May 3, 2012

The Curse of the All Around Volleyball Player

Good Afternoon,

My daughter is a freshman who just finished her 1st year of High School & club Volleyball. She started playing 2 yrs ago.

Honestly, this was an extremely frustrating year for her as a player as well as for her parents, after 2 years of success and winning back to back city championships. She is 5’4 ( I am 6’4 so there is room to grow), has the highest vertical in the program and plays OH.  She also plays back row very well , basically she is just a volleyball player.

Problem: No one, neither her Freshman A coach, nor her Club (she played on a regional team) seems to know where to play her.

She has started and played all positions except Setter and as the coach keeps telling me; we just have to find a way to get her on the court. They both seem to plug her in whenever another player in that position makes errors, so it makes it difficult for her to concentrate on a specific
role which has led to frustration.  She is a team leader and the team seems to play harder when she is on the court, which is why the coaches seem to just try to get her out there but of course, her height is a challenge right now.

She is going in to her sophomore year and without a firm position, I feel she is at a disadvantage.

Do you have any advice for how to handle such situations?

Frustrated/Concerned Dad

I hear of situations such as this quite often - A good all around player can help the team in so many positions, that they get 'plugged in' where needed, and switched so often, that it is hard to find a comfort zone.

Part of the solution will naturally come this next year.  As she matures into a sophomore, and her team mates physically mature one more year, it may be easier for her to play in one position. For instance, if she does not grow much, and a couple of team mates sprout up, then she probably won't be playing middle blocker and will be concerned with the outside hitting position.

With school volleyball, VolleyFamilies are at the mercy of the coaches.  Other than our taxes and an equipment fee, players don't pay to play school sports.  If the coach wants the 6'5" player to just be a Libero, gotta take one for the 'team'.  It is easy for me to say, but with school volleyball, you just gotta go with the flow, no matter how much hair you have ripped out of your head trying to stay mellow.  As she develops in club, you will find that school volleyball may become nothing more than a good off season of ball touches for club volleyball.

Speaking of club volleyball, you pay to play so you have the ability to dictate her position.  Again, physical maturity of her and her team mates will assist in getting her into a consistent position.  I would expect that she will be in the OH slot because 5'4-8" MB's are not the norm for 16's club volleyball; this would be the OH position.

Another suggestion is to have her practice her spandex off to become a great OH.  The pure OH is golden at all levels; this is the player who can pass, defend, hit, block and serve so consistently in the OH position that coaches must have them in that position.  I know there are any number of knucklehead coaches out there, but it would take an extremely dense coach to not have a pure OH on the court at all times. 

As she is all around good player, the coach has a valid argument for bouncing her into any gaps.  Unless she makes an unreal growth spurt this summer, she will have the height of a traditional 16's OH, and that is the position she needs to target at becoming even better at - Since you say she is already a good back row player, then keep that passing skills elite, and tell her to focus upon her attacking ability on the left side.

Coach Matt Sonnichsen


  1. AnonymousMay 03, 2012

    High school varsity coaches can be quite frustrating. Ours selected his team solely on their ability to hit the ball hard. It didn't matter if the players couldn't hit the ball into the court with any consistency or were scared to field the ball in the back row. This led to very frustrating sophomore and junior seasons for our daughter, who was a natural MB. He did not pull her up to varsity until the playoffs arrived at the end of her junior year, since he kept hoping that the shorter but stronger natural OHs would eventually learn the middle position. My daughter changed clubs in her Junior year, and was instantly pulled to the top recreational league team. There, she finally got some strong coaching at her position and went on to make the league all-star team at the end of her senior season, after the HS coach realized what a 6'4" middle blocker could do for the team, even if she couldn't make the crowd ooh and ahh with the power of her hits.

  2. Wow.......I will be the first to admit, that us volleyball coaches can be a bit dense!!!

  3. AnonymousMay 03, 2012

    Wow, is 5'4" really the norm for a Freshman OH? Guess that makes my 5'10+" DD, who is a rising Freshman, a possible MB on her high school team....

  4. Let me a 5'4" freshman, her normal or traditional position would be more as an OH as opposed to a MB; not to say that all freshman OH's are normally 5'4". With your DD, she should play the position she feels the most comfortable in, and as a 5'10" freshman, many high school teams would tend to slot her into the MB position.

  5. AnonymousMay 04, 2012

    So I'm thinking our club coach is one of the dense ones as he puts in the tall OHs whose only consistency is to hit in the net and miss more blocks than make, plus it would be match suicide to put them in back row. They are simply in the front as they are tall (with very little talent). Then there is DD who is 5'8"(still in junior high) who can never get a chance to play as an OH even though she hits hard, unreal vertical, quick reflexes to defend after her hit, can play back row, and amazing serves -- the pure OH. And yet I pay for her to ride the bench and every other parent wondering why...... and yep I already talked with the coach. Club director backs the coach, and now we are at season end and no bid to JN. A shame....

  6. AnonymousMay 28, 2013

    My daughter has been so emotionally abused by Volleyball Coaches that my advice is don't play! I could make your head spin with Division 1 stories, Highschool stories, etc. It is awful & makes both the child and parent have horrible anxiety. At least it did for me. She should just continue with private lessons at the best club team around. The better she gets the more court time. My kid sat the bench in Junior High, never played & was the tallest. Yes...she was prob uncoordinated like all giraffes, but the coaches are too dumb to know you have to help them with drills & confidence. She also sat the bench a lot as a freshman, then went straight to Varsity after having private lessons with a good hitting coach. After sitting the bench she was one of only 2 girls to get scholarships. She played Division 1. Full rides aren't everything. There is so much mental abuse that you have to ask yourself if it is worth it. Just food for thought. My daughter was made to play & travel with swine flu, hit with the clip board "Are you going to perform for me today" with 105 plus temp, kicked out of her own home (that we payed for) because she had mono & the coach did not want the other kids to get it. (they had it, just didn't get tested so they could play) Told F you to all the girls. Told they are not allowed to wear make up, have boyfriends, look at your parents while traveling or at home (and we missed her so much) or they wd play someone who can't play their position play it. She was wisked off like Hitlers linch men had her. They wd have 9-10pm curfew while out of the state traveling so they could not see their parents or past team mates playing on other teams. It was horrible, and so much worse than I could ever write on here.

  7. AnonymousMay 28, 2013

    and PS- our High School Coach played his poker buddy/best friends daughter over mine for a year. My daughter was 6'0" & the other was prob 5'2"...sorry, but Division 1 or 2 do not have 5'2" at the net playing O.H. They do want versatile players though. We were told they don't have to play back row. Not true. Most colleges want Outside Hitters to play all the way around. Every parent complained and said why is your kid & this other potential Div 1 kid sitting the bench? Well.....Its Volleyball, and coaches are annoying, what more can we say?


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