July 1, 2008

USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Dallas

Thought I would give you the coach's perspective of a Nationals tournament. To keep it rather quick (because I should really get some breakfast before to the gym), here are some observations:

* Last time I was at a Nationals in Dallas the gym was beyond cold - Only because of Texas air conditioning could it snow in Dallas in July! This time, the AC is set at a normal temperature.

* Not too impressed with the layout of the space. While it is an interesting feature to have the tournament on two tiers, the upper section is tight with the spacing of the courts. Yesterday had the final day of 17's pool and the first day of 15's pool, and getting around was very slow. Today has the start of the 16's pool and I think I may need to break out my jet-pack to get from court to court.

* Not only is maneuvering between courts tough, but the crowds are literally spilling into the courts while the players are competing. You see athletes trying to serve or chase a ball having to dodge parents and coaches to touch a ball.

* Only one 'feature' or grandstand court. I believe I remember in year's past, there would be a big grandstand court and then a couple of other courts with bleachers around them. Again, not too impressed with the lay-out.

* Parking was interesting - I was hoping there would be some lot that took plastic. I drove all around the convention center the first day, but no luck. The good news is that on the south east side of the CC, I actually found a lot where parking was .75 cents!!! On an equal walking distance on the northwest side of the CC, the lots were $8.00!!

* In coming up to the venue, I did not see any signs advertising the National Championship or welcoming the players/families to the tournament. I know it is a small thing, but it was always nice to see some signs promoting the event - I may have missed them based on my routing.

* Today I will venture out into the downtown to find lunch, the CC options were not too great. In my parking endeavour, I only saw a McDonald's but there must be other restaurant options since it is downtown with all the Federal buildings. I did see a herd of cows - very impressive sculptures!

* There should be a barrier keeping college coaches away from the 15's courts. Really - why are we scouting 15 year olds? They are freshman in high school.

* The 3 out of 5 format for the Open pools is a nice feature for scouting - it allows for bouncing between courts without fear of missing a team. Of course, it means a reduction in total matches per day, but I like it from a scouting perspective.

* I don't know if it is because of the JDVA (or JVDA) development but this Nationals does not seem to have the "buzz" of Nationals past. There always tended to be a certain energy with this last big tournament and the bringing together of so many good teams. Even with the VolleyFest keeping some of the better west coast teams away, Junior Nationals had an energy that is missing this year.

The June and July calender could get very busy for college coaches in the future. It used to be that Nationals allowed a catch all of the top teams/players, but things may be changing. In my quick view, Nationals has been devalued and now we could well be looking at attending AAU's, the Volleyball Festival, the JDVA (or JVDA) Championships and Nationals to evaluate teams.

For some college programs this is possible, but for many the budget is just not there to spend a majority of the recruiting money in a 4 week time period.