June 2, 2014

The Long Path of the Libero

Hi Coach

Sorry this one might be a bit drawn out but I really need your advice.   I have a 5’5” 16 year old volleyball player.   She usually plays libero/DS for club but since she also hit, she has played OH in school.   She tried out for a new club this year and in the beginning of the season they had her playing OH with little playing time.   Since she wants to play in college and 16s are a big year for recruiting, she talked to the coach about focusing more on defense and the libero position.    Now she currently plays 3 rotations and subs in for the Opp in the back row.   She would really like the opportunity to play libero and has asked her coach on multiple occasions how she can improve and also for the chance to play libero in a game.   While the coach seems open to it and even tells her she is a better digger and passer than the current libero, she has yet to be given the chance to play the position.  Meanwhile, I have had multiple other parents on the team ask me why my daughter is not playing libero.   As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating for my daughter.     I’m thinking of going to the coach and club director about the issue.  She is not asking to just take the place of the current libero but to earn that position and she can’t earn it if she is never allowed to play it.  

Do you have any advice here?   Should I consider another strategy?     Thank you for the help.

Crazed and frustrated volleyball mom.

My advice is this - slow down.  Your stress level is way beyond what the situation calls for; hear me out before your blood pressure rises even more and you come hunt me down!

If you have read collegevolleyballcoach.com, you may remember that I say, "Liberos are last".  This means the majority of Liberos will not secure their collegiate opportunity until spring of their senior year (which is actually a good thing in today's collegiate craziness - less time for not good things to happen before arriving to campus!).

The sophomore year is an important recruiting year, but not for liberos or setters or shorter MB's or average OH's.  The sophomore year is an important year for recruiting if you are a tall MB or a tall OH who can jump high/hit hard and maybe pass.  Since your daughter does not fit the above criteria, the sophomore year is not an important year for her in the recruiting cycle.  

In fact, the junior year may not be an important year in the recruiting cycle - just the reality of being a libero.  The junior year is a good year to start the outreach efforts, but this outreach will most likely not bear fruit until this time as a senior.  

Understand that each position/situation has their own recruiting speed or tempo.  You don't want to ramp up the temp (stress level), when it has no application - all you are going to do is emotionally wear yourself out.

As to your daughter's current contribution/role with the program, she is playing, she is transitioning to a newer position and these are positives.  Sure, it sounds like the Libero spot could be a good fit for her, but at what price?  The club season is past the halfway point, she is getting good touches, she is learning to manage a new position and this year has no impact upon the recruiting cycle.  

Going to the Club Director to request a change, is not going to turn out well - For whatever reason, they club coach is comfortable with the current role of each back row player.  Team chemistry is a precious thing and parents have a role within this team chemistry; if this means that one family has to take one for the team, then that is sports.  From the Club Director and Club Coach's perspective, your daughter was moved from little playing time OH to playing in every game as a DS (many club teams would not even make that change).  Again, this is just the sophomore year and your daughter has more important years to come.

Use this year as the spring board for the next two years - She will get good touches in practice and is learning how to contribute in the back row only with her new role.

When the next club season approaches, make sure that your daughter is trying out for the Libero spot with potential club teams; be very specific in your communication with clubs during the tryout segment. They may not be able to promise the slot, but they can communicate their view of how the libero roll is filled.  If your daughter tries out for a specific position, and communicates this desire with the club, this will allow for a much cleaner club volleyball situation as a junior.

Now, let's return to the question - Please, slow down, enjoy your daughter playing three rotations and remember that for liberos, this year is not important for the recruiting process. Have her focus on maximizing her back row skills, while being a positive team mate!

Coach Sonnichsen

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