The JVA and USAV remind me of the early days of pro football with the NFL and AFL. There were different owners and different reasons the two leagues existed, followed by many debates that one league was better than the other or one team was “the best”. It wasn’t until the two entities merged when a true national champion was crowned by way of the Superbowl.
The JVA (which essentially uses the AAU Championships as their crowning event) and USAV Nationals no longer decides the best club team by age division in the country. Unfortunately, there are too many top teams that never play each other throughout the year. Yet banners will soon hang throughout top clubs across the country claiming their team is ‘national’ champion from winning either the AAU Championship or USAV Nationals. But can a club justifiably raise a ‘national’ banner unless their team wins both the AAU and USAV Open Division Championships in their respective age division in the same year (and very few teams play in both events)? I’m not denying the great feat of winning one of these tournaments, nor trying to rain on their parade. In a world where every kid gets a medal, I’m bringing to light the major division in juniors volleyball.
There are many underlying factors a team enters the AAU Championships or USAV Nationals, just as there are many underlying factors these two organizations exist. But one clear indicator of the divide is geography, where East meets West. Take a look at the teams East and West of the Mississippi River that entered the two tournaments in the Open Division:
At the AAU Championships, 84 teams entered from the West and almost double that amount with 159 teams from the East. At USAV Nationals, it’s the opposite: 132 teams from the West and a mere 39 teams from the East. This explains why I watched so many California and Texas teams at USAV Nationals in New Orleans this past week.
Based on the numbers the AAU Championship is an Eastern Championship and the USAV Nationals is a Western Championship. Although, I’m NOT suggesting another tournament, a Championship playoff, like NCAA Football’s new four team playoff, for the overworked youths that make these organizations millions of dollars.
Ultimately, the juniors divide now places greater emphasis on the NCAA Championship and maybe even the USAV Adult Open Nationals (especially with the emergence of USA’s Premier Volleyball League) as the only two tournaments that can claim a true National Champion. It certainly adds to the luster to these championships and could be considered Volleyball’s Superbowl.