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Club News Story

Considering Playing Up or Playing Down for the 2015/2016 season?

2015 / 09 / 10


One of the most frequent questions that our coaches and the Club receive at the end of the season are questions from athletes and their parents that have just played up for that season. They want to know what to do for the following season and the benefits and pitfalls with each option.

The Club has developed guidelines with the goal of helping our athletes and their parents make a decision that is right for their long term development.

The following are guidelines to help athletes and their families make the tough decision on:

·      Playing up

·      Opting for the OVA’s over-age player exemption


Terms defined

Playing up: An athlete is playing up if they play an age group that is older then their own.

For the 2015/2016 season the following are the Ontario Volleyball Association’s Youth Age Categories:


Year of Birth

Youth Age Categories














As an example, an athlete born in 2003 ought to be playing at the 13U age category however if they have the skill, experience and make an older team they are able to play up to any older age category.

Over-age player exemption:

A maximum of two (2) athletes per team born between September 1 and December 31 are permitted to “play down” one age category. For example, two (2) athletes born between September 1, 1999 and December 31, 1999 (who are 17U aged) may participate on a 16U team during the indoor season.

Players who are playing down an age category can only be registered and listed on one team’s roster for the entire year. They are not permitted to move up an age category as an individual. However, they can play up an age category if they are playing on the same team they are registered with.

This applies to all players with the exception of 19U athletes.

The intent of this regulation is to ensure that all athletes have a place to play and are playing at the appropriate skill level


Guidelines on playing up

Prior to these guidelines the decision for an athlete to play up was made by the athlete and their families and the head coaches at the older age group, if they made the older team they were able to play up.

With these new guidelines we will introduce a new registration process so that the Club is aware in advance of tryouts of those who wish to tryout at an older age group so that an independent panel could review the athletes’ abilities and be able to provide them an unbiased opinion and guidance on what they ought to be doing. That is not to say that our coaches in the past provided poor advice and made bad decisions on the contrary we want to ensure that a longer term outlook is given to the athletes from our “experts” who have no vested interest in the athlete playing up or playing down (i.e. will not be coaching the athlete).

The pitfalls that we have seen and would like to avoid are early developers/adopters to the sport who play up because either a team is not available at their right age group or they are physically more developed than their age peers at one point in time.

However as the gap narrows over the years the athlete may no longer be the tallest and strongest athlete and they are now in the middle of the pack with the older age group but they don’t want to play on the younger team as it’s considered a step back or they don’t want to lose the bonds that they have developed with the older team mates.


In 2013 (2013/2014 season), Jane is 11 years old and is 5’5. The Club did not have a 12U team hence she made and competed on the 13U team.

The next season (2014/2015) as a 12 year old she still stood at 5’5, the Club did offer a 13U team, which is the right age for Jane, but she opted to play 14U as she had the skills and wanted to remain with her teammates from last year. That season she struggled as the other athletes were beginning to develop their skills and strength and are all older than Jane.

This coming season (2015/2016) as a 13 year old she stands at 5’6 her proper age group is 14U but she’s contemplating playing 15U with her teammates of two years.

The independent panel will assess the athlete and provide their recommendation based on that assessment. The athlete and their families are responsible for making the ultimate decision where to play knowing that they are on the right track based on the panel’s opinion or they are concerns that the family will have to either address or accept if the athlete is to continue playing up. (i.e. reduced contribution/role on the older team)


Athletes will be asked to:

1.     At the tryout registration phase identify their birth year and if they opt to play up they must indicate so on their tryout registration form.

2.     They must list the reasons why they believe they should play up an age category.

3.     Attend the tryout for their proper age so that an independent panel could review their skills against the skills of their age peers.

4.     If they are clearly more skilled than athletes at their own age group they will be advised to try out at the older age group.

The independent panel/evaluators will:

1.     Evaluate the athlete’s skills amongst their own peer age group first.

2.     Once the panel is able to evaluate the athlete’s skills against their own age peers the panel will inform the athlete that they will have a roster spot at the younger age group and could try out at the older age group. The reason for this step is that the panel would like to see the athlete competing at the proper age group first and the simple theory is that if the athlete is dominant at their own age group they should be considered for an older one.

This may involve two on-court sessions at the younger age group and the older age group during the tryout process. We realize that this would put extra practices and nerves to the test but we would rather make a proper evaluation at the start of the season than to have to correct one before Provincials or at the end of the season.

3.     Make their recommendations based on the following:

(i)             The athlete will make a significant contribution on AN older team        

o   Using Jane as an example, assuming that she decides to play 15U for this coming season and she attended the 14U tryout and has a roster spot secured at the 14U age group, the panel will evaluate her against the 15U aged athletes.

o   Assuming that the Club is offering two High Performance teams and two Competitive teams at the 15U age group.

o   Jane tries out with the following observations/recommendations from the panel:


§  Has a roster spot secured on the 14U Pre-HP Team

§  Not skilled enough to be on the roster of 11 players on the 15U HP1 team

§  Would be the 9th, 10th or 11th player on the 15U HP2 team

§  Would be an impact player for the 15U Comp 1 and 15U Comp 2 teams

(ii)           The best fit for the athlete’s long term development

In Jane’s case the panel will review her options with her and her family with the arguments for and against each option based on what they observed to date and their experience. It will be up to Jane and her family to decide knowing all the potential successes and pitfalls.

The intention of these guidelines and panel review is to ensure that the athletes are properly evaluating their playing options every year. Playing up at 13U does not entitle an athlete to continue to play up their whole Club careers. We hope that we continue to have athletes who demonstrate the ability to play up with an older age group but we want to ensure that they are making the proper developmental decisions for themselves.

Over-age player exemption guidelines

The Club is bound by the rules set out by the OVA however we want to ensure that the right two athletes are playing down. It’s probable that more than two athletes are eligible to play down for the age group hence a decision will have to be made which two would be permitted to play, assuming that there is only one team at the age group. If there are multiple teams at the age group there should usually not be an issue.

Athletes will be asked to:

1.     At the tryout registration phase identify their birth year and if they opt to be considered for the overage exemption on their tryout registration form. Please ensure that your birthdate falls between September 1 and December 31.

2.     Attend the tryout for the younger age group and they will be evaluated amongst the younger athletes.

3.     In the extreme cases where they is not a roster spot available for the athlete at the younger age group and they are open to trying out at their proper age group we will encourage them to do so.

Our athletes' development is our number one priority.

“ Never be afraid to do something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the titanic. ”
– Anonymous