Volleyball Skill Levels

The designations Open, AAA, AA, A, BB and B are often used to classify the level of play for different divisions in leagues and tournaments. Although there are no standard definitions of what the levels mean, here's a rough guide (see http://www.volleyballforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=2731 for further discussion):

Open: The best players. Some make a living playing volleyball. Others win occasional cash prizes. The playing level is awesome. (Don't confuse "Open" with "open play". Open play, or pick-up volleyball, designates volleyball sessions in which there are no fixed teams.)

AAA: Almost as good as Open.

AA: Superb players. Highly athletic. Indoors they use complex offenses. Passing is stellar. Several AA teams play at Souderton on Tuesday nights.

A: Similar to AA, but not as good. Particularly indoors, most of the players are tall. In doubles, blocking is virtually mandatory – there is no other way to defend the killer spikes. Indoors they almost always use a 5-1 or 6-2 offense (i.e., the setter is often a back row player, so that there may be three hitters in the front row).

BB: Very good players, but not as consistent. Shorter players can compete if they have good skills. In doubles, blocking is optional and sometimes detrimental. At this level almost all of the hitters utilize the standard approach (footwork, arm swing, etc.).

B: Everyone else who plays organized games. Skill varies widely from beginner to good. A solid “B” player has reasonable consistency. Skill level easily trumps height. Many “B” level hitters do not employ a standard hitting approach. A few points are scored due to execution errors but not the majority, most points have to be earned.

You could conceptualize two additional levels, though they don’t actually exist:

C: Often try to use three hits, but frequently either they don’t try to or they don’t succeed to. Basic passing, setting and hitting skills inconsistent. Many sets are technically carries. Hitters do not utilize a true approach. Unfortunately, net violations and under-the-net violations are often not enforced, leading to leg injuries. Many points are "given" due to execution errors, i.e. shanks, bad passes etc.

D: Picnic volleyball. Anything goes. Don’t get hurt!

The “D” level players almost never play organized volleyball. The “C” level players occasionally try it. In either case they would/should enter as “B”, but they would usually get demolished anyway.

There is a lot of overlap between levels. For example, a particular player may play both BB and A indoors -- with a skill level that is near the top of one league and near the bottom of another. Also, the actual skill levels can vary from one league or tournament to the next. For example, a team that plays “B” level at a Horsham grass doubles tournament would probably play “BB” at a beach doubles tournament.

Co-ed volleyball is also a little different. Complex offenses are not heavily used, and women often don't participate in the hitting and blocking, so a short, non-jumping, bump-setting woman can use her speed and setting skills to compete nicely in co-ed “A”, but may have trouble in women’s indoor “A”, where every player must be able to block and where hand-setting is more important.

Similarly, some players would play at a different level depending upon whether it is indoor sixes or outdoor doubles. Height and specialized skills are more important in the six-person game. Speed and well rounded skills are more important in doubles.