVB country the R2 is not repeating the signals of the R1 anymore. This is not a German peculiarity 🙂 The German volleyball association DVV only requires two line judges in the Bundesliga. I don’t know exactly why but I think it is to reduce the costs for the officiating crews…

          • John Forman

            Thanks Oliver. I kind of figured the line judge thing was cost-based.

      • markleb

        Normally they are referred to as ‘the’ rules. Only in the US is it necessary to stipulate which rules you use 😉
        ‘The’ rules stipulate 4 linespeople but for cost reasons, many/most leagues use only two. Lower leagues most often have none. Champions League uses four.
        Some of the refereeing protocols were updated/changed prior to this season including the second referee repeating the signals of the first referee. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this. I am sure 97% of people haven’t noticed.

        • Kelly Daniels

          I just happen to be one of those coaches who is also a national level official, so I noticed the R2 and line judges.
          I have sent a inquiry to our regional officials chairperson to get USAV clarification. I retired my officials certification so I can focus on coaching at the national level. Thereby I’m not privy to officials techniques that are relayed to the officials beyond the coaches level. I do know an international official who is also in the leadership of USAV Officials cadre. Yet, our regional chair tends to get upset when I go around him! hahahahha He tends to be very late on getting out officials information, and ‘very’ slow in responding to inquiries, which make me want to go around him. Good thing come 2016 club season I will be back in that international official’s region where he is also the chairperson. Officials in that region know information when they FIVB is just discussing changes both in rules and techniques.
          Thank you all for the follow up.
          Have the Merriest of Christmas’ and Happiest of New Years.

    • Kelly Daniels

      I also wanted to comment on the topic of new effort from Volleyball England. We have a pipeline to the national team here in the U.S. called USAV High Performance (HP). Athletes at the youth level have to tryout to make a camp. From the camps athletes are selected to train with a specific age level team. From there they are selected to compete with a specific level team. Coaches volunteer to help at the tryouts, which includes being court coaches and evaluators. From some are then asked to apply for HP summer camps, but are paid coaches. Those who get serious about coaching at the HP level then have an opportunity to take the HP Coaches Clinic offered by USAV and lead by the USAV head coach. From there they can be asked to volunteer to assist in the USA team tryouts, which can lead to a coaching position on the national team from time to time.
      Do you know if Volleyball England would even consider something in a program as such. I know they are in their infancy of collegiate pipeline, but shouldn’t it also look at the youth level and train coaches to coach at the national level. It seems in the USA Volleyball experience this seems to be a successful model being that the women’s team just won the 2014 FIVB World Championships and ranked #1 in the world.

      • John Forman

        Kelly – In England there is actually no senior national team at the moment. It was de-funded after the Olympics because at the sort of governmental level they didn’t deem it to be a sport they were likely to be competitive at in the current quad (and beyond?). That’s essentially forced a focus for Volleyball England on the youth ranks where international competition is concerned. England being a much smaller country than the US – both in terms of geography/population and the popularity of volleyball – there is less need for the dispersed model of talent identification than something like HP. Basically, they simply hold try-out dates at their National Volleyball Centre to select players to bring into the Cadet (U16/U17) and Junior (U18/U19) national teams. I worked the girls’ tryout last Summer (along with one of my fellow Level 3 coaching course classmates), so got to witness that process.

        There is, however, also a youth academy structure in place which I’m guessing is the model for the senior academy system discussed in the post. Obviously, the objective there is to a) help in the process of identifying potential national team players and b) provide the elite youth players the opportunity for regular training and competition. There’s a bit of information here: http://volleyballengland.org/performance/talent_programmes/junior_academy_programme. I’ve actually been invited to visit the academy at LeAF, which I hope to be able to do at some point.

        There’s also a new beach academy not too far from me which isn’t listed on that page. It’s being run by the national youth beach coach, who is a former professional player. So it’s not just an indoor thing.

        • Kelly Daniels

          Thanks for the information and the website. It was cool reading what England Volleyball is doing. It seems they are at their infancy of building their national programme and I wish them the best.
          While reading the Volleyball England Junior Academy Programme webpage I noticed that they mentions Junior being eligible for the programme, but in your previous response Junior is meaning 18/19 yr old. It seems the webpage seems to indicate athletes at the college level (18-22/23) is eligible for the programme. Please clarify.
          Also what is the difference btwn British Volleyball and Volleyball England? I’m just speculating here…British Volleyball is the same thing as USAV here in the U.S? Volleyball England is a ‘private’ organization focusing on getting athletes in the collegiate to the national team. Nothing like the NCAA though here in the U.S.?
          Do the athletes have to pay for the Junior Academy Programme or is this inclusive to the collegiate tuition?
          Lastly, wouldn’t you think that British Volleyball should be doing something at the Cadet and even under to foster interest in volleyball in Great Britain? Their website do have a link to Volleyball England, but nothing about the youth levels. I would think to build a programme it should involve the grass roots. There isn’t much interest if one doesn’t have somewhere to participate. As you know here in the U.S. we now have 8yrs competing on 11yr old teams, which is our youngest division. Yet, we have 6yr olds training. My club does training at that level.

          • John Forman

            Kelly – I’m not going to claim to be fully aware of the total structure here, but I’ll try to give explaining the structure here in broad strokes a go. British Volleyball sits over the top of the UK volleyball structure, but it is the home country federations like Volleyball England which seem to do the real work on the ground. Essentially, you can think of Volleyball England as the USAV equivalent for England. It manages the English youth national teams I mentioned, oversees the National Volleyball League, runs the Student Cup, and generally works to grow and develop the sport. V.E. has links to what we would call collegiate volleyball, but doesn’t actually run it. That’s handled by BUCS, which is roughly the UK equivalent of the NCAA.

            Here’s were some clarification is required, I think.

            In the US we use college and university interchangeably. Those are two very different things in the UK. A university is a post-secondary educational institution where people go to get what we from the US would call a college degree. A college in UK terms is below that. It’s where kids go for their last 1-2 years of secondary education to do their “A levels”. There’s a bit more nuance, but for these purposes that’ll do.

            The junior academies are – as I understand it – often tied in with colleges. I don’t know what the cost side of things is there. The senior academies are linked with universities, and as mentioned there are scholarship opportunities involved. Thus, you’d have Junior (and potentially Cadet) aged players at junior academies and prospective senior national team aged players (basically college kids as we’d describe them) at the senior academies.

            I think that hits your questions. I’ll see if I can find someone a bit more in the know to perhaps provide more detail.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.