December 15, 2011

Avoiding Volleyball Burnout


I love your website.  There is so much great advice even though my daughter is still young and far from college.

My daughter is a 7th grader and we started our club practices about 3 weeks ago.  She started club when she was 8 and this is her 5th year playing.   I have been the coach every season and plan on continuing.  I played 16 years of Men's club and try to coach with the same passion that I played with.  For years we have seen many kids that play with passion but my daughter never did, until last season.  We went to MEQ and JNC at U12.  Something happened last year and now I have to pull her out of the gym kicking and screaming (not really but you get the point).  

This fall she played Jr High volleyball, which was terrible.  Where we are from, Junior High volleyball is nothing more than an after school daycare for most parents.  Needless to say, she was still excited and was touching the ball.  She was also asked to train with one of the area high schools with their setters.  She is loving EVERY second she gets on the court.

My worry is that at 7th grade she is in her 5th year of club where many or most kids are just beginning or maybe have a year under their belt and by the time she is in 9th or 10th grade she will be burned out.  The team she is with a private club and they are probably the toughest team in our region for the 2nd year in a row.  With our (potential) 9 month schedule if we qualify for Nationals, and this being the trend year after year, how do I help her maintain the passion she has now.

- Concerned coach and father

I commend you for being aware of the volleyball energy your daughter is expending and wanting to keep her from burning out. 

The 9 month club schedule is a bit crazy and I wish USA Volleyball would put some parameters on the season, as to allow for some down time for all involved (just like the NCAA does).  But, for the time being, Volleyball for Junior High and High School age players can be a 12 month cycle.

A few thoughts:

1.  She has passion and wants to be in the gym, so I would let her go.  Kinda like the little kid who just wants to run and run on the playground, you just gotta let them go with it.  Don't try to reign her in now.

2.  Because young ones can't keep the throttle open full go all the time, she will start to fade a bit at some juncture down the road, and it is here that you need to let her slow down.  I think parents sometimes get a little dyslexic with their VB players and try to slow them down when they should be running, and then try to make them run when they should be slowing down.  If she expresses hesitation about going to some "volunteer" workout, or additional training session, then follow that hint and let her know it is OK to take this training session off to recharge.

3.  As Junior High Volleyball seems to just be passes and giggles, it is not a bad thing this season is not intense.  I am getting more and more emails from PSA's who are taking high school volleyball completely off, as to have a down time during year, away from Volleyball.  As your daughter is getting touches and is having fun, but not in a crazy or stressed training/playing environment, then this can be her slower time.

4. I would stay away from any physical training as your daughter is only in 7th grade. One sure way to burn kids out is to put them into heavy cardio or physical training environments, early in their career and in conjunction with their volleyball training.  The body and the mind need time to decompress, especially at such a young age.

5.  Encourage her to pursue/enjoy non-volleyball activities; when something becomes a person's entire world, then things get out of balance; just look at college coaches who seem a bit crazy....too much volleyball.  If she diversifies a bit with art, drama, tennis, swimming, mowing the lawn, etc., then when she is in the gym, it will be fresher.

Good luck this club season!

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