Frequently Asked Questions


If you have questions that are not answered here, please contact us by email at info+web@steelcityvolleyball.org.

I want to join the league. What do I need to know?
Do I have to identify as LGBTQIA+ to be a part of this league?
How do games / matches run throughout the season?
How do the ratings and ratings challenge processes work?
When and What are the volleyball seasons?
Where does the SCVL play volleyball each season?
How many divisions are there? Which one do I join?
What kind of skills do I need to be a part of the league?
How much does it cost to play?
What equipment do I need?
What are my responsibilities, aside from playing?
What if I can’t commit to playing every Sunday?
What is SCVL’s cancellation policy during inclement weather conditions?
How do I get better at volleyball?
What are the league’s COVID policies?

I want to join the league. What do I need to know?

These are the main things to know to join our league:

    1. We have two seasons annually during which we register players (one late August through December, one January to May), and we have grass open play during the summer (Sundays for all levels of play, Tuesdays for Competitive and higher levels, at no charge).
    2. Registration opens a few weeks before play and while our rates may change in the future, currently it’s $65 to join a single division. After your first season with the league you may have the chance to play in two divisions for an additional fee (currently an extra $30). People who play in two divisions agree to mentor the players in the lower division in which they play. There is a student discount ($25) for full time students. Online payment carries a $3 processing fee.
    3. Because we have limited capacity, returning players get first chance to register. After pre-registration ends, we allow new players to register on a first-come, first-served basis. Once we hit our registration cap, we allow a limited number of people to go on the waitlist. In recent history we have been able to accommodate all players on our wait list. Sign up will be published on our website as well as on our Facebook page.
    4. All players join as individuals. You do not/cannot bring a team. Depending on the division you join, you may be asked for your positional preferences (e.g., set, hit, libero, etc).
    5. New players and divisions: players joining the Recreational division do not need to be rated. To join at any other level of play, you need to sign up for a rating session before the season begins. Your rating simply determines your division, but everyone will be placed on a team.
    6. Following the ratings sessions, you will be notified of your rating (except for Recreational division players).
    7. The board then makes teams, attempting to balance skills and positions played.
    8. Teams play and referee throughout the season. You will referee about half as many games as you play, and don’t worry if you have no experience, as you’ll have at least one experienced person on your team. We do this to keep league rates low, and build community.

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Do I have to identify as LGBTQIA+ to be a part of this league?

No. Our primary mission is to serve the LGBTQIA+ community, but we welcome our allies to join as well. All members are expected to sign our allyship pledge found on our official documents page.

We welcome anyone who is at least 18 and do our best to be inclusive. From our mission statement: “Our volleyball league is open to adults regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, livelihood, culture, race, religion, or ethnicity; and without regard for volleyball ability, skill, or experience.” 

We have a legacy as a gay social organization (now articulated as LGBTQIA+) and are focused on building a culture that is supportive, encouraging, and inclusive of all people, especially if those people are invested in being welcome to others.

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How do games / matches run throughout the season?

Our new schedule will run Sundays from 3:30 – 8:30PM in the fall and 2:30 – 7:30 in the spring. Matches will run for 50 minutes with 10 minute warm-ups. Your team will usually play one match each week; however teams may play in two matches or no matches at all on a given week. You will also referee matches equivalent to about half of the games you play.

Schedules are provided at the beginning of the season and we keep a current schedule on the website.

Regular season matches consist of 3 games to 25 (each game starting 4-4) with a cap at 27, or until time expires. Cannot end in tie – if time expires, next point wins. If time does not expire, must win by 2.

During playoffs, matches consist of best 2 out of 3 games. First two games to 25 (starting 4-4) cap at 27. Third game, if needed, to 15 (starting 0-0) with no cap. Must win by 2.

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How do the ratings and ratings challenge processes work?

There are two major ratings processes for our league:
1. The ratings process for new players
2. The ratings challenge process for returning players.

1. The ratings process for new players

Here’s the short version:

When you register, depending on division, you will select the position for which you’d like to be rated. When you register you can list a first and second preference. For example, you might list your first preference as middle hitter, and your second preference as right side/weak side.

  • Recreational division does not require a rating. You can specify that you want to hit, set, or not choose a position.
  • Intermediate is similar: set, hit, or no preference (all around) but you do need to be rated.
  • For Competitive, Power, and Power Plus you specify one of the following: setter, outside hitter, middle hitter, right side, or libero.

The process:

When you register, based on the division you select (other than recreational), you will be given options for a date and time for your rating. Please note to play in any rated division, you MUST be rated in our rating process.

When you show up, you will check in and will be directed into the facility with instruction, but the short version is that you will play 3 sets on different courts with a mix of other players being rated and control players (who are there to help with consistency of play). The whole process last about 1.5 hours.

You will be observed by a mix of raters on and/or off court (usually one per set) who will submit your rating to our system.

We recommend you show up about ~20 minutes early so you have time to check in and can warm up, etc.

Following the completion of ratings, the board synthesizes all ratings and will send you an email letting you know your result. Most outcomes are that we notify a player that they have either rated into their desired division, or that they have rated into the next-lower division.

Occasionally, if your level of play is exceptional during your rating, we may ask you to stay for the following rating time if you desire, OR return to the next scheduled week of ratings if you have participated in the first week of ratings.

2. The ratings challenge process for returning players

In the event that a returning player wants to try to move up to the next division, here’s what happens:

First, if a player is in the top third of their division (by rating score), they are automatically eligible to sign up for a ratings session for the next-higher division for the following season.

If a player is NOT in the top third of their division by score, and they wish to challenge:

  • Week 1 of ratings, they show up and play in their current division to help keep the level of play at a division-appropriate level, and at the end will receive a new rating
  • If they end up with a rating in the top third of their division by score, the following week they are able to attend a ratings session for the next-higher division
  • If their new rating is not in the top third of their division by score, their ratings challenge ends and the rating outcome from the session determines their division.  Note: the implication of this bullet is that a player could attend a rating for their current division in Week 1 and end up with a score in the next-lower division, in which case that becomes their division for the season.

3. Bonus: ratings review

At the end of each season, the board reviews the ratings of all players.

  1. If a player is playing well-above their current division, a player can receive an automatic up-rate to the next division at the end of their current season.
  2. If a player is playing well-below their current division, they can be placed on Evaluation Notice. In this case, during the coming season they must bring their level of play up to a level that is consistent with their current division. If they do, they are removed from Evaluation Notice. If they do not, they will be down-rated and placed into the next-lower division for the subsequent season.

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When and What are the volleyball seasons?

There are two seasons of official league play; Fall & Spring. During the summer there are unofficial pickup games in Schenley Park.

The Fall season typically runs from August/September to December. The Spring season typically runs from January to April/May.

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Where does the SCVL play volleyball each season?

Our indoor seasons are played at Grit Athletix. Grit Athletix is located at 2920 McKelvey Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15221.

During the summer we set up nets on Sundays and Tuesdays in the grass near the Schenley Park Overlook.

Our pickup is open to SCVL members and non-members alike, and there is no charge. We ask that players agree to abide by our code of conduct, ally pledge, and liability release, all found here: https://www.steelcityvolleyball.org/scvl-documents/.

Sunday and Tuesday grass pickup

  • Sundays are for all skill levels
  • Tuesdays are for Competitive-, Power-, and PowerPlus-level players.

New players should first come on a Sunday so we can informally assess skill if they have an interest in Tuesday evening play. Tuesdays are intended to maintain a level of play and we are committed to maintaining that level for players interested.

For Sundays: We’ll poll/announce play on the SCVL facebook page by around 11 am for each Sunday, based on weather, with a start time around 12:30 or 1 PM. We’ll play until either we tire out, the weather puts a stop on it, or the person with the nets has to depart. We usually play for 2-4 hours.

For Tuesdays: We’ll poll/announce sometime during the day, also on the SCVL facebook page. Play will start around 6, and we typically play until it’s just too dark to see any more.

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How do I know which division I should play in?

We have a description of divisions that explains what we expect from players at each skill level. Check out that page, and then choose the division you think best describes your current level of play. If you’re not sure, you probably want to try out for the lower of the two divisions you’re considering (we know, you’re the exception, but almost everyone thinks their rating is higher than it is); we have a process in place if we think you should try for something higher once we see you play during the ratings process. 

If you want to play in anything other than the Recreational level, you will need to come to one of our rating sessions. Absolutely no exception. NONE. Sorry. Those happen at the start of each season, prior to regular season, where we observe you play in a controlled environment to make sure you are placed in a division commensurate with your skill level. 

The benefit of the five-division structure is that it helps focus and define more qualitatively the level of play expected in each division, which will make it easier for players to develop their skills and progress upward if they choose to do so.

  • If you are rated as a PowerPlus player, you may – for an additional $30 – play in the Power Division.
  • If you are rated as a Power player, you may – for an additional $30 – play in the Competitive Division.
  • If you are rated as a Competitive player, you may – for an additional $30 – play in the Intermediate Division.
  • If you are rated as an Intermediate player, you may – for an additional $30 – play in the Recreational Division.

If you elect to play in two different divisions, we ask that you are mindful of the skill set for each particular division, and remember that the primary role in playing a second division is mentorship. When playing down, you should expect a level of play that is not your own, but you still should play with all the skills of the division in which you are rated—in other words, you should be elevating the level of play. We encourage you to exercise patience and understanding. You will be serving as a mentor to help increase the skills and knowledge of the players in that division, and your attitude should reflect the capacity of that role. We will also ask for flexibility with position you play when mentoring, as you should be helping the lower-skilled players on your team develop their skills first.

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What kind of skills do I need to be a part of the league?

You don’t need any prior experience to play in our league; the league consists of players with various skill levels — from highly skilled “A” and “BB” level players to players who have only played picnic volleyball or never played at all.

The first few weeks of the season include some open play opportunities alongside our ratings process.

Once you join, if you are a novice, you will be given some basic training in bumping, setting, hitting, and serving during game play, with opportunities to attend skills clinics when offered. You will also learn the basic rules, principles, and strategies of volleyball. You will most likely have a mentor on your team who will help you learn more about the game if you desire.

The volleyball matches are refereed by league members following the US Volleyball Association rules. If you’ve never played volleyball “by the rules”, odds are you will be pleasantly surprised by how much fun the game can be.

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How much does it cost to play?

For players who participate in one division, the fee is $65 per person, per season. For players who wish to participate in two divisions, the fee is $95 per person, per season. We offer a student discount (with valid ID) of $25 for one division.

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What equipment do I need?

You will need athletic attire. Out of courtesy for the facility, and to keep the courts from getting dirty (and slippery as a result), street shoes are not permitted on the court. Please carry a pair of court shoes into the building and wear them after you are inside.

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What are my responsibilities, aside from playing?

When your team is not playing in a match, your team will often be required to referee matches in your division (two Referees, two Line Judges, and a Score Keeper).

The more experienced players usually take the Referee positions (up ref and down ref), but we encourage everyone to develop the skills to referee.

The Line Judges watch the court boundaries and the ball. They determine if the ball is “in” or “out” when the ball hits the floor near a court boundary or passes over/outside the antennae. They also watch the server for foot faults during the serve.

The Score Keeper maintains an accurate score.

If you have never performed any of these tasks, don’t worry. Assistance will be provided. Your most important responsibilities are to have fun and enjoy the game.

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What if I can’t commit to playing every Sunday?

Part-time players are welcome. The cost remains the same as a full-time player. Please reference the league costs above for current rates.

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What is SCVL’s cancellation policy during inclement weather conditions?

SCVL’s decision to cancel matches will usually be made by 12:00PM on Sundays and a notice will be posted on the front page of our website and Facebook Group. Cancellation may be on shorter notice in extenuating circumstances.

We always try to make up missed matches and so far have been able to do so, but we ask everyone to be understanding in extenuating circumstances.

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How do I get better at volleyball?

Our league is dedicated to helping players of all skill levels to improve their game. There are two primary ways we support this in the league (aside from regular volleyball play):

  1. Mentorship, in the form of players from the division above playing in a lower division to give feedback to players to help them play the game better
  2. Skills clinics, during which board members, more advanced players, and occasionally outside coaches work with people within a skill level on everything from fundamentals such as passing and court position to advanced hitting and defensive techniques. 

We have a few people in the league who give lessons and there are other places in the Pittsburgh region where you can get coaching, and many of our members attend an annual adult volleyball camp at Slippery Rock University. Ask a board member if you want more info. Also youtube is filled with volleyball primer videos.

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What are the league’s COVID policies?

The board has created a living document; you can view our latest policies here; please note that the board may change guidelines as it deems necessary:

SCVL COVID policies and protocols


The mission of the Steel City Volleyball League (SCVL) is to provide LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual, Asexual, other sexualities) people along with LGBTQIA+ allies an opportunity to learn, play, and grow in the organized sport of recreational and competitive volleyball. Our volleyball league is open to adults regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, livelihood, culture, race, religion, or ethnicity; and without regard for volleyball ability, skill, or experience. We are an inclusive league valuing the respect and dignity of others and, expect the same from anyone who would like to join our league.