New York City Volleyball Leagues
Get the inside scoop on Volleyball in Manhattan!
At RentHop, we love helping people find NYC Apartments for rent, but another great passion is volleyball! We have a company team and 100% of the firm participates one way or another (Lawrence played for a season but now holds the role of coach and cheerleader). After playing in many different leagues and open play gyms around the city, we have come up with a comprehensive guide to all of the major NYC Volleyball Venues!
One obvious fact from the start; not all leagues are the same. Some are more competitive and play using USAV or FIVB rules (those are some official sounding national and international volleyball organizations). Other leagues lean more socially and don't take the game particularly seriously -- but the drinking afterwards is nearly mandatory. We'll give you a breakdown and tell you which league is the right one for your crew or company.
Volleyball Leagues in NYC
NY Urban is the most competitive and largest volleyball league in the city, but spans all skill levels from club and college players to pure recreational players. The busy seasons field up to 18 different divisions with calibration matches in the pre-season to place your team in the appropriate skill level.
Probably the most painful part of NY Urban is that you generally play on a different day of the week each week. That means you can have a match Thursday night at 9:15, and then a match the next Monday at 8:10. Almost every other league plays the same night each week to make scheduling easier. There is some flexibility here; we have requested only later games so we almost always get the 8:10pm or 9:15pm slot; I imagine it's possible to ask them to avoid a certain bad night of the week, but too many requests and they'll certainly not to be happy.
At first glance there seem to be a LOT of different gyms (over 20 locations), but it seems at least 50% of the season will be played in either John Jay College at 59th and 10th, Laguardia High School at 65th and Amsterdam, or Brandeis High School in UWS. There are a few really hard-to-find gyms though such as Brealy Field House or O Shea School, and a few poor quality gyms (Chelsea School). Whenever your team is playing at an unfamiliar gym, try to have everyone arrive extra early!
One last point, most refs seem to not care about illegal substituions as long as it isn't too blatant. We've had rotations where 3 middles were the only ones swapping, cases where an outside hitter stepped out and them stepped in later for the setter, and ran a full season where a Libero switched with a player AND served without one sit-out rally in between. We finally got called out during playoffs, so it's a bit of a gamble, but as long as you make reasonable substitutions in the back row without seeming to gain an unfair advantage, the ref is usually not going to complain. Hopefully this guide does not call extra attention on this point, because it's a nice perk to not stress over and ensures everyone gets more fair playing time.
Major pros and cons:
- Largest league ensures many opponents at your skill level
- Divisions usually have 10 teams, regular season is a full round robin
- Top 4 teams per division make playoffs, playoff winner has interdivisional playoffs
- Plays on a different night each week Monday-Thursday
- Most refs are not strict about substituting illegally
- Playoffs semifinals and finals on same night, no special refs
- Uses newer net rule: touching bottom of net without impacting play is ok
Big City Volleyball is the other prime volleyball league in town. They tend to have more corporate-sponsored teams than all of the other leagues; in fact Lee at RentHop got his start in volleyball playing for the Two Sigma Hedgehogs via Big City. There are theoretically only 4 divisions per season, Division 6 (beginner), Division 5 (low intermediate), Divion 4 (high intermediate), and Division 3 (competitive). I have yet to see a Division 1 and 2 after many years. From a USAV standpoint, I would say Division 4 lines up with USAV level B and Division 3 is approximately BB with a sprinkle of A players.
There are some great advantages to playing with Big City. Your team will play on the same night each week, except during playoffs. Each division actually splits into mini-divisions depending on the night of week. For example, Division 5A will play on Monday night, 5B Tuesday, 5C Wed, etc. There are only six teams per mini division, and the regular season includes two full round robin matches with every pair of teams in the mini division (10 matches, your team plays the other 5 teams twice each). Some people find it more fun to have smaller divisions, because there is a bit of extra skill involved scouting from game to game (and who doesn't enjoy concocting an artificial rivalry?). The main drawback of the smaller divisions is the lack of diversification. If one team is obviously stronger or weaker than the rest of the pack, they are going to have a very rough time; a problem made worse by the less granular divisions in Big City.
Another nice perk is the smaller pool of gyms. There are really only four, Grace Church School near Union Square (everyone's favorite, especially if you work downtown), Environmental Studies HS (56th and 10th), PS 163 in UWS and PS 169 in UES. Basically 2/3 of your games should be midtown or downtown. Sadly, PS 163 has a drawback that one side clearly has more baseline room than the other (you can't jump serve from one of the sides), and PS 169 has a low ceiling AND one of the sides has a huge patch of unpainted sideline which hasn't been fixed in 3 years (the ref kind of eyeballs it when the ball lands near the unpainted line).
Possibly the biggest drawback of Big City is their insistence on using the old net rule and old center line rule. ANY contact with the net, even a tiny glancing touch while landing from a hit, is considered a fault and automatic loss of the rally (the only exception is when you are blocking and the ball hitting the net pushes the net into your hands). The refs even call out setters who are jump-setting to save a tight pass, as long as the setter touches the net, even the bottom, it is a fault. Also, the entire foot crossing under the center line is also a fault (newer USAV rules say this is ok as long as there is no interference with play). One of the head organizers at Big City says they prefer the old rules because it is safer for players and is more objective to keep the refs consistent.
Major pros and cons:
- Less granular divsions, only Div 3 to Div 6
- Divisions have 6 teams, regular season has each pair of teams playing twice
- Top 2 teams out of 6 per mini-division make playoffs
- Playoff semi-finals and finals are different days, two refs for finals
- Only 4 gyms, so you quickly get to know all the small quirks
- Gyms are generally in better condition, except PS 169
- Uses older net rules: ANY contact with the net, even the bottom, is a fault
- Cost is more expensive than NY Urban ($1350/season vs $1250/season in 2015)
NYC Social Sports runs a huge number of recreational level leagues, from ultimate frisbee to flag football to, of course, volleyball. The league is designed for social, recreational players. You can generally sign up in groups of any size and the league will assign you into a team; I have no idea how they attempt to make the teams fair. In my experience they select a team captain and the captains do their best to balance teams among returning players. Newer players self-proclaim their skill level and the captains somehow take that into account.
The cost is cheaper than the two more competitive leagues, at $100 per person (teams of 10?). Also, the location is exactly the same gym each week, on the same day of the week. However, in some ways you get what you pay for in quality. The courts are not standard size and net is definitely lower than regulation height (it's about women's height but for co-ed games). The small court makes 6 vs 6 a very tight squeeze. There is no 10-foot line and the refs don't seem to care who is back row and front row, so everyone is a hitter!
Drinking afterwards is optional in theory, but the name of the league is Social Sports and the majority of your teammates will be expecting some festivities after each match. You should expect to drink back any calories you might have burned playing with a few hundred extra to spare (a single pint of beer is about 150 calories, 45 minutes of ultra casual volleyball barely covers it). You would probably burn more energy searching for rental apartments in New York City
Major pros and cons:
- Much more social and recreational
- Team skill and composition is extremely random
- Court and net are smaller and shorter than regulation
- Strong peer pressure to hit the bar afterwards (a plus for many)
RentHop Wallabies Volleyball Roster
Lee Lin, Middle Blocker
Lee began his volleyball career with the Two Sigma Hedgehogs. Later on his training grounds were based in various YMCA locations around Manhattan, most notably the Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th street and 2nd avenue (headed by coach Kypros).
Lawrence Zhou, Coach and Cheerleader
Lawrence was a founding member of the RentHop Wallabies in their first season during the Fall of 2013. He has since retired from active play but can always be seen cheering from the sidelines during playoffs. For the finals, he even brings out the RentHop colored pompoms.
Justin Dell'aglio, Middle Blocker
Justin brings a background in finance and sales to the real estate community.
He has spoken to hundreds of agents to get their take on the current rental market and he has distilled all of the knowledge into actionable items for his day to day showings. Justin has recently become a guest lecturer at NYREI and is happy to help agents new and experienced.
Faye Chou, Opposite Hitter
Faye is a true adventurer and is always willing to adapt to the needs of the team. Her experience playing dodgeball gives her a natural advantage in ancitipating our opponents' tactics. She is our most versatile player, and rounds out the roster as either Opposite Hitter, Outside Hitter, Libero, or Defensive Specialist. Regardless of position, she skillfully covers gaps in the defense and won't let the ball drop.
Luxiou Chen, Outside Hitter
Lux has spent the last decade successfully playing competitive sports, from professional poker to Brood War to DOTA. He brings his team leadership and fast reflexes to the volleyball court as a highly impactful outside hitter. The years of limit hold'em training has also allowed him to develop a poker face when attacking the ball, keeping his opponents perpetually guessing as to where he will place his hits.