February 23, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

I am recovering from a huge party and gambling junket to Sin City........Well, maybe that is an extreme exaggeration. Rather, just some observations gleaned while attending the Las Vegas President's Day weekend tournament.

1. It was nice to see that there was no admission charge at the Las Vegas tournament. I would like to accept credit for this situation, as I am positive this site is creating a ground swell of indignation among the VolleyFolk about being double bing'ed to watch their VolleyPSA's. OK, another exaggeration but it was still nice to see. It was almost a bit comical, because for the few minutes that I was checking in as a college coach, there were numerous parents who had to be told "no admission charge". Good for you SoCal Region!!!

2. Either the nets were low or this tournament has an overabundance of really tall players. The impression of the tall trees may be a bit skewed, as this tournament is populated by the 17 and 18 age groups, but I was just amazed by the number of players which were 6"3" and above. Back in the day, a 6'3" was an oddity and could barely walk and talk. Now, these monsters of the Sport Court move like they are extras for Cirque du Soleil! My initial reaction was my college team is a bunch of umpa lumpas, and I need to get some of these Long Ones or we will be in a losing battle. Speed and ball control can overwhelm height, but speed and ball control cannot beat those teams which have the tri-fecta of height, speed and ball control!

3. There were many, many, many Division I programs with scholarships available for the 2011 class and these coaches were recruiting hard in Las Vegas. I have written on many occasions about the fact that there are NCAA DI scholarships available into the Spring of the senior year for a PSA and this was just more proof. It was interesting to note, that these available scholarships were within a wide range of programs; Power Conference teams, mid-majors, low DI all had openings they were looking to fill. I could not count all the NCAA DII, JC and NAIA programs there to find players for the fall. Don't panic if your 2011 PSA was not there and keep working hard to get information out to College Volleyball programs, because these available scholarships are still available. For me, this tournament just illustrates that VolleyFamilies have more time than they think, and should fight the tendency to get panicked about not having a viable option in front of them after the Holidays of the Senior year of club.

4. Still don't like the 'all nets allowed rule'....I understand that this is not really the rule interpretation but this is what it has become. This result can be because of the club players being the down referee in many matches and players usually are not the best down officials. Mix this with the definition of the new net rule, and the result is hardly anything gets called because the player/referee now has to judge the net contact. Before it was simple; net is bouncing like the team in the pre-match circle chant, then it was a net. Now, net is bouncing but did the player actually touch the white perimeter? It was interesting to see a significant uptick in net calls when the down referee was a traditional official (adult person in a white polo shirt), which were used for the cross-over and play off matches. For me, it just is not right to see the net getting slammed, bounding up and down, but no whistle. It does affect play, and it creates a dangerous playing situation as the net has no longer has a negativity associated with its contact - I saw more under calls at this tournament than ever before. I believe this is a result of players attacking balls very near the net and their approach momentum takes them past the center line. I wonder how many blown ankles and knees will occur....bad rule, bad rule, bad rule.

5. A hospitality room! Yes, Las Vegas still has a coach's hospitality room!!!!! It used to be that every large tournament had a coach's hospitality room, but right now, the Las Vegas tournament is the only one I know of which currently hosts such a space. This may seem rather petty of me to note this, but there are many positives of such a room - It creates the opportunity for College Volleyball coaches to get out of the gym for a brief spell to clear their head, review their notes on recruiting, plan the next tour through the gym to see recruits, get something to eat and jump back in quickly. If a coach is not in a gym because they are out in some restaurant getting lunch to decompress, then this is less opportunity for a College Volleyball coach to be scouting players. Also, it creates a space away from parents, players, whistles and flying volleyballs to talk to club coaches about players. In the Las Vegas Hospitality Room, there is a long table filled with placed information on club teams and senior PSA's, and college coaches all take a long look at this table's information. The food was not great, nor did it need to be, but the space was great.

6. As the major club tournaments have grown in participation, the venues have transitioned away from multi gym set ups to one massive convention center. A complaint about the Las Vegas tournament is that they only use one large facility with @ 18 courts and many, many sites with 3 courts around the city. One would think that with the space available in Las Vegas via the Convention Center or massive hotel/casino properties, that a single site could be found. But, it must be cost prohibitive or the Southern California Region would logically go in this direction because the dynamics of running a 600 team tournament in 10 different facilities must be just crazy. A positive of the multi site arrangement is that local high schools may be getting some money to rent out their gyms. In today's economy, I would rather have funds going to a high school than a convention center or casino property.

7. Speaking of hotel-casino properties, Las Vegas is still building them bigger and bigger. I can remember when the first wave of 'big' casino resorts were opening up; the Luxor pyramid was this big, cool thing and now it looks like a Lego exhibit. You used to be able to see a distant view of the Las Vegas Strip and pick out each unique property - The Mandalay Bay, then the Luxor, the MGM, the Bellagio, etc., but now, there are so many mega properties that they all blend together like a mega city skyline! Even driving on I-15, right next to the casinos, it is hard to distinguish between them all.

8. It does rain in Las Vegas. Not like southern thunderstorm rain but does get wet there, as witnessed the first couple of mornings. After the sun came out, it was cool to see the distant snow capped mountains and the long views of the desert valley.

9. I still don't agree with NCAA Division I Volleyball coaches being club coaches for the simple reason that they have eyes and a memory. This situation allows many programs to have three coaches attending club tournaments, when the rule states that only two may be off campus. Even if these College/club coaches don't ever leave their specific court (which is not the case), they have eyes and and will remember what players are good. Even if they only wear the clothing of the club, the PSA's will know they are a College Volleyball coach. There is a reason that NCAA mens/womens basketball does not allow their coaches to be involved in AAU/club basketball; inappropriate recruiting. It is disheartening to see Club/college coaches floating between courts where the other teams within their club are playing to 'watch'.

10. One of the things that always amuses me is the play and sprint of teams on Monday afternoon. Because Tuesday is a school day, the teams east of Las Vegas try to stay as long as possible in the tournament but many times have to play and then bolt for the airport; I mean literally sprinting out the door, into the vans and booking it to the airport, where they do it all over again to get to the gate!

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