November 29, 2009

Club Volleyball Set Back

Dear College Volleyball Coach:

I have been following your site for about a year now and really enjoy your thoughts and comments. I could use your words of wisdom right now.

My 14 year old daughter is in the 8th grade and just completed her club team tryouts. She did not make the top team this year. She has been the primary setter on the top team the last two years. In fact she has been the best player on her team the last two years (in my and others opinions) and has played every point of every game. She was named All-Conference on her 8th grade school team this year. Obviously she is very disappointed but she loves volleyball and wants to continue to play, even if its on a lower level club team. She has a dream of playing college volleyball in the future.

The reason I was given for the decision not to place her on the top team was that she is "too quiet". I don't think it helps that she is 5' 3" tall and the other setters are 5' 6" tall either.

All this to ask the following questions:

  • How should she use this set-back to her advantage?
  • Should she continue with the goal of being a setter in college or should she consider moving to a defensive specialist position?
  • What should she do about being too quiet?

After reading your posts for a while I know you are probably going to say "take a deep breath and relax" and "enjoy the 14s" and I will certainly take that advice to heart, but looking to the future, what should she do to make her dream a reality?

Thanks - S.S.

The good news is that your daughter is only in the 8th grade and still has years to get better, even if getting taller may be not in the cards. It is just a set back and if handled properly, this could be the motivation to empower her future success.

Let's get to your questions:

1. She needs to recognize that she has time to address the areas of her game which need improvement, while developing skill to mitigate her smaller stature. Since she looks to be on the small side, she needs to become a very, very complete setter. By this, she should become first rate in setting technique, defensive ability, running an offense, leadership and blocking (yes, blocking - might as well be a good short blocker than a bad short blocker!). Since she is only in 8th grade, she has time to play, train, go to camps, etc. Lastly, I suggest she take the mentality that someone said she was not good enough and then prove them wrong! If she was the top setter for the last two teams and received all conference honors, then she knows she is good and should be fired up about illustrating how wrong the person who made the decision was. Her goal should be so good, as the the second team setter and take them to a level of ability that no one thought possible, that every person would comment "Wow, that setter is unreal good!".

2. Switching positions is easier at a young age and the jump from setter to Libero is not too difficult at this juncture. But, before switching positions, it is important to identify what your daughter wants to play - Don't switch just because you 'think' it is better for college. It is better for college to play the position for which you are the best at! Since she is just in 8th grade, maybe she might grow an inch or two? Yes, small Division I setters are not very common, but they are playing and they are usually very good. To put things into perspective, the setter who was on the floor when Stanford went to four straight final fours was 'small' by Top 10 rankings and their not winning a championship was not her fault. Division II setters tend to be a bit smaller, on average, and coaches are more comfortable (a generality here) using smaller setters - Everyone wants tall hitters, but you don't see 6'3" dominating OH's all too often in the DII

3. Too many folks think the opposite of quiet is being loud. This is not the case. Being loud is just noise and noise is tuned out. She needs to communicate. I have had many quiet setters and they were very effective because they did an excellent job of communicating. She needs to ask her hitters about the set, compliment her passers on the pass, encourage her team to play defense, tell her libero what a great dig, interact with her coach, etc. Loud is not good, communication is.

In summary, she just needs to continue to play, work hard on making her overall abilities better and have fun!


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