Today's Podcast is a little shorter than normal, but one of my favorite topics. Am I too short to play volleyball? The brief answer is no. So there you have it, if you're short on time, you don't have to read any further. However, I have time, so I'll expand my answer.
It's Not How Tall You Are, It's How Tall You Play.
I firmly believe that at every single level, you should be evaluated based on your abilities more than you're height. This is just my opinion, but I think oftentimes coaches put too much emphasis on height. Don't get me wrong, height is beneficial, I'm well aware of that! But, you also must be able to perform at a decent level. Height is great, but it isn't everything. An awesome short player is going to do way more for a team than a really bad tall player. Always keep that in mind.
When you first start out, you're likely young and still growing. Height as it pertains to volleyball should not even be on your mind. Everyone grows at different rates, it's hard to tell who will be tall or not, and therefore I think everyone should play volleyball at an early age. As a beginner, no one is too short to play volleyball.
Competitive club or High School
Height starts to become a factor when teams start to get competitive. If you want to win, the team needs to put the best players on the court. Teams start to look at specializing, keeping tall players in the front row and short players in the back row. The specialization topic could be discussed at length some other time, for now we will just say that it happens.
Now, if you're short, do not assume you'll be stuck in the back row, competing for the libero spot. Every team needs 6 players on the court, instead of whining about playing time, get so good the coach can't take you off the court. Be the player that is a rock for the team. Be inspirational. Be great at defense. Be great at hitting multiple shots. There are many short players who can work over opponents because of their volleyball IQ. You don't have to be a big brute, you can be smart.
Do You Have To Be Tall To Play Volleyball In College?
Nope. You have to be good. If you're a good player, there's a very strong chance you can find a college that fits you. If you're not tall, smaller colleges may be easier to get into, and may be more willing to offer you a scholarship. (BTW, if you can get a scholarship, you should take it.) You don't have to be tall, but there is a lot of emphasis put on height when volleyball players are looking to be recruited. Concordia St. Paul has won 7 Division 2 national championships... in a row. I took a screenshot of their roster:
Do you notice the heights? Only one girl is 6' tall. The rest are mostly in the 5'7-9" range. While I don't think 5'9" is short, it isn't tall either. These girls found a place to play, and the seniors are leaving with 4 national titles and an average height of 5 feet, 7.25 inches. If you want to view some videos of Concordia's championships, click here.
In division 1, it's less common, but you can find plenty of undersized players as well. I'd like to point out a few who have done big things for their teams. The first player I'll highlight is Cassie Strickland, who plays for the University of Washington. She is a 5'8" outside hitter who started almost every single game as a sophomore and will likely continue to have a big role in the years to come. She is known for her excellent volleyball IQ and ability to always keep the ball in play, and waiting for her opportunities to take advantage and score.
Her hitting percentage as a sophomore: .165 2nd most aces in the Pac 12 conference: 42 for the year with only 7 Receiving errors out of 510 attempts. She is second on her team in digs per set. Helped the Huskies get to the Final 4 in 2013. This video is a highlight video from when Strickland was in high school:
Let's move to Deme Morales, a Wisconsin Badger. She is a 5'7" outside hitter who played in every single match in 2013 as a junior. She hit .182 on the season and recorded 2.76 digs per match. Morales was a big component in their upset over Texas in the Final 4, and she was a key player in the National Championship game in 2013. This is a Wisconsin highlight video, Morales is #7.
Let me tell you about my favorite short girl story. Her name is Kristin Carpenter and she played for Penn State. "Carp" as they call her, was on the team as a 5'6" defensive specialist. As a freshman and sophomore, she had minimal playing time, filling in roles wherever she was needed. Russ Rose only had great things to say about her and her willingness to be a great team player.
She was on the team when they won the 2008 and 2009 National Championships. Then at the start of her junior year, the setter that was supposed to be the started, went MIA. By that, I mean I have no idea why it didn't workout with her, but she didn't set for Penn State.
So, with no other option, or at least no other good option, Russ Rose went with the 5'6" Kristin Carpenter as a setter who played in the front row and the back row. There was a lot of negative feedback towards the Penn State program and that decision, but after winning 3 national titles in a row, and graduating the great class that lead the team to those titles, people didn't expect much out of Penn State anyway. Well, let me sum up this story by saying Carp and her team went on to win a 4th national title, against all odds. You will never convince me that height is everything. If you're good enough, you are not too short to play volleyball.
What You Need To Do To Be THAT Player
What do you need to do to make up for a lack of height? You need to get good. Not just a little bit, a lot.
You need to study the game, learn everything you can. You need to workout, a lot. Don't settle for average fitness, become great. Study leadership. Short girls who end up playing are usually great leaders. They are also great teammates, often taking a role they don't want in order to better the team.
Great short players aren't satisfied sitting the bench, yet won't get vocal about it, instead they will work harder to prove a point. It seems like college is moving away from the idea that you must be tall in order to be good. I think Rose and Carp started a trend that many other colleges are following. Remember, It's not how tall you are, it's how tall you play. Disclosure: I am short, so I'm a little biased.
What did I forget? Do you have something to add or a different opinion? Please enlighten me!