January 9, 2008

Junior Club Volleyball National Qualifiers

With the Club season underway and the National Qualifiers looming in the not to distant future, I wanted to find out what folks think the funniest part of these huge tournaments are. To this end, there is a new poll on the right for readers to cast their votes!

When you consider it, the National Qualifier tournaments are amazing. While recruiting at the Colorado Crossroads NQ, I was downstairs in the lobby (?) having a quick bite when the waves started to change. At approximately 1:00 p.m. there began a huge throng of people coming into the building, through the instructed entrance doors - it was like the tide rushing in. To meet this avalanche of people, were the morning wave contingent that was trying to exit the building - in a very real sense, it was like watching two ant colonies smashing into each other. I guess having over 100 courts will have that effect.

100 courts - 1 pool of 4 teams per court - 400 teams in the a.m. wave and 400 teams in the p.m. 800 teams of 12 players/coaches represent 9600 volleyball people - throw in parents, college coaches and officials, you could easily be talking about 12,000 folks! That is a bunch of die hard volleyball lovers - I hope it continues because we need everyone of them.

When I recruit, I tend not to be very 'social' at club tournaments - I have a very specific job to do and when I need a break from evaluating players, I tend to sit down and watch the circus. It really is a circus. You have the players all excited and bouncing around, the parents are pacing nervously, club coaches are just trying to keep things moving in a positive direction, officials that have to be thinking they should be making more money, and college coaches that strut around like a bunch of peacocks!!

A few year's ago, the fad for the players were those really tall 'Cat in the Hat' hats -it was something to see a 3 foot tall felt hat on a 6' tall club player. I also enjoy seeing the groups of younger club kids that wander up to the older player's courts and watch - they tend to travel in small packs (for safety) and just look so wide eyed. You know they are still in the early age brackets when the knee pads are wider than their legs!

College coaches are a strange mix. Aside from the standard regimen of nice pants, the fashion trends have shifted from nice sweat-top with college name, to Polo's, to Polo's with sweater vests, to polo's with zip up tops, to short sleeve button down shirts to black slacks with a very nice dress shirt for the women (sometimes they tend to look like they are going out for a nice dinner!). Footwear is also changing - court shoes, to running shoes, to sandals/flops, to dress shoes.

My favorite is usually Coach Shoji or the other U. of Hawaii coaches in some type of floral shirt (if I could coach in Hawaii, I would wear the Warrior grass skirt like the mascot at football games!). But, my award for best outfit goes to the Army coach (or maybe Navy?) who used to wear her uniform the first day of a club tournament - now that is an eye stopping outfit!

If anyone tops the college coaches, it has to be the parents. There are two types - the ones that are uptight, which make me cringe, and the ones that are just having a great ride with their daughters! The uptight ones are those that scream 'point' repeatedly if the score keeper did not immediately flip the score after a rally! The mellow ones are those that smile during the bad games and give their kids a big hug when they need one.

It seems to me that the parental division of labor is this - the Mother's duty is to always have the water bottle full and the Father's duty is to shag balls during every hitting warm-up! With out fail, these two agendas have been constant through the years!

Club coaches have nothing but my sympathy - they have to coach young players with a youthfully influenced lack of focus, placate over-worried parents, interact with college coaches and then coach the games with less than stellar referee's. I barely make it through the college camp season - I could not imagine being a club coach.

All in all, the National Qualifiers can be such a unique experience, but for me, they always seem to give me a lift just because a huge building is wall to wall volleyball!