Lausanne, Switzerland, December 28, 2014 – When it comes to winning a world title, is it experience that counts, or is it youth that makes the difference? There are points to be made for both approaches, so here’s an analysis of the 24 men’s and 24 women’s teams at the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship Poland 2014 and FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship Italy 2014.
Both the winners, Poland at 26.83 years in the men’s competition and USA at 26.50 in the women’s event, probably got the right balance of youth and experience. They were both quite close to the overall average of 26.67 for the men and 25.8 years for the women. Remember that under the current format of the competition endurance was critical, as the finalists needed to play as many as 13 matches in three weeks.
All three of the medalists in the Men’s World Championship, Poland, Brazil and Germany, were within a year or two of each other. But 4th-placed France, at 24.50, was almost four years younger than silver medalists Brazil (28.33).
In the men’s competition, there was a huge gap of almost a decade between the oldest team of Finland (at 30.66) and the youngest Cuba (at 21.83).
Cuba also fielded the youngest team in the Women’s World Championship, at an astonishing 19.33, but their enthusiasm was not enough to see the Caribbean side through to Round II and they bowed out of the competition after their five pool play matches in Bari.
Youth however, proved enough for China. Averaging 22.83 years of age (or one full Olympic cycle less than winners USA), China came away with a silver medal - their best finish since 1998.
Italy on the other hand, at 30.83 years of age on average the oldest team in the tournament, made a brilliant run into the medals round, although they finished off the podium, in fourth place.
Which just about proves that getting the balance between youth and experience right is not an exact science.
The average ages of the teams refer to the starting six in the last match these teams played in the World Championships. The numbers appearing on the charts have been rounded up to the nearest integer (though the actual position of the mark is according to the full number).