December 16, 2009

Super Duper Long Question - But a Good One!

What considerations or advice do you have in this situation?
My 8th grade daughter is a top player on her 14s team for our metro area's top club that year after year in all age groups wins their region, goes to JO Nationals and produces 10 DI players each year. This is my daughter's 3rd club season. She lead her 13s team to JO Nationals last year (captain, MVP). Her goals are to play varsity as a freshman next fall on her HS team and to play DI in college. She's on track and on her way. She's one of the most internally motivated athletes the club has seen (they tell me). Academically, she's an A+ student.
We're set on the club that is a match for her that will help her get DI exposure, Our situation is the opposite of many questions you get...NOT the importance of club volleyball or what club should she play for, but what high school. We're trying to figure out which high school volleyball experience will be best for her continued development as a player and to support her goals.
Because local club volleyball is so strong here, it produces high school state champions from our area, for all levels (A-AAA). Here, HS volleyball is inferior to club volleyball. No technical teaching at HS, just playing and reps. Most HS coaches here do not coach club volleyball and are not as skilled as our club coaches in their strategies or technical knowledge. The technical teaching is at the club level here. So, we are viewing HS volleyball for off-season reps, playing with and against good competition every day, etc.
Two years ago we moved across country to this suburban neighborhood for schools - especially high school (top academic school in area, nationally known for HS sports). We literally moved across country from a state and area with poor public schools to this suburban area with nationally ranked public schools. We chose our neighborhood for schools!
Last week, the school district changed the boundaries and incoming freshman from our neighborhood , where my daughter will now go to a new school in the Fall that was just built and not the one we moved for. They are phasing in 9th grade students each year. No 10th-12 graders at the HS next year. So, basically she won't be playing with any upper class(wo)men and will likely be the best player for 4 years from day 1. This new school is in a very competitive league, with the 3 consecutive year state champion. So, compeition will be good in games, but not in practice every day. At this HS she will have no playing or social experience with upper class(wo)men. It might look good for her scrap book (4 yr starter, 4 yr team captain, school records, etc) but we are concerned about her DEVELOPMENT as a person and player not awards.
We are deciding if we should stay where we are and go to the new school or move a mile away to go to the HS we previously picked. Our decision is based on academics, student demographics and then HS sports. For purposes of this question and your response, let's solely focus on sports/volleyball as to what will give her the best volleyball experiences for her development. We are dealing with the other two factors separately and not part of our questions to you.
The established HS we could move back into is full of upper class(wo)men (older girls from her club) that will be playing DI. There she will be challenged on a daily basis against good competition to help improve her game. Plus, she will have the opportunity to be on a good team to challenge for a state championship every year - a good experience going into college.
We know that most college coaches don't care about what HS you come from...that is not our question. We are looking at the impact on her DEVELOPMENT as a player. Our initial thoughts are to go with the HS that gives her the most competition day in, day out. Do you agree? What other volleyball factors would you recommend we look at? What have we missed in our analysis?
Thanks! JB

This is an interesting question. Please be assured that for college coaches, high school volleyball is really a non-factor - we honestly just hope they make it through their Junior/Senior season without an injury.

I actually had a similar situation when I was in high school - My family had moved cross country and the high school I went to was a new built school, but they started with Freshman/Sophomore classes and I joined as a Junior. As it turned out, mine was the first year with varsity level sports. Junior year season was rough, but Senior year we won the district title in the toughest league in the state.

My suggestion is to go with the new school - Stay in the district you are in, don't make any moves with your family. While you have illustrated some of the challenges (not training with older/better kids, being the best on the team, etc.), I believe the positives of the situation will benefit your daughter in the long run. Keeping in mind that the elite level training and competition is via club, and by your e-mail, your daughter is talented and enjoying a quality experience.


1. New school equals new gym, new locker room, new equipment.

2. The school may, just maybe, hire someone who has volleyball experience - Again, new school means that the AD can hire fresh coaches without political consideration - Usually new schools get younger teachers and younger teachers today have played college sports quite often.

3. While she won't train with experienced kids, she will be placed into a challenging competitive situation immediately even just playing Freshman volleyball. If she makes the Varsity at the original school, odds are she will not get quality time or be the go to player with so many older/talented players on the roster.

4. Leadership - The really great players are also leaders and college freshman don't lead upper classmen, they lead their own class. Learning to be a leader is learning to lead your peers and her peers are those players who are her same age. I don't want freshman to lead my team, that would be a disaster; I want freshman to lead other freshman.

5. Sometimes the wings needs to be clipped a little bit with younger players. You know that old saying how a loss is sometimes good for an undefeated team? Sometimes slowing down an elite younger player is important also. I have seen too many situations where young studs turn out to be older spoiled players because they always played up and were always told how great they were. Eventually other players catch up in ability with age or the stud joins another team where everyone is that good - In these situations, not pretty transitions can occur. By slowing her down in high school, by surrounding her with players her own age and not as good, I sincerely believe it will pay off 10 times when she gets to college.

6. There is something special about being the first. Not too many players can say they were the First - For instance, the current Penn State team is awesome, but they are not the first National Championship team for Penn State Volleyball. Your daughter will not be the first good player at the original high school and her team's will not be the first great team at her original high school, but she could well be the first of each at her new school.

I say stay put, trust a little karma (maybe there is a reason your house is in the new district), allow her to slow down a bit but still develop crucial leadership skills and keep your focus on club.


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