DALLAS – The only professional women’s volleyball league in the US will crown a player the champion of the league, not a team.
Athletes Unlimited Volleyball started their inaugural 30 game season on Saturday, February 27. This professional league is unlike any other that sports fans have seen in the mainstream because the players run most of it.
CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof said the players are the ones who do the recruiting and help set the rules.
Another groundbreaking aspect of the league is the scoring system.
“It was really developed with a concept in mind that younger fans are following players more than they’re following teams,” Patricof said.
So, players get points on how well their team does and how well they do. Then they move up and down a leaderboard throughout the season. At the end of the season, the person at the top is the champion of Athletes Unlimited.
Click here to see more information on scoring.
Women’s professional volleyball in the US has been tried before. Major League Volleyball played two full seasons in 1987 and 1988 before disbanding during its third season in 1989, the Women’s Western Volleyball League went two seasons in 1993 and 1994, and the US Professional Volleyball League lasted one season in 2002.
Currently, there are multiple professional volleyball leagues around the world, including in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Athletes Unlimited allows NCAA volleyball players the chance to continue their playing careers past college while staying in the US.
This season comes under the shadow of the pandemic and some extreme winter weather that Texas experienced. In order to keep the players as safe as possible Patricof said they are in a “shield.” He said it is similar to the bubble that the NBA and WNBA played their seasons in, but he calls it a shield because there are other people in the hotel the Athletes Unlimited volleyball players stay in.
Patricof’s connections from working at Disney, where he helped grow ESPN and ABC brands, and during his time as the President of Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club, proved fruitful in getting Athletes Unlimited Volleyball games broadcast. Seven games this season will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, 15 will be on Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2, the other eight games will be available live online through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, Dailymotion and AUProSports.com.
Players’ base compensation is $10,000 and their housing is provided. Bonuses come from team victories and individual player rankings. The top player gets $25,000. The total allotted to bonuses is over $450,000.
Athletes Unlimited started with a softball league. Their second season kicks off in Rosemont, Illinois right outside of Chicago in Late August.
Patricof is also adding Lacrosse to Athletes Unlimited’s network of leagues. The women’s lacrosse inaugural season begins in July.