September 28, 2017

Late Blooming Volleyball Ability

Hi Coach,

First off I’d like to thank you for the service you provide both parents, athletes AND coaches.  I suspect the coaches benefit from parents being able to access this site by having less questions and frustrations aimed at them.  I am about 1/2 through “Inside College Volleyball” and once again I am enjoying learning about the processes involved in recruitment and the steps that lead to that point.  The book has answered all the questions I had and even ones I did not know I had.  Thank you.

My question is multi layered and I need to provide some background:

My daughter is in 10th grade.  Played club ball on the lowest level team in 9th.  Was a second string member of the freshman “B” team (a very winning team as all our hs teams are) prior to that.  Prior to that she dabbled with volleyball with half season (not really beneficial).  Rather than letting these lower team statuses as a player define her she has chosen to rise above, she took advantage of the learning experience(s) that club ball (even at the basement level) had given her as well as the MAJOR amount of play time she started receiving toward the end of club season.  She easily could’ve won the title “Most Improved Player” club wide.  She also has grown as a person to become a team player and understands the value of what being part of a team is all about.

She participated in intensive training most of summer prior to high school tryouts.  Her HS varsity team is ranked in the top 10 in various polls throughout the Nation this year (usually top 5); so to say that this is a competitive team is an understatement. The HS benefits from parents heavy involvement with their kids in a local small but competitive club.   My daughter made the JV/sophomore team, based on her efforts and combined efforts of camps, private lessons and more camps her growth as a player has been BEYOND remarkable-- this isn’t parental pride speaking, several coaches have pulled both me and her aside to specifically point this out.  I know many parents say “She’s a hard worker” and coaches roll their eyes all the way back but in this case she is beyond a hard worker.  She has also taken the ethos of “TEAM” and has adopted it as her own, which to me is beyond impressive because I wasn’t sure that this kid had that in her.  She is becoming the kind of player coaches seem to write about seeking out: enthusiastic, dedicated, determined and up for trying anything and obviously very coachable (based on her improvement just in two-three months time).  My child also has a non verbal learning disability that has, in the past, affected how she seeks information out and interprets it so to see this growth in her as a person has been a tremendous reward; even if the 'someday wishes' she has don’t come to fruition I know in my heart that volleyball has already given us more than we could possibly seek to give back to the sport.  

She tried out for one of the pins positions for JV (which is what she intensely trained for) but that was to secure her spot on the team (as one of the pins was in sore need of a player to fill the position).  Now that the season is underway it is obvious that coach is grooming her for DS/L — which actually was her long term goal for college ball which she hopes to play.

So here’s the rub and the questions:

• She is now a bench warmer for JV.  Her JV coach took the time to make sure she knew he was beyond impressed with her efforts and enthusiasm at practice & conditioning (“IMPRESSED” is a word he used about 6x during their conversation).  He assured her that her improvement was astounding.  He took the time to tell her this and also made mention she probably wouldn’t play a lot.  So to be clear: she’s been everything that is described by coaches everywhere and because the nature of this RIDICULOUSLY competitive program (meaning every player on the team is worthy of being there) she will likely not be playing.   Her privates coach side eyed that statement and said to both she & I: “How does he KNOW he’ll be not playing her?  Does he have a crystal ball??” This statement comes from a normally straight shooting individual who is not the type to invest energy in a player that isn’t warranted (per reputation).  I think her privates coach sees the determination in my child that doesn’t come around very often.  I asked her to elaborate and she said: “xxx is full of grit and determination, I can’t predict where she will go but I wouldn’t be surprised at the level she ends up."

• While my daughter has stated to me that she is “ok” with this “no playing time” situation and that her "growth will come during club season".  She says those words half heartedly and in this case I fear the fire may burn out because to be so intense and to work so intensely on improving and be outdone by players who have years and dozens upon dozens of sets of experience over her is quite the feat in of itself.  It’s hard to compete with experience sometimes and in this case these girls all play the 1’s team at the club (most of them do anyway).  Remember she came from the very very bottom to be playing close to these girls levels.


• In your experiences with athletes (or even as a parent of an athlete, not sure if you have children): how do you keep up the morale with a child in this particular scenario?  My focus wants to be on focusing on the fun and whatever her long term goals are (and she has lofty goals).  I wonder if I am missing out on something here.

• As a coach for a fifteen year old player: do you think there is more potential to be unlocked in a player that experiences such tremendous growth in the span of months at age 15?

• My belief is that it’s possible that there is a vested interest in many of the starting players on the JV team that also translate to our club.  IN this case do you think growth can be stagnated or do you think a player in such an environment can rise above?

• For club season, do you believe that it would benefit her more being on the “2’s” team (National) and get playing time vs. the 1’s and possibly sit bench?  My belief is yes, it’s playing time that she needs most and my belief is that she should make it known to those that she comes in contact with at the club level that playing time for her trumps everything.

• Lastly the age old question.  Is it better for a determined, goal oriented player to be on a lackluster team with loads of playing time or is it better for this sort of player to be surrounded by experienced “1’s” players and have to sit the bench?  I think I know your answer on some of these but I thought I’d put this out there.

I look forward to your answer.

Volley Mom 

Let me jump right into your questions and thank you for reading Inside College Volleyball:

- Focus on the process.  Every day she has a chance to improve in practice, and by your description, her efforts in training are resulting in rapid improvement.  The goal is to keep improving, and as this is high school, with limited matches (as compared to club), the opportunity to improve is through practice.

- Potential can be a tricky thing, for any coach, at any level to determine.  The 2nd biggest recruiting mistake that college coaches make is over estimating a recruit's potential; first biggest is not paying attention to the attitude/personality of a player.  As your daughter is just 15, I would view this rapid improvement in ability as the gates being opened to her potential, rather than just a short term jump in skills.  

- Unfortunately, there are a number of high school programs which are closely tied in with a local club team; seems like a loop between high school getting players ready for club and the club getting players ready for high school, all within the same core group of families and facilities.  The focus, once again, needs to be on training - every touch will make her better, and she will get the most amount of touches upon the ball in practice.

- As her abilities are rapidly improving, having the supplement of playing time (especially if she has been focused on training time in high school) will be important in her overall growth.  With the development of her physical abilities, she needs to develop her mental abilities as a player.  The nuances of a match; situations, reactions, anticipations, seeing a play develop a split second before, etc., are all part of the playing time experience.  So, playing on a 2's team is better than sitting on a 1's team for her.

- At this moment in her development, playing time need to be the priority in club; she has to 'catch-up' in her game experience.  As her skills and game time experience develop, then in the coming years, the rationale for moving up to a 1's team and being a part time player might make sense.

The bottom line is this - She needs to keep her focus on the process of achieving her long term goals.  Every touch of the ball makes her better; often times, I see good athletes that get caught up in the playing time/club team name drama and stop improving.  

If your daughter has college volleyball goals, the college coaches focus on ability and personality. Club team designator or volume of playing time do not matter to us; your ability to execute the volleyball skill sets are what we look at....and making sure you are a positive, team oriented person!

Good luck,


1 comment:

  1. As a college coach, let me stress that the last line that Coach says is absolutely true.


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