April 16, 2015

Balancing Volleyball and other sports

Hi Coach 

I just found your website today for the first time. Great job. Very enjoyable read.  I have a 12 year old daughter who has been playing for two years now. I've worked with her since she was 10. She loves volleyball and is pretty good at it. She plays travel in the  Power League and is the best outside hitter on the team. Her jump floaters are fantastic and her hands are soft as butter. The ball comes out like a floating balloon. 

But she has recently expressed interests in other sports such as tennis and softball. She is reluctant to take anytime away from volleyball because she is afraid that she will fall behind to her teammates. They are always taking private lessons, doing performance training and going to every camp they can in the summer. And the parents are just crazy about volleyball. Think of "Dance Moms"! 

Anyway, my wife and I are worried about her burning out at an early age.  And what if she has the genetics (and desire) to become a great tennis or softball player? Can a balance be reached allowing her to explore another sport while still keeping up with her teammates progression? 

Thank you 


Glad you enjoy the site and hope you are able to grab a copy of Inside College Volleyball!

Two points which are critical in your email - 1) "soft as butter"; a classic term, 2) understanding that there is a significant chance of burnout, combined with limiting development in other sports, by going too hard too early in volleyball.

12 years old….that is 6th grade?  It is amazing to see how gonzo parents have become at such a young age with their children and I blame it on Tiger Woods.  How is that for a random reference?  Tiger Woods because all these parents saw videos of Tiger at age 4 hitting drivers 200+ yards and beating adults at age 10 and heard the stories of how he practiced all the time, received private instructions, played in all these tournaments, all under the 'guidance' of his father and ended up the best golfer in the world and a mega millionaire.

At your daughter's age, the best thing you can do for her is lay the foundation in as many sports as she is interested in and by your email, she seems to have laid that foundation in Volleyball.  If she takes time away from Volleyball at this age to explore other sports, her loss will only be short term but her gain will be long term.

Short term; yes, her friends and team mates may become slightly better than her because of all the lessons and camps, but because of their age, it is only a slight 'lead' as they are not developed enough physically to maximize these skill sets.   Again, if she has the skill set foundation, then she will be able to keep up and compete with her team mates and friends.

Long term, she will eclipse the majority of them (based upon the athleticism she is gifted with versus her team mate's athleticism when combined with skill sets) because she is not mentally or physically burned out and she has developed her muscle memory/intelligence to play other sports.  By not pounding her body with ten thousand jumps/dives and mentality digesting the pressure from coaches/team mates/parents, she will stay healthy mentally and physically.

The other sports she plays at this age will have the double benefit of developing physicality which can be applied to volleyball, while also developing abilities in other sports which she can use later in life (or become really good at younger in life).  For example, I can pick up a basketball or baseball and be successful (in all modesty) because I played them as a child.  But, I struggle with golf and tennis (love to play both) but am not "good" because I did not pick these sports up until I was well into college.

My advice is trust your gut while being the adult.  Balance her desire to keep up with her team mates with her desire to explore other sports.  Lastly, the fact that you expressed this question demonstrates that you are able to think outside of the herd mentality and I encourage you to continue this mindset!


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