Certain sports seem to require their athletes to be a certain size to have an advantage over other players, volleyball included. Basketball and volleyball are two sports where tall players have an advantage, but why is that the case?
When playing volleyball, tall athletes have an advantage when hitting and blocking the ball. Yet height is not always desirable for the different play positions. With that being said, coaches tend to recruit taller athletes as the direction of volleyball is trending towards taller players.
If you’ve always wondered why most volleyball players are tall, keep reading!
These are 10 reasons why most volleyball players are tall:
1. Fixed Spatial Considerations Mean Height Is Usually Desired.
Volleyball is an active game, but there are spots where players stand that depend on them being tall. For example, the position next to the net requires height and a long reach to hit effectively. The location of outside hitter or opposite hitter may require height for more vertical hits.
Then there is the net blocking to consider. Those who are taller and have a longer reach often are more successful at the net, because they can get in the way of the incoming ball better than shorter players.
2. Taller Players Can Get the Higher Jumps Needed to Block Hits.
It may seem to be an obvious point, but taller players can jump higher and reach further than shorter players, and in less time. That time often makes the difference between winning or losing the point.
Blocking a ball from coming over the net is also very important to the overall success of a game. Coaches look for taller players because the game relies heavily on blocking more than any other move.
3. But Height Is Not Always Desirable for Different Positions.
Not all player positions require height, however. Like the Libero, some positions require speed and agility over height because the player in that position plays 100% defense. Players can be 5’10” and be the shortest member of the team playing this position. While most players are over 6 feet, the shorter players are still taller than the average female height.
Quick reflexes are also prized when players are shorter because they get to the floor easier than their taller counterparts.
The outside hitter can also be shorter than other players, as they need more precision than height. They need to pass, defend, block, and hit, which doesn’t always rely on how tall they are.
4. Blocking Is Quite Important in Volleyball.
To a certain degree, volleyball is a block-oriented game, which means that defensive strategies are quite important. In particular, when it involves blocking right at the net. Taller players at the net have an advantage in blocking that shorter players don’t have, so this is why shorter players for these positions get overlooked.
5. Taller Players Have Become More Athletic and Can Move Better.
Decades ago, it was not the standard to see so many tall players in volleyball. However, now that it is more common to have taller players, the volleyball world sees more athleticism from taller players. Those who are 6-5 or taller don’t feel the need to hunch down and not show their abilities. Instead, they dominate the games, and coaches are lining up to sign them to their teams.
Tall players are not so ashamed of their height anymore and develop normally like shorter athletes. They now take advantage of all the same sporting opportunities.
6. College Volleyball Coaches Recruit Taller Athletes.
College coaches often choose taller athletes for their defensive advantage. Many blocking strategies involve being close to the net, which means taller athletes are highly sought for. If the other team has shorter players, then the team with the taller athletes will have the obvious advantage.
Also, taller players have an offensive advantage in the ability to spike, while having a higher contact point. They also have longer limbs, which might prove the difference between making the winning shot or not.
7. Substitution Rules Changed in 1981.
Before 1981, coaches could substitute players more often in games, which allowed coaches to recruit a greater number of shorter players. However, in 1981, the NCAA (following international volleyball rules) ruled that coaches could substitute once per player, which led to their rosters shrinking since then.
With more restrictions placed on college coaches, they began seeking out taller players to build their teams. So height is now key to win games.
8. College Volleyball Has Strict Height Guidelines.
When a high school student who was a star volleyball player enters college, they may not have the same results on college volleyball due to their height. High-performance college volleyball teams have stricter height guidelines because of the NCAA rule about allowing fewer substitute players.
The other reason colleges are stricter for height guidelines is that players are still growing in high school. So high schools give students the benefit of the doubt and allow them to play. However, when students reach college, they usually have reached their final height, which means they might get passed over in favor of taller players.
9. The Direction of Volleyball Now Trends Towards Taller Players.
Decades ago, there were not as many tall players over 6 feet tall compared to today. While people may not be getting taller overall, the volleyball game now attracts taller players since they are more athletically inclined than ever before. Being super tall used to be something to be ashamed of, but now it is accepted and even welcomed.
While coaches should take better players regardless of their size, taller players will still have a height advantage over the shorter player.
10. Taller Girls Choose Volleyball Over Basketball.
Taller women athletes tend to choose volleyball over basketball. Volleyball is a less aggressive, no-contact sport that appeals to more women overall than basketball. For instance, the average height of the volleyball players at Stanford is one inch taller than the basketball players.
Also, many women who choose volleyball do so because they can take out their aggression on the ball, with a net separating them from the other team. It’s also because volleyball is a no-contact sport that taller girls prefer.
Most volleyball players are tall because the sport requires athletes to be tall due to the net height and the blocking advantages. Therefore, colleges and professional teams prefer taller players because of their jumping and reaching advantages.
All this is not to say that shorter players don’t have a place in volleyball. There are several places where they can play if they have the speed, agility, and skills to make up for height. But shorter players don’t often get the chance to prove their skills when matched against a taller player.