When ESPN announced it would provide commentators for every match, Purdue coach Dave Shondell tweeted, “The growth for both women and men is unparalleled in the USA. It’s awesome to see ESPN recognize the value of our sport.”
Statistics suggest that women’s volleyball is not only currently valuable at the college level, but also increasing in popularity.
In the last decade, high school participation in women’s volleyball saw about 12% growth, topping 450,000 participants in 2018-19, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
How do women’s volleyball numbers compare to other popular women’s sports? By the 2018-19 season, girls’ volleyball was the second-most popular high school sport behind only track and field.
It outperformed women’s basketball — which demonstrated tremendous value at the college level — by about 53,000 athletes.
And the market is global: There are about 900 million women’s volleyball players worldwide, Athletes Unlimited CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof told FOS.
NIL Earning Potential
As far as TV rights go, the tournament is bundled with multiple NCAA championships, including women’s basketball. So it’s unclear just how much those rights alone are worth.
But while they’re in college, athletes’ individual marketing power is staggering.
Multiple reports have found that when college athletes get the rights to their name, image, and likeness, women’s volleyball players can make thousands each year in sponsorships and endorsements solely on social media.
Northwestern volleyball player Alana Walker — who has about 115,000 Instagram followers — could earn more than $156,000, according to the Student Athlete NIL newsletter.
Walker’s earning potential ranks in the top 25 of the publication’s 2021 estimations.
But Walker isn’t the only one. Three Nebraska players, for example, could earn more than $10,000 a year, according to a 2020 Opendorse study. Nebraska’s top potential earner, Lexi Sun, could have earned close to $40,000.
Now, she boasts about 72,000 Instagram followers — more than she had when Opendorse made that valuation.
Then there’s NAIA volleyball player Chloe Mitchell, who doesn’t even have the NCAA’s platform. Mitchell, who plays for Aquinas College, could make between $15,000-$20,000 since the NAIA has lifted restrictions on its athletes profiting off their NIL.