August 18, 2010

Volleyball Jump Training Q

I have an 8th grader entering 9th grade on Sept 7, so contact is permitted under NCAA rules.

My 14 year old wants to increase her vertical through jump training/plyometrics. 9 months ago her 14s club coach told her to wait until she is 16 so that she does not damage joints or stunt her growth. However, there are tons of power/agility/explosive on-site programs in our area for ages as low as 12-13 and her HS volleyball team that she will make as a freshman in 3 weeks does weight training. My daughter will be 15 in October. Is there a time that's too early for plyometrics? What about aquatic plyomtrics (where water in the pool creates resistance) that might be less jarring on the joints?

Let us know your opinion and what you recommend. Thanks.

- Virginia Dad

If you have your daughter engage in jump/weight training or plyometrics, I will come to Virginia and go Thomas Jefferson on you!!! (don't think that line really makes sense, but it sounded cool!).

What concerns me about plyometrics and any weight training at an age before 16 or really 18, is that there will be immediate improvement in jump/explosiveness, but it is unclear as to the 10 year ramifications. The human body is geared to overcome challenges and stress environments - Just watch some of these crazy Discovery Channel shows. I can take my Grandma and teach her to jump higher, but what will it do to her joints and how with this action of jump training impact her skeletal structure? I believe this situation is also true of young people, but the impact or negative consequences are hid by their youth.

My observational experience is that the body is still developing up into a PSA's Senior year of high school. I am not concerned about stunting growth with lifting and/or jump training (because the muscle development won't be extreme with the usual routines) but rather the wear and tear on the joints. At what point does tendinitis get a hold, at what point do micro fractures occur, at what point do the ankles/hips/knees/backs just start to constantly ache. Younger players can take a lot of training, and have a quicker recovery time because they are young, but there is an instant when the body is overcome. And when the body is overcome, does it heal or does the player just ignore it because they are young (not their fault, but rather the genetic disposition of human beings)?

I have seen it all to often when a recruit arrives to college, after a strenuous club career and they are just worn down and out. There are some elite level club teams in the USA that I am a hesitant to recruit from; not because the players are lacking talent, but rather they have physically trained at such a high level of intensity that stress injuries are lurking.

Because of my concern (fear) of creating stress injuries during training, I never go more than 2 days in a row of intense physical training with out a full day off in the pre-season, and I am very aware of providing down time for the body during the stresses of training and competition.

I think the best and safest way for young players to increase their vertical is too just jump within the sport; play volleyball on the sand, pick up at the Y, open gym at the high schools. If you use a muscle it will get stronger/fitter. If you are jumping as a part of playing volleyball, especially as a part of playing pick-up competitive volleyball games, you will raise your vertical as competitive by product.

Another consideration, is how wise is it to use this time to jump train? There is only a finite amount of hours, and money, and physical stress, and traffic, and vacation, and....., in a week - Why not use this time to improve your passing, or your setting or your defense, instead of just your jump? Instead of spending time and money to go through a jump training session, go find an open gym or a hitter/setter camp or go find a beach/sand court.

Jumping high is great, and looks cool, but if you can't pass, you won't play. If you can't hit the ball consistently around the block and in because your arm swing is not developed, then that high jump is wasted.

Also, there is a a whole pallet of genetics that no amount of lifting will change - Some kids just jump high and some don't. This can be a tough thing to hear, but is the truth. When I played, I considered myself to possess a good jump, but there were a couple of players on my team which jumped higher and it was all genetics. One person was rail thin, could not squat the bar, but flew - Another player was stout with a capital S and could squat 10 of me, and also flew.

I always get a laugh when a parent makes the comment during the recruiting process or when their daughter is a freshman, "I don't know where she gets her jump/quickness, because no one else in our entire family is athletic!".

If I had to put a name on the intangibles of volleyball, whether it be jump ability, attack arm swing, passing, mental toughness, the name would be IT. Some players have IT and some players don't - The really good ones have IT in many different categories. As I have written about previously, I used to believe in my younger coaching days that I could train or magically make IT appear in players - Now, I don't feel this is the case. I know I can make IT shine brighter, I can develop the basic skill sets in those categories where a player does not have IT, but I can't wave my magical Mikasa and bequeath IT upon a player.

Back to the question from the Gentleman from Virginia (which has produced 8 Presidents of the United States, including 4 out of the first 5!) - If you or your daughter is dead set on some type of jump training at her age, then I would lean toward the aquatic training to lesson the landing impact upon the body. If a pool is not available, then at least try to land on a padded surface or sand.

I believe that physical conditioning is a good thing at any age, and doing sprints and low impact speed work (IN MODERATION!!!!), within the general philosophy of training is a net positive. My concern is that physical training not take on a life of its own, and that it does not take away from time playing/touching the volleyball.

On the hope that a PSA has not engaged in jump training or Eastern Bloc plyometrics, then during the course of their Senior spring, in preparation for college volleyball, a beginning jump training regimen is good. This is not so much to go gonzo on the jump, but to rather begin preparing their body for the training which is coming their way in August.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please stay positive or at the minimum present constructive criticism - Negative comments or attacks upon other reader's opinions will not be posted.