A Spike in Popularity
New professional leagues coupled with Olympics exposure will drive volleyball participation growth. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/K.M. Klemencic from Hudson, Ohio)
Volleyball has long been a leading female team sport and the enthusiasm that it generates shows no signs of abating. USA Volleyball expects participation to grow over the next several years as three different developing professional leagues raise the sport’s profile in the U.S.

The organization is also laser-focused on the Olympics and has developed a Go For Gold Strategic Plan that will help set the strategic priorities – including growing participation, optimizing resources and building brand equity – leading up and into the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This past December, USA Volleyball partnered with Pro Volleyball Federation, the professional volleyball league in the U.S. The pact calls for USA Volleyball to support Pro Volleyball Federation’s female professional league in America, which launched on January 24 and runs through mid-May. The league currently has seven teams and the second season in 2025 will include additional squads, with Dallas, Indianapolis and Kansas City already announced as 2025 markets.

All of this is good for the women’s game as well as for team dealers.

“We’re seeing an increase in participation,” says Michael Bodart, Hoosier Sporting Goods owner. “There are a lot more girls — about 50 percent more over the past five years. Most of the business comes from high school and travel teams.”

Dan Proulx, at Stateline Sports, also cites girls’ volleyball as a growth category. “It’s coming on a little bit. More schools are calling and taking up volleyball and there’s more girls’ product available,” he says.

For Todd Gutzman, of Home Team Sports & Apparel, “Volleyball is okay, but it’s sort of hit or miss. We want to break into more club volleyball. If that happens, we’ll service more clubs than high school teams.”

Meanwhile, Betsy Frye, at Holyoke Sporting Goods, is bubbling with enthusiasm for the sport. “There’s lots of interest in volleyball and we have an equal split between boys’ and girls’ teams,” she says. “We sell lots of balls, uniforms and knee pads. It’s an easy sport because it doesn’t require a big capital investment.”

She is also quick to point out that Holyoke is the birthplace of volleyball and there are local plans afoot to build a mega sports complex that would contain numerous volleyball courts — a project that would undoubtedly raise the game’s profile and benefit local and regional businesses.

In the grander scheme, Frye believes the Olympics usually help drive participation. “The kids get excited about it,” she says. “It’s not that important to our business, but it does generate more interest in sports.”

Volleyball Fast Facts

• Court Volleyball grew significantly, 13.4 percent, from 2022 to 2023, according to the SFIA Topline Participation Report 2024. From 2019 to 2023, participation jumped 6.4 percent.

• Volleyball held the number two spot (470,488 participants) on NFHS’ ranking of the Ten Most Popular Girls Programs for the 2022-23 season, falling only slightly behind track and field–outdoor.

• In the 2022-23 season, Texas had the highest participation in girls’ high school volleyball (51,893 participants and 1208 schools), followed by California (45,429, 1461) and Illinois (22,594, 691), according to NFHS.

• USA Volleyball’s women’s teams are the reigning gold medalists in the Olympic indoor, beach and Paralympic events. The U.S. is the first country to have won a gold medal in each discipline at a single Summer Games.