User:Chris Todd/Elite Volleyball in Australia

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Volleybollplan.png by Mewlek

Volleyball was invented by William G. Morgan in 1895 in the YMCA gymnasium of Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, where it was originally know as mintonette. In 1896 the sport was renamed volleyball before being published in July edition of "Physical Education" that year, and a year later the first official rulebook was published. Volleyball has grown since its creation to now include over 220 affiliated national federations within the FIVB, and is one of the largest international sporting organisations in the world. In 1964, at Tokyo, Volleyball was first introduced to the Olympics. 32 years later in Atlanta, beach volleyball was added to the Olympic program. Currently indoor volleyball consists of 15 different international events, as well as 7 international beach events that occur annually, biennial or quadrennially.

Indoor volleyball uses a court that is 18m long and 9m wide with a net splitting it in half separating the two teams. The net is 2.43m for men and 2.24m for women however the courst is the same size for both genders. A team consists of up to twelve players but there are only six players on court for a team at any one time and of these three are "front court" and three are "back court". There is a line 3m from the centre called the attack line which is used to distinguish players that are in the front court as opposed to the back court and only front court players are allowed to attack in front of this line. Beach volleyball is slightly different to that of indoor in that the court is 16m long and 8m wide however the net height remains the same as that of indoor volleyball. There are only 2 players on each side and there are no substitutes. Both disciplines use a ball that is 65-67cm in circumference and weighs 260-280g.


Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in the world both recreationally and competitively, however it barely registers on the radar of most Australians. It is two of only thirty-six programs run by the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) however most Australians wouldn't know the name of a single national volleyballer. Volleyball is fast and entertaining requiring dynamic and agile athletes to perform at a high level. Australians love international sport and would undoubtably support volleyball on an international scene if it were organised appropriately and effectively.

Since the release of govenment initiatives to improve Australian sport (The Crawford Report, Pathway to Success) Volleyball Australia has recently been looking at ways to improve the future of the high performance programs it runs. This would require improved international results and an increased participation base. A number of controversial issues have arisen since the initial high performance review has been undertaken and volleyball in Australia is preparing for some significant changes.


Australian Volleyball[edit]

Volleyball in Australia has had its greatest success on the beach with Nat Cook and Kerri Potharst winning Bronze in Atlanta in 1996 and Gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The indoor programmes have not had the same success with only 2000 and 2004 representation at the Olympics. Currently there are two AIS programmes, beach held in Adelaide at SASI (South Australian Sports Institute), and indoor (mens only) in Canberra at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). The AIS Volleyball program was established in 1990 when a men's program commenced in Sydney. Both the men's and women's programs were relocated to the main campus of the AIS in Canberra in 1997 and the men’s AIS program is still vital to the National team program providing the financial and human resources as well as the sport science and sports medicine expertise required to compete at the international level. Currently the viability and support for this program is under threat due to lack in high performance results in recent years.

Every state (and territory) in Australia has a Volleyball Association that runs competitions and events, with over 83 officially recognised clubs around Australia. There are also numerous clubs and associations not registered with Australian Volleyball which run social competitions and recreational leagues. In each state there are differing levels of involvement of clubs with their associated state body. Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have state run acadamy programs, New South Wales, ACT and Western Australia have developing programs that incorporate national competitions, while Tasmania and NT just run individual teams and when possible enter them into competitions in other states.

In most cases the people that play volleyball at a club level have done so since playing at school, and these competitions are often dominated by school age participants. The vast majority of the sport in Australia is between 14 and 20 years of age, with the two largest national events on the calendar being Australian Volleyball Schools Cup and Australian Junior Volleyball Championship both targeting school age athletes. Beyond school there is a big gap between the level of competitions available. Recreational and Representative competitions often are far removed from one another as there is such a gap between the leveles of ability. This means that the clubs that are able to incorporate both recreational and competitive events together are typically the most successful as they have a more sustainable financial base. These clubs are often the same ones that receive sponsorship and are able to compete in national tournaments.

At an elite national level around Australia, volleyball is dominated by the universities. This is due to the vastly superior funding they have available over other clubs and often these are the organisations that gain the greatest number of school leavers, simply due to the nature of their being. This has led to State organisations looking to them to represent the state in AVL seeing as many as half of the teams being university run.

Crawford and The Pathway to Success[edit]

In 2008 Kate Ellis (Minister of Sport at the time) appointed an independant sport panel "to make recommendations on the specific structures, programs and reform required to ensure the continuing robustness of the Australian sport system." This has since come to be known as The Crawford Report, which produced 39 recommendations to “address the ‘must do’ initiatives and…include issues relating to continuing success at the elite and participatory level, social inclusion, preventative health, pathways [and] funding.” Following the release of the findings by the Independant Sport Panel the Government released Australian Sport - The Pathway to Success which was the new sporting vision for all sports nationwide.

AVF High Performance Review[edit]

A Sustainable Future for Elite Volleyball in Australia 2011

The Impact of the High Performance Review[edit]

Since the Volleyball High Performance review Volleyball Australia has made some minor changes to their organisational structure, and where there are any drastic changes that have been suggested there has been significant consultation with the executive directors of each state as well as the AVF board to determine whether they will be actioned. Coaching and athlete pathway plans have started to be developed, however at this stage they are only plans and have not had any significant impact on the running of volleyball within Australia. The only exception to this is that there have been changes made to the national team selection policies. With regards to the AVL competition, it describes the Women's competition as successful, and claims that the mens competition is not of the same benefit.

National Team Selection Policy Changes[edit]

Beach Volleyball in Australia has a new process for selecting international competitors for events throughout the world. It is a brand new system in 2011, and involves a selection panel and a list of requirements for athlete selection. There will be a much more regulated selection process for national representation of beach volleyball due to this new policy in paricular requiring athletes to be involved in a Volleyball Australia institute program before they are eligible for selection as an Australian representative. There is the potential for a number of talented and experienced athletes to be ineligible for selection due to the new criteria, and it makes it much more difficult for athletes outside of the national pathway to gain selection. Although there will be an increased justification for the athletes that do get selected, it may cause a number of potential athletes to be disregarded for reasons that may not have been previously an issue with representing Australia at beach volleyball, and this may result in less competitive teams being entered into international events.

AVL vs V-League[edit]

With the suggestions made by the High Performance Review is has been made evident that AVL is not a priority for the AVF and will not be made any more significant within the current elite pathways than it already is. With this in mind there have been a number of organisations that have decided to part ways with the AVF organised competition and run their own league. Thiss competition has been branded V-League and kicked off in October 2011.

The Australian Volleyball League (AVL) has been the premier volleyball competition in australia since 1999, however it has had fluctuating support over this time with a vast number of structural changes and number of clubs involved. In 2011 the competition completely collapsed with all teams withdrawing from the competition. This lack of support for the national competition has come about due to unsustainable costings for the competition as well as a lack of flexibility within the AVF to support the requests of the organisations involved.

The Australian Volleyball League, the national indoor league for men and women, has developed in format over the past few years, servicing the various demands of elite men's and women's volleyball, drawn largely from club/state volleyball players. The League was established in 1999 and has seen many different formats being utilised over the period (AVF website). The last few years have seen the league change from having a licensing system for up to 12 teams change into a single team per state competition. This change also saw an increase in cost for the competition due to the associated costs being distributed amongst a smaller number of teams, and consequently some of the orgnanisations have been unable to afford to continue.

V-League Logo by Carly Reid

In 2011 [V-League] has been created in direct competition with AVL. V-League has been desigened for clubs to have significant involvement in the organisation and planning of the competition and was formed due to clubs being unsatisfied with the organisation of AVL. With this new competition there have been a number of AVL clubs that have moved over to this new league and thus have caused the collapse of AVL for 2011. With AVL not being held in 2011 and V-League being established, the Volleyball Australia have endorsed the new competition as the national league. The decision of whether or not AVL will occur again in 2012 or if V-Legue will continue to be the highest level of competition in Australia is still to be determined.

After only half of the first year of V-League, it is clear that the clubs involved are happier with the competition than has been the case with AVL for the last few years. This has meant that more clubs have been keen to enter the competition in 2012 and the inclusion of a womens competition is being planned as well. If a women's V-League is established, it is likely that the WAVL will collapse in the same way as MAVL in 2011, and as this is currently a vital component of the womens national program it could lead to further issues with the current Elite Volleyball pathways and potentially require an additional review of Volleyball Australia's organisational structure.

Club Volleyball[edit]

Throughout the world, cost is the biggest limiting factor for sports clubs. In Australia this is increased due to the large area that people often have to travel to compete in competitions. These along with a number of other issues are no different for volleyball than they are for all other sports. What has often occured to support the sport in this case has been the involvement of schools and universities within the club structure to increase the funding potential of the club. Many clubs will utilise schools as opporunities for their coaches to gain additional work, to increase the number of participants they have involved in competitions and as is often the case to obtain direct funding to support their teams. This can often lead to other issues however as the clubs then need to adhere to strict conditions that are often involved in school and university constitutions.

In most states there are two types of volleyball clubs, those that agree with the State Association and those that do not. Typically what occurs is the university clubs fall on the latter side of the fence, being the clubs that cause controvery and disharmony. In most cases this is only over trivial matters and often is simply due to the high turnover of administrators that are utilised in these clubs. When this becomes an issue is when the two organisations are unwilling to cooperate. This is potentially one of the reasons that AVL was not able to continue in 2011, as the universities had a bigger stake in the teams involved than the state associations.

What to Expect in the Future[edit]

In 2011 VTAM came 4th at the Asian Volleyball Championships gaining them entry into the Olympic qualification tournament for London 2012. Although they will have to win at the qualification tournament to get a place at London, this is the first step on the way there and creates the opportunity for further progression in international volleyball for Australia. There have only been two Olympics in which Australia has been represented in indoor volleyball, 2000 where Australia was the host, and 2004 in Athens. When the womens program did not qualify for Athens it was quickly removed from the AIS program as competing in the Olympics is one of the key areas to maintaining funding for elite level comeptitions.

A number of club and state organisations are showing increased support for the V-League competition and with its inaugural season a success more and more teams are hoping to participate in the future. It is possible that this competition will replace the official AVF national senior competition as it has vastly greater support than the recently run AVL seasons. It is uncertain at this stage whether or not AVL will make a return in 2012, however there will definitely be some form of national competition run, and at this stage V-League is the strongest candidate.

The day that there is a major financial sponsor willing to be involved in volleyball will be the day that the sport is able to progress its local national competition. Until that stage it will be necessary for the clubs involved to source their own income and this is most commonly as a user-pays system.

References and Resources[edit]

Australian Government, 2010, Australian Sport: The pathway to success, Commonwealth of Australia Publication, ACT

Australian Volleyball Federation, March 2011, Beach Volleyball Selection Policy, viewed 5 March 2011,

Crawford, D., 2009, The Future of Sport in Australia, Independent Sports Panel, Commonwealth of Australia Publication ACT

Australian Sports Commission, n.d., AIS to take charge of high performance sport, viewed 11 March 2011,

Greg Doyle CEO Australian Canoeing, Open Water, 8 September 2011, University of Canberra