You got your child registered with the local volleyball league and thought, "sure let's give this a shot!" And just like that, your child has set their sights on becoming a professional volleyball player when they grow up. Their big dreams make you wonder, just how lucrative is the world of professional volleyball? What does the financial reality look like for most pro volleyballers? Are they mostly struggling to make ends meet, or are they making big bucks?
Entry level professional volleyball players can expect to make between $12k-$55k per year, whereas seasoned professionals usually field salaries over $100k. The best players in the world earn north of $1m per year.
As you can see, there is huge variance in what professional volleyballers get paid. It all depends on where in the world you’re playing – which is largely determined by the position you play and just how good you are.
Is there a professional volleyball league?
Yes, there absolutely is. Several, in fact.
There is north of 20 professional volleyball leagues throughout the world, most of which are in Europe, Asia, and South America. Typically, there is 1 professional grade league per country, France being the exception having 2 pro leagues. Each league attracts a different level of competition and as such, the top athletes are able to earn considerably more money by playing in the top tier leagues.
What factors influence how much professional volleyball players make?
Asking how much professional volleyballers earn is like asking ‘how long is a piece of string’. The answer is always, it depends. Professional Volleyball salaries vary massively based on a few factors.
The following information is in reference to indoor volleyball. Professional beach volleyball is a little different and will be covered later in this article.
1. Foreigner quota
This is by far the biggest influencing factor on how much a volleyball player can earn. Each league allows only a certain number of foreigners to play on contract for a club. The fewer foreigners clubs are allowed to sign, the higher these players are paid on average.
For example, the foreigner quota in Russia is 2 players per team and in Poland it’s 3. Whereas in France the quota is 6 and in Germany there is no quota. This is the primary reason athletes will earn more money on average in Russia or Poland as opposed to France or Germany.
The exception of course being if you’re Russian or Polish and playing in your home league, in which case you’re not foreign.
Foreigner quota by country
|Poland, Turkey, Greece||3|
These numbers vary quite a bit between men’s and women’s volleyball and certain federations have maximums based on number of foreigners ‘on court at one time’, as opposed to on the roster. In some countries such as Italy, age also plays a role in the foreigner quota.
2. Skill level
Obviously, how good you are at volleyball will play a big role in determining how much money your contract will be worth. More accurately, your skill level will determine which leagues, coaches, and agents will be interested in signing you.
In Europe, the various leagues are broken down into 4 tiers based on skill level.
The Tier 1 leagues (Italy, Russia, Poland) have the highest level of competition in the world. They also tend to have lower foreigner caps which means teams have to recruit international talent sparingly. And that means they look for the best players and pay them the big bucks!
European league skill tiers
|Italy, Russia, Brazil, Poland||1|
|Argentina, France, Turkey||2|
|Belgium, France B, Germany, Greece||3|
|Austria, England, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland||4|
It’s also common to include the Brazilian league as a Tier 1 league because of the level of play, even though they’re not in Europe. From a strictly financial perspective, you could include the Asian leagues as Tier 1 because of the big money paid to foreign superstars, but the level of play is considerably lower.
3. Volleyball position
What position you play on court will have a pretty big influence on how much money you earn. The simple reality is that some positions are harder to find talent for than others.
Outside & Opposite Hitters get the big bucks. If you take a look at the Korean and Japanese leagues which have a foreigner quota of just 1, they almost always look to sign big time scorers.
We’re talking outside hitters and opposites primarily.
Giants like Gavin Schmitt, Thomas Edgar, and Robertlandy Simón who tower over the local talent, once signed are tasked with becoming the primary point scorers for their respective teams.
Liberos are the least valued position
The unfortunate reality is if you’re a libero looking to make it as a professional volleyballer, you’re going to have to work really hard.
Most leagues do a decent job of filling libero positions with local talent.
Finding a decent defensive specialist is a lot easier than finding a 2.08m opposite who can block and hit well!
Having said all that, there is definitely still demand for exceptional liberos and the best athletes will still earn some really good money. There’s just more competition and you have to be willing to work really hard to get into Tier 1 leagues.