April 15, 2009

Club Volleyball Question - The Young Ones

Hi Coach,

My daughter is only 10 years old in 5th grade and this is her 1st year with a
club. She plays for the 12U team this season and while most of team mates are
moving up to the 13s, she still has another season with the 12U.
She loves her coach, he is very calm and has a very good temperament. He is big
on fundamentals and we all love him very much.

My questions is how long should a player stay with the same club? Does it matter
if she stays or change club at this young age? We want her to stay with this
same coach until she is finished with middle school then try-out for some top
clubs in the area.

Thanks for your time. Jackie

Jackie, your daughter is in a very good position and my advice is not to mess with a good thing, don't fix it if it is not broken (I wish whatever volleyball committee(s) keep changing college volleyball would read that last line).

You are really in a great spot as a parent. With your daughter being 10 years old, you should not even have to think, worry or dream (well, maybe dream) about college volleyball issues for her until she hits her freshman year in high school (@15). For the next five years, your goal should be to provide a volleyball environment that is enjoyable, supportive and consistently improves her ability.

At the young age of your daughter, basic skill development should be the focus. Even with the lower net and lighter ball, hitting and blocking is fun, but not really applicable. Learning to pass, set, serve, play defense and move around the court in the proper way is huge. At this age, your daughter is learning how to become a volleyball player, not just play volleyball. I can play golf, but I have no idea what it means to be a golfer.

With the comfort level you have expressed with her current coach, I would stay as long as possible with him and not be concerned about other players moving up or on. If you like the coach of your daughter's age level, the potential coach of your daughter's next age level, along with how the club team is organized/administered, then I would not look at changing clubs anytime soon.

Once again, the 15's year is when you kinda get into the starting blocks of the recruiting process. By the freshman year, families may wish to consider taking a harder look at the Club options with consideration of the future. For instance, if your daughter hits 6' as a freshman in high school, has a solid grasp of the basic skill sets and desires to play college volleyball, then explore some of the local/regional club teams to find that organization which can provide the combination of elite level training and maximum exposure for college programs.

Yet, 15's is still way too early to be concerned or focused on recruiting, you are just getting the future flight plan laid out as a freshman. The 16's year is when the initial evaluations and projections of college talent happen, but not the final evaluations (they continue until the day a player graduates from college!). I absolutely believe scouting 15's is just silly because they are so young and if a player is obviously the next Logan Tom, she is not coming to my school, along with the other 320 schools with DI programs (which leaves only about 8 in the mix).

As you near the 15 to 16 year old age range, float around one of the National Qualifiers to see what open level club teams look like. Go see the 17 Open team for a well known club play a match or two, find a 16 Open team from a different well known club and see what they look like. Then, when you have some perspective, go take a look at the 16 and 17 Open teams of your current club looks like (make sure it is at a National Qualifier tourney since this is your reference tourney).

If your current club organization is in the ball park with the well known club, with regards to their open level teams, then I would not feel there is reason to switch. Too many times, parents fall prey to the illusionary pressure of jumping clubs because the other club is 'better' for recruiting. Talented players will be recruited, not because of the club team, but rather because of the efforts of the families with the recruiting process. I don't recruit a player because they are on a certain team, I recruit a player because they are talented.

That being said - PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE just slow down and enjoy the fact that your daughter has a good coach and seems to be enjoying the wonderful sport of volleyball.