July 11, 2011

AAU and JO Club Volleyball Championship Reflections

I am still recovering from a way too long recruiting trip.  I have attended the AAU Volleyball Championships in Orlando the last few years, and did so again this June.  Some summers I will also go to JO's, but not always.  With the JO Championships being in Atlanta and my map skills being suspect, I decided to combine the two trips into one recruiting adventure.

A few too many observations:
  • I have grown to enjoy the AAU Championships, as they have made impressive strides in their viability as a big time Championship event.
  • AAU Positives - The staff is abundant, especially at the Disney/ESPN complex, the layout of both facilities (Disney and the Orange County Convention Center) was easy to navigate, parking at Disney was free and it was only $8.00 (what I paid, which I was surprised by) at the OCCC and for both venues, the parking was in relative close proximity to the gym, the regional diversity of the participating teams with clubs representing every corner and island of the USA, being able to see the Puerto Rican teams in numbers, having the event in the same city each year allows for a certain degree of familarity in travel and the court spacing allowed for an open layout with plenty of room for fans and players to co-exist.
  • AAU Negatives - Very hot and I mean very hot, the hotels were expensive which must be a by product of the giant theme park demands and having two separate venues (Disney and OCCC) which were not walking distance apart.
  • AAU's allows for a good mix of the Island Volleyball culture, which I greatly enjoy watching.  On one hand you have the Hawaiian confident happy casualness and on the other, you have the Puerto Rican excitement and energy.  Probably the best match I saw all championship season were two 15's club teams; one from Hawaii and one from Puerto Rico.  Both teams knew where to be on the court no matter the situation, how to play, used their brains and played with an obvious enthusiasm for the sport.
  • I was not a big fan of the referees wearing t-shirts at AAU's, especially white cotton t-shirts with lots of advertising print.  Let's be serious, this is a Volleyball National Championship and seeing the referees look like part time junior high PE teachers is not correct.
  • USA Volleyball Junior Olympic National Championships should be hearing footsteps because AAU's is doing a very nice job, and their affiliation with Disney/ESPN allowed for broadcasting matches on ESPN3.  
  • The extreme recruiting road trip did allow me to catch up on my cable television (I don't have cable in my house and my TV is used for videos/match tape) and premium channels.  I will say that HBO loves their mini-series. I tried to get into The Game of Thrones and am still on the fence about that one; True Blood got a little far out for me...I originally liked the Vampire simplicity, but then people started morphing into wild animals?
  • I believe we should be able to vote off one of the Real Housewives shows, like they do on Survivor.  There are just too many of them, and at least one (OC) has almost become nothing more than obvious and predictable caricatures.  Maybe it is the whole Jersey thing, but the 'wives of NJ I still find entertaining!
  • As I am watching these reality shows, of which Bravo has cornered the market, I realize that sports are the original reality television.  Reality tv is faux sports for people who don't like sports.  Think about it; all the drama, all the blow ups, all the individual drama dynamics....that is each and every sporting event.  The difference being that the cameras and microphones are usually far enough away from sporting competition, not to catch everything 'reality' tv shows.
  • Speaking of sports on tv, I guess we should not feel too bad about Volleyball struggling to find airtime.  I watched the Gold Cup, a men's soccer tournament including the National Teams of North and Central America, which featured a Final of the USA versus Mexico. I found this soccer match while channel surfing one night, but it was on Univision!  I switched over to the ESPN's, but they had taped auto racing and college baseball showing. 
  • My compliments to the Men's National team coach for Mexico, as he looked very professional on the sideline in a suit and tie.  The USA coach was attired in a USA polo shirt and nylon sweat bottoms.  I was hoping this was his lucky coaching outfit because they looked faded and worn out.  Unfortunately, it was not lucky as the USA lost after blowing a two goal lead.
  • Is there a Volleyball World Cup every four years like what I have been watching on ESPN for FIFA Women's Soccer?  I am not being facetious; I am a NCAA Division I head coach and I honestly do not know. If so, I have never, never seen it on American television.  Maybe Collegiate Sand Volleyball will get the Women's Volleyball World Cup on television (obligatory shot at the AVCA).
  • Junior Club Volleyball players keep getting taller and stronger....just a bunch of Volleyball Monsters walking the Sport Courts today.  I am not short, and I used to be able to look down on the mass majority of Junior Club Volleyball athletes but not any more.  I am looking them eye to eye now!  At least it will force me to improve my posture!
  • JO Positives - I did like the giant inflatables play area for all the VolleyGroms running around, although you could not have paid me enough to have been the person 'monitoring' the area (and not basketball basket/court in sight, unlike the Lone Star Qualifier!), the layout was all on one level and there was good spacing between courts and the center grandstand court was actually a grandstand this time!
  • JO Negatives - Parking was a pain, especially walking through the sauna known as Atlanta in late June/early July to get to the World Congress Convention Center (I mean, come on...how am I supposed to look all DI important when I am dripping sweat coming into the gym?), there was no signage about this venue hosting or welcoming the USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Championships and even on the playing floor, there was not much to say "THIS IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!!" and with the addition of more teams per division and seven more divisions, one gets the feeling that this is just a big money grab by USA Volleyball.
  • I somehow was rented a new GMC Terrain at one location and then a Cadillac SRX at another.  My car review: I found the GMC Terrain and the Cadillac SRX not that impressive, as both were underpowered with an average ride.  Given the obvious price difference between a GMC and Cadillac, I could not see paying for a Cadillac when the GMC felt the same with your eyes closed.
  • I am scared of the post recruiting trip pyramid of paperwork and recruiting logs which are sitting on my desk, but I have to get completed to get my expense report paid!!!!

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