November 18, 2011

High Performance Holiday Volleyball Camp

Dear Coach,

My daughter is currently in 8th grade and has been playing volleyball since she was 9 years old. She aspires to play in college and even dreams of representing the USA as an Olympic team member. She attends a small private school that does not have any sports programs, so until she starts high school next year, she will have been able to play only during club seasons. She takes private lessons pretty much year-round and has also been working weekly with a CrossFit trainer who specializes in volleyball-relevant skills (vertical, speed, agility, injury prevention for knees and shoulders). She has played up since she was 10 and was a six rotation starter on her 14s team last year. She loves the game and wants to take advantage of every opportunity to play, learn, and develop that is available to her. Beginning two years ago, she began participating in the USAV HP program. She tried out for the first time in the Spring of 2010 and was invited to (and attended) the Future Select A3 camp that summer. After last Spring's tryout, she was invited to (and attended) the Future Select A2 camp. Last month, she received an invitation to the Select Holiday Camp in December.

I gather from reading earlier posts that you might not be a big fan of the USAV HP program, and am curious what your opinion is of the Holiday Camp option. I have read that seeing Holiday Camp on a PSA's resume is meaningful to college coaches. Do you agree with this? We realize that the odds of any individual ending up playing in the Olympics are vanishingly small, but so far (and we all realize that there is still a long road ahead and anything can happen) our daughter's development, both physical and volleyball related have supported her aspirations. In your opinion, is there any advantage to investing the family resources (time, effort, etc.) in her participation in the USAV HP program in general and the Holiday Camp in particular?

Thanks in advance for your input. Thanks also for your wonderful book -- we will use it as our blueprint as she begins the college recruiting process next year!


A volleyball mom
I was actually stunned that USA Volleyball would have the gumption/gall to promote a Select Holiday Camp! They are as bad as us college volleyball coaches with camps and demands upon volleyball players!  As I know it, the Holidays are about the only down time left to high school players because of the ever expanding club schedule and high school summer commitments.
I can only speak for myself and a handful of coaches, within the DI and DII ranks, but the Select Holiday Camp would have exactly zero positivity for college coaches. We are decompressing after our season and  getting ready to hit the road in January to begin on the never ending recruiting classes.  Being selected for anything does not hold value because we want to see athletes with our eyes and it is only our eyes which will determine our interest in Prospective Student Athletes.  By the time a SA has made or been selected to any High Performance anything, we will have seen them play in person or shortly will 'discover' them during the course of the club schedule.
The National team, like college coaches, is interested in talent.  If your daughter never did anything at all with USA Volleyball, club or Select HP anything, and she was one of the top players in the country, then she would be on the USA Volleyball Women's Roster.  The irony is the current development of the USA players, on the highest level is done via the international professional leagues, not USA systems.  Top college players are accepting pro contracts, then coming into the USA system for the top team in international competitions. 
Recognizing that your daughter does not have a school league to get her volleyball touches during the fall, I would only consider the Holiday Select Team/Camp if you believe she needs to increase her short term ability before the start of the heavier club volleyball season; which, I honestly cannot see because your daughter has been in private lessons/physical training and is only in 8th grade.
Another consideration, if you have the time/resources, is if she enjoys these types of camps because of the style of training or positive affirmation of her long term goals, then extra touches on the ball are a good thing provided they are provided a positive environment.
Thank you for the compliments on Inside College Volleyball and I hope it helps!


  1. I respectfully disagree with the coach above. My daughter has been once to future select Holiday camp (in 8th grade), held in Colorado Springs (COS). She was WIPED out at the end of the week...all day long, from sunrise to after sunset, film study, drills, competition, and at the end of the week a two day tournament, that ended by playing up against the older age group...that was an eye opener, seeing the faster pace of play against older elite athletes. She did not want to hear about or talk about volleyball for 2 days after the camp(a first), and we enjoyed COS, taking her into the nearby mountains for some hiking in the snow.

    The difference in her game before and after camp was quickly noticed by coaches on both sides of the net. Her confidence had grown, and she went from being an important starter to the centerpiece of the team. her hitting/kill % increased from 0.31/0.43 to 0.49/0.62 respectively. She went from being shy and quiet, to a team leader, calling loud and long for the ball. These are all things that she has let us know were taught to her at camp, and emphacized on her very thorough evaluation and feedback by college coaches that worked with her, 7:1 ratio.

    Her select tryouts did not go well this spring. Her block touch was 5" below her max, as was her approach. Her serves were off, When we worried out loud about this, a coach told us 'don't worry, they know her from Holiday camp...they will look at both evaluations and take the better one'. He was correct, she made select A1 for summer 2014 despite a poor tryout.

    When she got the letter inviting her to this Dec select holiday camp, we had expected her to say no thanks. She was now a known quantity with 3 evaluations...she did not need to prove herself to reach her goal of being on the A1 select squad in 2015. She immediately said yes...while the cost is high ($400 for plane ticket, $650-750 for camp), after we asked her why she wanted to go back we decided it was a no brainer. Her little sisters wanted to go back as well...they loved the environment that COS has to offer.

    Her reason for wanting to go back may seem shallow..."I want to see the friends I made...we all agreed we were coming back if invited"...we have learned this is what makes volleyball a great team sport for girls...of all the sports our girls do (and they do a lot) volleyball develops tighter friendships than any of them, Suffering thru a week of 3 a days, plus 1-2 hours of film study, created bonds that cant be matched in club or even high school.

    I would go if you have the time and money.To save money you can have her fly by herself. We saw this (and did this last camp in Tulsa)...they are VERY good about making sure girls are connected quickly and safely from airport to the Olympic training center. She will be in good hands thruout the week. Just don't expect long calls if at all...she will be VERY tired at the end of the day.

  2. My daughter also had a great experience at the USAV Holiday Camp and has attended multiple camps as well. The elevation in her play since joining the HP Program has been incredible. We also have seen an increase in her vocal leadership abilities and her court presence as well. She is in the 8th grad, and was named Captain of the Varsity Volleyball team by her team mates at her future High School. She's a 6 rotation player and leads the team in Kills, HP, KP and Aces.

    As you alleviated to earlier, I am certain that part of the reason she gained such tremendous proficiency was due to the outstanding quality coaching she received during the club/school season, but her effort was fueled solely by the desire to be an Olympian. Now could that desire fuel her efforts without going to a Holiday Camp or HP Championship tourney and representing her country, I suppose so, but there is nothing you could say that would convince me that that fuel would burn as bright as the pride she carries around knowing she's a member of TEAM USA. That she competed against another country while wearing a USA jersey. That for five days in December she gets the ultimate volleyball players christmas present, (more volleyball). That she gets to live in a dorm that houses Olympic athletes. She gets to eat her meals in a cafeteria that is only accessible to Olympic athletes in training. That she's on a team with the best volleyball players in the country, and she was invited... chosen... selected.... hand picked.... based on her skills at a volleyball player.

    Affirmation... Affirmation that is experienced, not just told. Here's an example: Before the season a coach says to his player "The papers say your one of the best players in the country". After attending an elite college skills camp the same coach says to his player "The papers say your one of the best players in the country". Which one do you think the player believed more? In both instances I'm sure the athlete knows that he/she is good, but without having stepped on a court/field and stacking yourself against the best players" in the country, there will more than likely be a bit of doubt as to the validity of that statement. Attending a Holiday Camp or HP Championship removes that doubt in my opinion and helps to validate an athletes perception of them self.

    Yes colleges coaches offer with their eyes, but who they attempt to recruit is based on information.... and being selected for a holiday camp puts a kid on the short list at most places. Why wouldn't it? and for the record, coaches don't magically show up court side. They come to check out PSA's.who have demonstrated that they are worth considering prior to actually seeing them. What better way to make that happen then to have USAV designate an athlete as one of the "Top 42 Players" in the country? Yes, you still have to perform when the coach is court side at whatever tournament they show up at, but without her experiences in the HP program I doubt any of those coaches would know to stop by our team in pool/bracket play.

    My daughter started receiving PSA forms from colleges the moment her name was published to a USAV HP roster. Nothing prior. Each year after she's named to a team the unsolicited correspondence gets larger.

    Lastly, the friendships she's developed with girls from all across the country has been priceless, not to mention the life affirming aspects of being surrounded by athletes and coaches who are committed as intently to the sport as she is.

    Nothing is certain in life.... therefore, being chosen to me is a once in a lifetime moment... I don't live to go work. I work so I can make memories.... My favorite saying is, "Let's go make a memory." So...

    Olympics or no...
    College D1 Scholarship or no...
    Next years invitation to the Holiday Camp or no
    Selection to the A1 National Team or no.....

    ... we will go to Colorado for the Christmas Holiday and make a memory at the first opportunity we get.


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