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New to Volleyball: Getting Started as a Player

Our goal at Montgomery County Volleyball Club (MOCO) is to have as many athletes playing volleyball as possible.

Volleyball is a “lifetime sport” that can be learned at any age.  In the United States, more than 470,000 girls and 60,000 boys play high school volleyball and more than 1 million youth players participate in volleyball. Volleyball is the most popular high school girls sport and the 3rd most popular girls sport overall.  Its also one of the few youth sports where participation is growing every year.

Our goal at MOCO is to have as many athletes playing volleyball as possible.

Questions?  Email us at

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I’d love to try volleyball, where do I start?

Younger Elementary School Players – Ages 5-8 / Grades K-3

Volleyball development programs are rare for this age group because volleyball requires a complex combination of agility, hand eye coordination and strength.  In the DC area there are few options for this group.  So the best place to start is with a volleyball in the backyard or the local park!  Watch a few videos and then take your player outside and toss the ball to them.  You don’t need a net to get started!

Older Elementary School Players – Ages 9-10 / Grades 4-5

Camps, Clinics are Club Training Programs are the best place to start.  At MOCO, we split our players by both age and experience level so that players can learn with their peers.  For example, in our training program we usually have multiple teams of 4-5th grades where everyone is new to volleyball – it’s one of our most fun groups to work with and usually one that advances quickly!

If a player shows a lot of interest in the game, then we recommend considering club volleyball as a next step.  U10-U12 club teams all play with a lighter ball and a lower net, so MOCO  teams can have players as young a 9, giving them a chance to play competitive volleyball.

Middle School Players – Ages 10-14 / Grades 5-8

Most new players start in these age groups, so don’t feel like you will be the only new player in the sport!  At this age, its important to get onto the court and start learning.

Club Volleyball Teams, Club Clinics, and Club Training Programs are the best place to start for middle school players.  If you want to try volleyball at a low cost, then focus on club clinics and club training programs. At MOCO, our club coaches lead these programs so you’ll get great instruction. 

Even if you are brand new to volleyball, we encourage all players in this age group to tryout for a club team.  MOCO offers both advanced teams and developmental teams in this age group, and a large number of our club players and HS volleyball players started as a club player on a developmental team.  This year, 96% of our club players are playing for their high schools,

If your middle school offers volleyball, try out.  Almost everyone on the middle school teams is a new player!

High School Players – Ages 15-18 / Grades 9-12

By grade 9, a lot of players have started playing volleyball competitively, but that doesn’t mean its too late to start!

High school teams are a great way to get started at this age, but don’t expect to pick up a ball for the first time and be playing on varsity.  Almost all new players start at the JV level if they make a team.

Camps, Clinics and Club Training Programs are also a great place to get started.  Look for programs that separate older beginners from younger beginners if you can – older athletes learn at a much faster rate and are much stronger than younger players.  At MOCO, our training program forms teams by age and experience level, so players can progress a similar speeds.  For summer camps and clinics its harder to separate by age, but you should still watch for opportunities to do so.

Club Volleyball is also a great starting point for U15 & U16 ages.  At most clubs the expectation is that you are already an experienced player, so if you are new make sure that you approach the club before tryouts to make sure there is really an opportunity for new players to make a team.

Great Starting Programs for Volleyball

Club Clinics

Many clubs in the area offer volleyball clinics.  Most beginner clinics start with the fundamentals of passing, serving and attacking.  Players can then consider progressing to intermediate clinics or to position-specific clinics. Most clubs only run clinics during the club off-season.  MOCO runs clinics year round, led by our club coaches.  We also run clinics over 4-6 weeks to allow players to stay together with a consistent group of players and coaches, which we believe helps speed development.

For new players, focus on finding a beginner clinic at a club that matches your needs.  Our Why MOCO? page explains how MOCO focuses on player development and what makes us unique in the area.

Club Summer Camps

Some of the volleyball clubs in the area offer beginner volleyball summer camps.  These are a great way to introduce players to volleyball with players of the same skill level.  MOCO runs summer camps through July and August, split into one week camp sessions, where beginners start by learning the fundamentals and progress to scrimmages and games.

Club Teams

Club volleyball is similar to club soccer and travel softball – its for players who are looking to play competitive volleyball.  However, unlike soccer and softball, players typically start volleyball at an older age.  Club teams are formed by age group, defined by the players age on a specific date (June 30 of the following year) and then designated as Under 12 (U12), Under 13 (U13), etc. U12 teams are almost always formed with new volleyball players – 11-12 is the typical starting age for club volleyball.  At U13-U16, new players usually play on development teams that are focused on fundamentals while still competing in club volleyball.  At MOCO, we recommend everyone U16 and below consider club volleyball, regardless of their experience.

Club Training Programs

Club training programs have experienced club volleyball coaches working with a team for 8 weeks, usually during the fall prior to club tryouts.  MOCO runs the largest training program in the region, with 200+ players involved each year.  Teams practice once a week for 2 hours, then have a “competition day” on the weekends where they work on fundamentals and scrimmaging other teams in the program.

High School & College Camps

Area high schools and colleges offer summer camps as well.  Many of the players at MOCO participate in both our summer camps and college camps – its always good to be on the court.  For beginners, you want to start with All-Skills camps, which are usually new volleyball players learning the fundamentals.

High School Teams

Almost every high school in the Washington, DC area offers volleyball as a girls sport in the fall.  Most offer Varsity and JV teams.  Varsity teams are usually experienced players, but JV teams at most schools have a lot of players just starting the sport.  For 9th and 10th grades, a JV team is a great way to start playing volleyball.  The quality of the volleyball instruction depends on the coach of the program, so we usually recommend supplementing JV with additional clinics or training programs if an athletes busy schedule allows it.

Fewer high schools offer boys programs, but the number is growing rapidly.  Boys & co-ed volleyball is usually a spring sport, and a great way to get started.

Good Starting Programs for Volleyball, But Limited Availability

Middle School Teams

In the DC area, middle school volleyball programs are usually offered by independent schools and by DC public schools.  Most Maryland and Virginia public schools do not have middle school programs.  If you are lucky enough to attend a school with a program, you should absolutely try out.  At the younger ages (6th & 7th grades) everyone is likely to be a beginner.  It can sometimes be tough to make a middle school team if there are lots of older players who are already experienced, so an early start is best.

Recreational Leagues

Recreational leagues are typically beginner focused leagues with one practice and one game a week. Teams are usually run by volunteers, who may have some guidance from an experienced club coach.  These programs are usually focused more on getting players on the court and familiar with the game, and the amount of instruction players receive will vary based on how active the experienced coaches are in the program.

Recreational Programs & School Physical Education

Basic volleyball instruction is usually available through school PE programs and county parks & recreational programs.  These are great ways to get an athlete “touching a ball” and trying the basic skills.  They are typically free or very low cost.  Unfortunately, there are few programs like this in the DC area, so finding one can be difficult.