June 12, 2014

Caught between Club and Private School

Hey coach,

Love your website, great source of knowledge.  As a reformed overly obsessed “Volleydad”, I enjoy your take on the sport and the process.

Our situation.  My 13U daughter has been playing club volleyball for the last 4 years and school ball for more years than that.  The last 2 years of club ball have been on the national level with all of the traveling and big tournaments that come along with it.  She is about 5’10” and playing OH.

My dilemma.  Financial reason dictates that in order to send her to the Catholic high school of her choice, we will have to pull back from the intense (read intensely expensive) national level competition.  I am exploring local clubs now in hopes of finding a more regional experience that will still offer good competition and training with the possibility of returning to the national level by 16U (her sophomore year).

My Question 1:  Will playing with and against lesser competition be a huge detriment in her development?  I am considering supplementing the regional practices with private lessons as well. 

My Question 2:  We are a firm believer in academics first and our intent is to use volleyball as a means to gain a top flight education.  How much national club experience would your average D2, D3, and NAIA player have?  With that level being our target for academic reasons, I am wondering if the expenditure is worth the potential gain.

I cannot imagine that I am alone in this situation.  She has talent and a love for the sport that I do not want to quench, my bankroll however does not seem to match that intensity.

At a crossroads in the Club Volleyball Mecca of Louisville, KY.


Thank you for your email and that is a tough position to be in; paying for school and for club volleyball.

Because your daughter is just 13 and seems to have garnered a solid base in her skill development, I think you should be OK switching to a regional club for a few years.  Another positive is she is 5'10" at 13 and the old adage applies, "you can't teach height".

What you should be most concerned about is the talent of the coaching staff, not her competition.  Players do get better playing better competition, but volleyball is a game where the greatest gains in talent are because of talented coaches.  

In my opinion, club teams are playing in too many national tournaments and this leads to burnout, along with too much wear and tear on the player's bodies.  While you are not in Dallas or Houston or Chicago, you are also not in Alabama or North Dakota.  There should be a variety of Regional tournaments, which will present different teams to play against and keep travel costs down. If the regional club could supplement that by playing in the MEQ's in Indy or the JVA World Challenge when in Louisville, then she can garner some higher level competition and collegiate exposure.

The non-DI categories are a mixed bag of backgrounds; from high school only to shorter players on Open Championship teams.  There is just too much variety to put these type of players into clear definitions.

Honestly, you could wait until her Junior or even her Senior year before re-joining at National level team.  I say this for two reasons:

1.  In today's collegiate recruiting environment, the longer you wait to make a decision about college the better.  This means the odds are less that something drastic would occur; coaching change, conference change, huge budget cuts, etc.

2.  If she is top'ed out at 5'10", that is solid but not great height for an OH to grab early, early DI recruiting attention.  This only results in those 5'9" to 5'11" players having to work the process a bit later.  The majority of D2/D3 and NAIA schools secure their players very late Junior year, and mostly into the senior year.

Also consider volleyball options outside of traditional club volleyball - Sand, grass, co-ed, pick up games.  Club mentality has come to dominate, but club can also limit development, especially for OH's.

Hope my answers have helped!

Coach Sonnichsen

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