Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is club volleyball "worth it"?

Below is a short essay regarding the value of club volleyball that has been passed around the national high-school sports community recently. I think is speaks volumes about what good club programs do for our youth. -- Bill

"Worth It"

by - David Cordes, Ridgecrest Starlings Volleyball Club

I got an e-mail from a friend a while back that had this line in it: "Last year 'my daughter' was on the "C" team. They put her on "B" this year. Hopefully, this means that the club league and the volleyball camp were worth it."

That line got me wondering, when he says 'worth it', what does he mean? What does he expect his daughter to get out of playing club volleyball and attending volleyball camps? At what point does the time and money commitment for a kid to play club volleyball out weigh the advantages of playing club ball?

That got me to thinking about my own daughters playing volleyball. That's right I said daughters, plural. I have one daughter playing high school and club volleyball and her younger sister who is just starting middle school volleyball and is thinking about club ball. So I had to ask myself, what do I expect to get out of the time and money that my family is spending, or is going to spend, into them playing this sport? What is 'worth it' to me? What is worth it to my daughters?

I am a parent with a daughter(s) playing club volleyball; I am also a club/middle school coach and a club director. My oldest daughter does not play for my volleyball club. So while I expect parents to make a huge time and money commitment for their daughters to play on my club volleyball team. I am also expected to make the same time and money commitment to my daughter's volleyball club experience.

As a parent, 'worth it' means a lot to me. I expect my daughter to improve her volleyball skills. I expect her to improve her overall physical fitness. But most of all, to me, 'worth it' means if she is exercising regularly in a manner that she enjoys, and she is so busy trying to keep up with volleyball practices, volleyball tournaments, and homework that she doesn't have time to be getting into trouble. Then it is 'worth it', regardless of the cost, regardless of where the sport takes her.

Does my daughter have to be a starter on varsity, or on the 'A' team or the best volleyball player in town for club volleyball to be 'worth it'? In a word - No! Would I like club volleyball to turn my daughter into a state champion or a super athlete who has college recruiters beating down our door? Of course I would. What parent doesn't want that for their young volleyball player? But that is not what I expect from club volleyball. That is not why my daughter is playing. My daughter is playing because she loves the game. I am paying for her to play because I love that she loves the game. But I also love that she is fit, she is healthy, and she is spending her free time doing something she loves. She is hanging around with and forming friendships with like-minded peers and she is too busy to be bored and hence getting into trouble to alleviate that boredom. As a parent that is what makes the time and money I commit to club volleyball 'worth it'.

That is my parent answer to what is 'worth it'. As a volleyball coach and a club director, what should I tell parents to expect from their daughter's club volleyball experience that will make it 'worth it' to them.
I always tell the club parents if you are here - thinking that playing club ball will get your daughter onto the high school team, or eventually onto a college team - then you are here for the wrong reasons. A corollary to that statement is "Any club coach or director who tells you that they can get your daughter onto a certain team, or get them a chance to play in college or get them a scholarship. Unless that coach or director is in charge of the program they are promising your daughter a chance to play on - they are lying to you." No one can honestly promise those things and expect to deliver. There are too many factors involved in who makes what team, who gets scholarships, and who is successful and who is not, that are completely out of club coach's or director's control.

There is a lot that goes into a school coach picking a team. Coaches have to evaluate a player's athletic skills, their volleyball skills, their attitudes, their work ethic and their personality. Trying to explain how coaches make those kinds of decisions would take volumes. I will leave that up to someone else with much more experience than I, to write about it.

So if a parent and their child are not supposed to expect club volleyball to make their child an all-star, a varsity standout, or a college ready player, what should they expect from playing club volleyball?
You should expect to: Work hard, play hard, sweat, hurt, ache, laugh, cry, be happy, be sad, and hopefully to have a lot of fun in the process. You should expect to have days when you hate to go to practice and you should expect to have days when you can't wait to get there. You should expect to win some volleyball games and you should be ready to lose some.

You should expect to learn new things. You should expect to have to teach things to others (including your coach). You should be open to new ideas and to adopting new things and making them comfortable old habits.

You should expect to jump, hop, leap, dive, roll, slide, skid, run, skip, shuffle, sprint, crouch, spike, slam, tip, dink, pass, set, serve, shank, miss, hit, block, bump, crash, lift, shove, push, pull, weave, wobble, topple, stagger, swagger, accept, reject, laugh, cry, boast, brag, apologize, agonize, celebrate, commiserate, rejoice, revel, rebel, talk, hug, glare, grin, smile, sneer, talk, shout, yell, groan and grimace.

If you try to do all those things, you will learn how to be a better volleyball player. You will learn how to be a better teammate. You will learn how to win, how to lose, how to fail and how to succeed at a lot more than just volleyball.

You will make new friends. You will make new enemies. You will learn how to deal with both. And if you are lucky, and you are paying attention, you might just get to know yourself a little bit better.

And after all that, you might, if countless different factors all come together just right, you might get a chance to play volleyball in high school and/or maybe even in college or beyond. But club volleyball can't promise you that. It can only promise you the opportunity to try and the opportunity to play. Where those opportunities take you and what you get out of it - is up to you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tournament Play Time

This weekend I had the chance to speak with a coach who I had not seen in several years. "Coach L" has coached many of the top female teams in the region and still runs one of the best high school programs on Long Island.

We were discussing player development and the college recruiting process. She shared a great story that I thought would be great to share with our club:

One of her former players recently returned to thank the coach for pushing her to work hard. This athlete is now playing college volleyball for a Division II school in upstate New York where she is the starting middle blocker and team captain. She was recently selected to the All-Conference Team in her junior year and is looking forward to a great senior season.

This is fairly normal for many of the athletes Coach L has trained over the years. However, this athlete had not been the high school star or a starter on her club team. Her situation had been the exact opposite -- in her 3 years with the club she rarely, if ever, played in any of the team's tournaments. To her credit, she never missed a practice and worked extremely hard during the club season and in the off season.

This is one of a hundred similar stories that illustrate the benefits of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to your goals.

Parents and players should remember this story when they wonder if it is worth the effort and cost to participate in club sports when the player may not be seeing significant court time during monthly tournaments. The long view can often provide a fresh eye on the value and impact of solid training and hard work.