Youth Volleyball Primer
For those new to the youth volleyball scene in Northern Virginia, here's a quick overview:
A. School Programs
In most Northern Virginia public school districts, girls volleyball programs are only available in High Schools (grades 9th thru 12th). It is a selective program run during the Fall season with tryouts held during the first full week of August. Teams practice 4 or 5 times per week after school. The playing season runs from late August (before classes start!) through mid-November with roughly 2 matches per week against local schools in the area.
Girls HS programs typically run three teams:
- Varsity - The most experienced players, mainly juniors and seniors plus talented freshmen and sophomores
- Junior Varsity (JV) - Players with rising talent, mainly sophomores with some freshmen
- Freshman - Almost exclusively freshmen players trying out the sport
For additional information, visit the NoVA Volleyball Alliance website
Boys volleyball is played in a growing number of Northern Virginia High Schools. Although no longer a varsity sport, it operates through the unaffiliated Northern Virginia High School Boys Volleyball League (NVHSBVL) and has shown steady progress in the region for several years. There is a 2019 initiative underway to work with local school districts to officially sanction HS Boys Volleyball as a varsity sport.
For additional information, visit the NoVA Boys Volleyball website
B. Club Programs
Club Volleyball (aka. Travel Volleyball) offers the most advanced and competitive youth volleyball in the region. Club teams are available for both girls and boys starting with Elementary School (12s and under), going through Middle School (13s & 14s) and High School (15s, 16s, 17s, 18s). In Northern Virginia, all club teams are members of the Chesapeake Region (CHRVA) of the USA Volleyball governing organization. Participants must be members of USA Volleyball and coaches must be certified. Tryouts for club teams are always held in early November. Teams practice 2 or 3 times per week in the evenings or on weekends. The playing season runs from January through May or June with most teams competing in full day or multiday tournaments on weekends 2 or 3 times each month.
There are basically two flavors of club teams:
- Regional - More inclusive teams that compete in CHRVA tournaments across VA, MD, DE and DC. Examples include AVC, Mojo Elite, NOVA and NVVA
- National/Open/Travel - Highly selective teams that practice more frequently and play a wider range of tournaments both within the CHRVA region and outside, and compete to represent CHRVA at the USA Volleyball national tournament. Examples include Vienna Elite, Virginia Elite and St. James.
There are over 30 club volleyball programs for girls in Northern Virginia - each with its own selection criteria, coaching philosophy, practice facilities and fees. Most clubs have only one team per age group while some larger programs, such as BRYC, NVVA and Metro, have multiple teams per age group. If you want to play club volleyball, it's highly recommended that you try out for several clubs and then choose between offers.
For those interested in learning more about club volleyball, have a look at the unbiased Guide to Club Volleyball in Northern Virginia. For a full list of local clubs, visit the NoVA Volleyball Alliance website
For boys, the closest club offering boys teams is the St. James.
C. Recreational Programs
Youth recreational volleyball programs are open to athletes with all experiences and skill levels. Some focus on skills development clinics while others offer competitive leagues. Typical programs, such as MYA Volleyball, run during the Spring season when school gyms are most available. Some also run during the Fall and Winter seasons. Programs are divided by age/grade: Elementary School (4th - 6th grades, although some start with 1st or 2nd graders), Middle School (7th & 8th grades) and High School (9th thru 12th). Teams usually practice 1 - 2 days per week with 1 match per week.
There are basically 3 levels of recreational volleyball:
- House - Instructional league for beginner/intermediate players where anyone who signs up plays
- Select/Open/Elite - A more advanced league for intermediate/advanced players that involves a selection process
- Travel - Teams of advanced selected players that compete in a league against other local volleyball programs. There is an established Travel league for Fairfax County programs sponsored by SYA Volleyball.
For more information on MYA Volleyball, see the Program Overview page. For information on other recreational programs in the area, visit the NoVA Volleyball Alliance website.