Where Are The Volleyball Fans?

Canada's Indoor Men's Team playing in front of a mostly empty stadium.

Canada's Indoor Men's Team playing in front of a mostly empty stadium.

In the lead up to this year’s World League, I’m starting to get more and more frustrated with the volleyball community.

If you’ve watched Podcast Episode 45, I finished the show with a nice little rant on this subject. To watch it, click here.

While working for Volleyball Canada these past few years, it always seemed like it was a chore getting those I know to come to any match featuring the National team. I’m not talking about random friends; I’m talking about the guys that I played club and college with, guys who would devote countless hours every week to our sport. I heard excuses like “I only like playing the game, I don’t enjoy watching it.” Or “I would go if it wasn’t on Friday or Saturday night.” Or my personal favourite “I don’t want to pay to go, can you get me free tickets?”

This last one is the one that irks me the most. If you play hockey, do you expect free tickets to go watch the Leafs? If you play soccer, are you expecting to waltz into BMO Field, take a pick of which seat you want, and watch TFC blunder through another match? Of course not, you’ll buy your ticket just like any other fan.

The sense of entitlement that some members of our community have is detrimental to our sport.

If only I had a nickel for every time someone complained to me about the lack of volleyball events in Canada, and the insufficient television and media coverage for our sport.

My question is: How do you expect volleyball to get bigger if its own athletes won’t go support their own National teams?

I’ve had conversations with people about attracting the casual sports fan to World League matches. Much like casual supporters of hockey, basketball, or even tennis will go to matches, why can’t the casual fans go to volleyball events? Because our own athletes and supporters don’t go to them.

You know what the hottest new professional sport is in Toronto this summer? Ultimate Frisbee. More people attend their home opener than "Like" their Facebook Page. (Don't believe me? Read this article by the Toronto Star)

Their crowd of over 2,300 was bigger than any of the crowds that supported the Men's National team in 2011, during the Pan Am Cup in Gatineau, and the first and second rounds of World League Qualifying in Ottawa and Kingston. 

It seems that the main reason for high attendance at Ultimate events is that the community supports them 100%. Everyone who plays, coaches, and likes Ultimate jumps at any chance they get to support their sport.

It’s time for those who play our sport to defend it, to support it, but most of all, to enjoy it. 

Our Canadian Men's National Team playing in the first World League Qualifier back in 2011.  Mostly empty seats in the stands.

Our Canadian Men's National Team playing in the first World League Qualifier back in 2011.  Mostly empty seats in the stands.

If you find yourself reading this and thinking “This could be me…”, you’re in luck, the Canadian volleyball calendar is filled this year, with events in Quebec City, Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Langley. Not to mention free events in Toronto and Vancouver,

So if you run a club in any of these cities, encourage your members to go watch these events. If you coach a team, what could be a better team builder than getting everyone together to watch the sport that brings you together. If you're a player or a parent of a player, come out and get inspired.  Come out to create dreams of one day standing on that court, wearing the Maple Leaf. 

Without fans, this sport can't grow. Without fans, this sport will have an extremely hard time surviving. 

It's time to start showing our love for volleyball by supporting it in every way possible.