olympic sports

Volleyball takes another shot at a pro league

Hi, I’m U.S. volleyball veteran Logan Tom. I play for Fenerbahce. Really! There’s a video linked elsewhere in this post. (Find “Turkey.”)

Women’s soccer isn’t the only sport in which the USA is a world power but struggles to keep a league of its own. Volleyball and water polo are in the same boat.

USA Volleyball, along with the Los Angeles company Grand Prix Sports, is aiming to change that: USAV Awards Sanctioning for Pro League. The same company is working on a rugby league.

(Yes, this is indoor volleyball. Beach volleyball, like tennis and other sports for individuals and pairs, has an international circuit and the reborn AVP. Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal just clinched the FIVB beach tour title for the year.)

As it stands now, most U.S. players go overseas. Check the Olympic rosters for the men’s and women’s team and count the countries represented: Italy (3 men/3 women), Russia (3 men/2 women), Poland (3 men/2 women), Brazil (2 women), Kuwait (1 man), France (1 man), Azerbaijan, Turkey and Puerto Rico.

And it’s not just the national team — USA Volleyball tracks many players around the world.

In the USA, volleyball had one high-profile league effort in the 1970s, the International Volleyball Association. Andy Crossley has some of the details, understandably focusing on the league’s star player — Wilt Chamberlain. You may have heard something about his basketball career.

Other attempts: Major League Volleyball (late 80s – see video!), Women’s Western Volleyball League (1993-94), U.S. Pro Volleyball (2002). USA Volleyball has also sanctioned a league, Premier Volleyball League, that seems less ambitious.

This history will sound familiar to fans of any women’s sport or niche sport. (In other words, anything other than football, baseball, basketball and hockey.)

Will it work this time? No idea. But it’s just peculiar that Puerto Rico could support a pro volleyball league while Southern California can’t.

Categories: olympic sports

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7 replies »

  1. thanks for that article. for a second i was going to comment about the fastpitch league being that failed league Jennie Finch was famous for but the article put me straight. i only skimmed it so far, but what i did catch in the writing makes me wonder if their model really qualifies as a success outside of still being around–been living in the Cle/Akron area the past few years and I have to really rack my brain as to whether I’ve ever heard of the Akron team mentioned in the article (maybe that is part of the strategy?).
    what’s your thoughts on the starting of pro leagues post Olympic/World Cup event buzz? since one would probably expect attendance #’s to severely decrease after the opening game. would there be any unseen benefits of rather starting “small” a year or two before such an event and using the event as leverage for year 3.year 4 where it seems like several leagues (mostly WPS/WUSA I’m thinking of) lose all momentum and tank?

  2. I don’t get it. Who is clamoring for professional indoor volleyball – aside from players who might like to collect a paycheck at home? Who is going to sponsor this besides a couple of equipment manufacturers? Ask WPS or WUSA what “exclusive worldwide broadcast distribution rights across all media” is worth for this kind of enterprise. Bupkis.

    Women’s soccer has legitimate household name stars and can’t get over the hump. Quick: name a member of the U.S Volleyball team – men’s or women’s. If you said Destiny Hooker, you get a “C”. If you said Misty Mae Trainor you get an “F”.

    Trivia for obsessives: Grand Prix Sports honcho William Tatham (Jr.), who is running this new league, was the owner and managing partner of the Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws of the United States Football League in 1984 and 1985.

  3. Reid Priddy. Clay Stanley. Donald Suxho. Logan Tom. Tayneef Hyphen-Park. Nancy Metcalf didn’t make the team.

    (OK, I’m the wrong person to take that quiz.)

    But Andy, I DO plan to take more of a look into the question “Why can’t the USA sustain more pro leagues?” Other countries have water polo, handball, volleyball, women’s sports, etc. Why are we stuck with five big ones, then minor ones for lacrosse, softball and arena football?

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