Addressing Physical Competency In A Club Setting

By Jimmy Jarmuth, Club Director, Illini Elite

In the last few years there has been plenty of research and innovation going on in the sport of volleyball in terms of how we train. This can be partially attributed to the increased attention that is being given to injuries as of late; including overuse injuries, which have grown tremendously in its relevance. This led our club, Illini Elite, to take a look at ourselves to see not only how we are preventing injuries to our players, but also how we are training them as a whole. 

We were lucky enough to have some extremely helpful guidance along the way. We enlisted the help of Randy Ballard, athletic trainer with the University of Illinois Women’s Volleyball team. In addition to his role with the volleyball program, Randy has also trained Track & Field athletes, both at Illinois as well as with Team USA. He has done tireless research on the topic and continually improves the tactics and strategies that he and the athletic training staff implement.

The first step of the process was to figure out what would be the most important areas for us to focus on. In deciding this, we needed to take into account where in the maturation process our players were. As you would imagine, this can vary greatly between a 14 year old compared to an 18 year old. Certain methods would be either less feasible or would be less indicative of deficiencies that we were looking to measure. Randy was also able to give us feedback on deficiencies he consistently sees players arriving with at the collegiate level.  We can then prepare them to be at their best while they are playing at our club, and also arriving at college much closer physically to where they need to be. 

Although there are many areas of importance, we started with just a few and added more as time went on. The three areas that we focused on first are:
- Trunk Integrity
- Ankle Mobility
- Landing Competency

After we figured out the important areas to attend to we needed to then come up with a plan of action for addressing those issues. We were able to do this in a couple different ways. The first was to adjust certain aspects of our active dynamic warm-up, which our players complete at the beginning of every practice. We noticed that some of the things that we were doing were outdated, unnecessary, or at least somewhat counterproductive. We were able to replace these parts with exercises or stretches that were in line with our new agenda. The other way we addressed these areas of concern was through our lifting/conditioning program. Prior to last season, after years of designing our own programs, we decided to partner with Warbird Training Academy. Warbird is a local company that provides training and designs programs for individuals and groups in the Bloomington-Normal area for a variety of sports. We were able to work in conjunction with them in order to ensure the program was designed to suit our needs. Between this and adjusting our active dynamic warm-up we were able to cover all 3 areas in a variety of ways.

Trunk Integrity
You may more commonly refer to Trunk Integrity as “core strength” or something along those lines. However you word it, it is an extremely important aspect of volleyball. A majority of volleyball movements require strength from this area in order to perform them at a high level. Examples include creating torque when hitting, maintaining posture/body position when passing, properly penetrating/resisting force when blocking, etc. We were able to address this area of concern a few different ways. The first is through our warm-up routine which is done in lines from one end line to the other. Players begin in push-up position at one end line. They stay in push-up position as they walk three times and then perform a push-up. They repeat this process until they reach the center line where they rotate 180 degrees and continue to the end line. As they perform this we are looking for the players to keep their hips in a straight line from their shoulders to feet. As they perform their push-up we are looking at two different aspects. One is how far down players are able to go during the eccentric phase. The second is how the concentric phase is initiated. Players with a high level of trunk integrity will be able to keep their bodies in line as the concentric phase is initiated. Players with a low level of trunk integrity will have their hips dip down during the concentric phase. 



Another way that we attempted to address this issue was through our lifting program. We used boxes of different heights in order to allow for variance in ability level. Players with the highest level of trunk integrity would do push-ups at ground level. As the level of trunk integrity decreases players would use a higher box in order to reduce the strain on the muscles to perform the skill correctly.



Ankle Mobility
Ankle mobility and flexibility is an area that often goes overlooked in volleyball. However, we all know many players who have a difficult time either getting into or maintaining proper serve receive or defense positioning for an extended period of time. As a club that prides itself on its ball control we felt this was a very important aspect to address. The strategy that we employ is an exercise called Calf Rock-Backs. This was another exercise which we added to our active dynamic warm-up. Players will position themselves down on one knee with their opposite leg at 90 degrees. While keeping their whole foot on the ground they will slowly rock forwards and backwards. Players will be tempted to pick up their heel as they rock forwards and pick up their toe as they rock backwards. It is important to continually remind them to keep their whole foot on the ground. The goal of the exercise is to increase the range of motion both forwards and backwards. If you were to picture a protractor on the side of their shoe, picking up either part of their foot would be the equivalent of tilting the protractor which would not increase the degrees of mobility. Our players do this about 4 times on each leg.



Landing Competency
Landing Competency has become an increasingly popular lately because of the focus on ACL injuries. This is an area that we have found plenty of different ways to try and address. The goal of almost all of these activities is to have the knee in a straight line along a vertical plane and for your hips to be straight as well along a horizontal plane. 
A common sign of a deficiency is a valgus, which is where the knee will bend out. Another sign of a deficiency is when players compensate by shifting their hips to help maintain balance. A couple of the ways that we used to address are included in our warm-up. The first is just a simple lunge to focus on the basics. You would be surprised by how many players have a hard time performing this as it should be done. The focus is for their toe to be pointing forward while keeping their knee in a straight line as the go down into the lunge. We have players keep their arms up in order to help maintain their balance while keeping their hips in line. 

Another way that we address this is with an exercise we call Speed Skater. Players jump out onto one leg and let their opposite leg and arms go out to that side. They repeat this on the other leg and then one more time on the initial leg before taking a 2 step approach and landing. The goal is to maintain a straight line with their knee and hips as their body weight attempts to carry them to the side.



We also address this issue in our conditioning program. The first way is by performing depth jumps. Players will stand on the end of box in an athletic position. They will lean out while on one foot until they basically fall. They will land on 2 feet while absorbing their body weight on the landing. This is a very typical exercise to see a valgus in the knee as the player lands. This is especially true in female players due to their body structure and hip width. Although this is an easier activity in a physical sense, it is important that players not just go through the motion. We consistently remind our players to hold their landing and observe the angle of their knees.

Lastly, we do what we call a 2 to 1. Players will stand in an athletic stance with both feet on the ground. They will then bound out and land on a single leg. This is an activity where you will commonly observe players compensating for their landing by changing the angle of their hips displacing their weight to balance. Players should repeat this on both of their legs.



Illini Elite Volleyball Club is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association. For more information on the JVA and improving your youth and junior volleyball club click here.

What's In a Name?

By John Brannon, Club Diretor, Carolina Union Volleyball Club

One of the goals that we set forth for our club every year is that we want it to be a Great Big Family.  We want older players to care about younger players, we want families to feel connected from year to year regardless of which team their daughter ends up playing for, we want the players to feel like when they walk into the gym that they have had a small part in our success as a club, and we want families to be invested in the well being of their whole team and the whole club!
There are so many parts to building a culture of this nature, and while we certainly don’t have a monopoly on the “best way” to accomplish this goal, we try to be creative to hit a player’s and family’s interest on multiple levels.  
  1. Like most clubs, we use twitter and social media to congratulate players and teams on accomplishments, to update kids on the latest news, and to make big announcements.  
  2. We have a wall where players put their names and handprints, and each year they are with us they add another hand print to that wall.  
  3. We hang canvases of former players who have completed four years of college volleyball
  4. And we have a “wall of fame” where each player that goes on to play in college gets to hang a sport court tile with her college logo, signature, and anything else she wants to add. 
All of these things help facilitate the culture of family in our gym.  But far more important than all of those things put together, and maybe the most important “non-training” thing that we emphasize with coaches, is the importance of learning and using a player’s name.

For us, this begins at tryouts.  Even though a coach’s interaction with a player may only last 30 seconds, we want those 30 seconds to create in that player a sense of belonging and being more than a number.  So when a coach takes the time to ask for a player’s name while she is warming up, or shagging, or on a water break, or even in a drill, it’s an acknowledgement to the player that someone cares enough to take the time to learn something about her beyond whether or not she is a good volleyball player. 

The importance of names is something that I picked up from Chris Redding when he was at UNC Charlotte.  When working his camps he would tell all of us that names matter, nicknames are even better, and we should use the player’s name as much as possible.  And if you can learn the names of the player’s parents . . . even better!  I used to be terrible at remembering names (and in some situations, I still am!), but I took his encouragement as a challenge to improve upon something that I knew would pay dividends for me and the kids I worked with. 

Now, one of my goals as a director that I set for myself and our lead coaches every year is to learn every player’s name in the club by Christmas break.  This isn’t easy (this year we had over 230 players in the travel portion of our club), and sometimes it requires asking a player over and over again, “One more time, what’s your name?”  And of course, it’s not like volleyball players look alike or anything!  Last year we had four 16-year old players that were all about 5’9” with long, jet black hair, a light complexion, and in their first year with us as a club; those took me a time or two (or ten!).  But what I also realized when I’d call a player by the wrong name, or cringe as I was trying to remember her name, was that my fear of messing up a name was way off base.  I always worried that if I got it wrong that the player would think I didn’t care.  But, the truth of the matter was that when I’d mess up, apologize, and ask again, the message she was getting from me was that I cared enough to get it right! 

After my first year in our new facility (a sort of “re-launch” of the club in 2013), the most consistent positive feedback that we received from parents and players was how much it made them feel a part of the whole when the director or a lead coach would come up to a player or parent and call them by their name.  To paraphrase one parent’s remarks, “I wasn’t anyone special, but one of your lead coaches came up to me while my daughter was practicing, sat down and talked to me, and knew who I was and who my daughter was; that told me that we wanted to a be a part of whatever was going on here, because this Club was investing in more than just my daughter’s playing ability.” 


How does this help our volleyball?  Culture. We have found that our training environment has a higher energy, we are able to push kids harder than we were able to before, we can be tough when we need to be, and we can help the girls be encouragers to players outside of their team because the culture has been established that every player in the gym is important! 

So much is communicated with a name, the most important of which is that players and families matter!. Let’s all challenge ourselves today to learn a new name, connect a parent with a player, or even come up with a fun nickname for one of our kids.  The results will speak for themselves!

Carolina Union Volleyball Club is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association under the leadership of Club Director John Brannon. For more information about the JVA click here.




Build the Recruiting Pyramid

To empower the best opportunity for a Prospective Student Athlete's collegiate future, volleyball families can build a pyramid of outreach to college coaches.  When families build this pyramid, it allows them the opportunity to say "no"; saying "no" or "no thank you" is an important component of the recruiting process.

The outreach and evaluation process of potential collegiate programs should look like a pyramid.  When beginning the outreach process, families need to be laying a wide base or the bottom of the pyramid.  Be more open than closed to schools - Academic, Athletic and Geographic parameters should not be rigid.  If you are considering schools within a 3 hour radius, open that circle up to 4 hours.  If you are mainly looking at mid level NCAA Division I programs, reach out to elite level NCAA DII and NAIA programs.  Should small schools be your comfort zone, throw a couple of medium sized schools into the mix.



When families have a wide, stable base layer, it allows them to effectively review and eliminate those programs which may not be their best fit.  When families have determined that a school is not their best fit (for whatever reason), then they can simply say "no thank you" and narrow their choices.  Saying "no" is part of the review and management process.  The college coaches understand "no" because they say "no" to many, many recruits who are not the best fit for their program.

Recruits that have the most success in selecting their best fit for their collegiate future, are those which begin with a sizable number of potential schools and manage the process by saying "no" to achieve their volleyball and academic goals. Start with the 1st stage of the Recruiting Pyramid and and work your way through the process.

If you need further assistance and education on the junior volleyball recruiting process click here.

Also, for additional college volleyball recruiting information and support, please visit our Educational Partner, NCSA Athletic Recruiting.

Volleyball For a Cure

What do you get when you mix an accessory line with youth volleyball teams? The VB 4 CURE SERIES! The newest Power League sponsored by JVA member clubs Premier Academy, Pineapple SportONE Volleyball and A2 Volleyball that brings teams together to compete not only for a championship, but for a life-changing cause.

The VB 4 Cure Series Started in 2014 by Pineapple and Premier and added A2 in 2015 to broaden out the cities.  The power league is comprised of club level teams who compete in a nice round robin format with the goal of lessening travel, playing similar skill competition, and a way to give back to a great charity that is focused on women, which also sells a product that is well known by teen girls (Vera Bradley). Below are details about the Power League.

Host Cities: 
Maumee, OH (right outside Toledo)
Ft Wayne, IN
Lewis Center, OH (right outside Columbus)

Host Playing Sites: 
Premier Academy (Maumee, OH)
SportONE Fieldhouse (Ft Wayne, IN)
A2 Sport Gardens (Lewis Center, OH) 

Schedule:
Three weekends (6 play dates) with teams rotating between each site over three weekends. The league weekends are one weekend per month in January, February and March.

Afternoon start on all Saturdays to help lower travel/hotel costs for clubs. 5-6 Matches per weekend

Divisions:
This league is designed for "club" level teams. The sponsor clubs enter all of their non-national level teams and then area clubs enter club level teams as well. The league divisions are 12s-18s. Teams may participate in 2 weekend dates only if they need to for scheduling with a lower entry fee.

The Cause
The league holds an auction and raffle to benefit the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. A huge basket of Vera items are auctioned off at each site for $1 per ticket. All proceeds of the basket, 50/50 raffles and 15 dollars of each team entry fee are donated to the Vera Bradley Foundation. Last year the league raised $700 in it's first year.

The Future
The league is all inclusive to any teams regardless of affiliation but is known as a JVA Power LeagueThe league sponsors are hoping to grow the league significantly next year in 2016 since the league is centrally located to so many cities and clubs, now using three very nice playing sites (Columbus was added this year as a site). Last year the league was comprised of 37 teams, this year 42 but the league can hold up to 128 teams. 

There are two weekends left in the league this season and entries are still being accepted for March 7-8 and March 21-22. To enter one or both dates email Stephanie Harms. 
For more information about this league email Jay Golsteyn. With hopes of growing this league and the support for this great cause, the league is actively seeking more club entries in 2016.

For more youth and junior volleyball education and information on Power Leagues visit www.jvaonline.org. 

7 Steps to Landing A Sponsor For Your Volleyball Club


You’re a few weeks into your club season and you realize your teams have qualified for more tournaments than expected, but you don’t have the funds to front the tournament fees. What can you do to generate the needed revenue without charging your players more?

Sell Sponsorships!

Don’t know the first thing about selling sponsorships? Well, here are 7 steps to guide you:

Step 1 – Define your audience and assets

Essentially, this first step is about taking inventory on the size of the audience you can deliver to a sponsor and what assets they can use to connect with that audience.

Your audience can be defined by calculating the number of players, parents and coaches who are in your club and the amount of people that will be exposed to your club throughout the year. These include opposing clubs, community members, your players’ peers, etc.

Finding the exact size of your audience is almost impossible, but listing statistics that include your club size, number of tournaments you participate in or run and any other community outreach events gives business owners a good ballpark figure.

Once you have provided that figure, you’ll need to list assets that a sponsor could use to connect with that audience. To start a good list of assets, ask yourself:


What would you be willing to put a sponsor’s logo on?

o   On the wall of your facility
o   On your team’s jerseys, warm-up gear, backpacks
o   Website



What could you give a sponsor the naming rights to?

o   Tournaments (i.e. The Jamba Juice Jamboree)
o   Teams (i.e. State Farm Vipers 16 – 1)
o   Club (i.e. The Kent Kukamugas)

What type of online exposure could you give?

o   Logo on your website
o   Email blasts to your members
o   Social media shout outs

Don’t stop with just these; be creative and list everything possible that could potentially add value to a sponsor.


Step 2 – Create your sponsorship packages

In Step 2, you want to organize everything you wrote down in Step 1 into packages that vary in marketing power. Start with an introductory level sponsorship for companies with smaller budgets, then progress into more expensive packages until you’ve created a good, better best package list.
  •   SILVER

o   Logo on website
o   Logo in bi-weekly newsletters
o   Monthly Facebook posts or promotions
o   Sign on the wall in facility

  •   GOLD

o   Logo on website
o   Logo in bi-weekly newsletters
o   Monthly Facebook posts or promotions
o   Sign on the wall in facility
o   Flyer handout to all parents in the club twice a year


  •   PLATINUM

o   Website banner advertisement
o   Logo in bi-weekly newsletters
o   Monthly Facebook posts or promotions
o   Sign on the wall in facility
o   Flyer handout to all parents in the club twice a year
o   Three email blasts to all parents about a promotion or service provided

Aside from the basic packages you just organized, brainstorm how you can build big-ticket items that sponsors may want to buy exclusive rights to. This could include a special photo contest, tournament naming rights or the rights to put a logo on every player’s jersey.

Quick tip: When creating your big-ticket items, make sure they give sponsors the opportunity to earn a return on their investment (ROI). This is the most overlooked element of youth sports sponsorships, and it needs to be a focal point of how your big-ticket items are set up. 

Examples of ROI opportunities in big-ticket items:

Monthly social media photo contest sponsor
  • ROI – Each month club members can win a $25 gift card if they go to the sponsor’s establishment, buy a product, take a picture of themselves with it, then share it on their social media platforms. The person whose picture gets the most likes wins.

Club hosted tournament-naming rights
  • Sponsor will receive naming rights to the Spring Classic Volleyball tournament, which attracts over 50 teams and over 1600 total attendees. As the title sponsor, you will have premium booth space to sell product throughout the tournament.

As you can see, big-ticket items can create opportunities for the sponsor to earn a return through a contest or event sales.


Step 3 – Price your packages

Pricing your sponsorship packages is tough, and there isn’t really a formula to follow that will give you the exact value of what you have to offer. This means you have to do your homework to figure out a fair price that sponsors would be willing to pay.

A great place to start is to calculate what it costs to service the sponsorship package. (For instance, cost of signs, embroidery, etc.) This way you can make sure you don’t lose money. From there, you can ask friends and business owners what they might be willing to pay and you can also talk with anyone else who has sold sponsorships in youth sports in your area to get an idea of what the market can bear.


Step 4 – Create your materials

This step is basically putting together a one-pager (front and back) that displays all the work you’ve already done.

Your one-pager should include:

  •  Overview of your club’s history and season outlook
  • Statistics on your club members and the audience your sponsors will be able to reach
  • Sponsorship offerings and pricing
  • Contact information 

This information should also be put up on your website so that anyone can access it at any time.


Step 5 – Identify potential sponsors

Identifying the right sponsors to go after is a very important step. It could save you a lot of time, effort and discouragement if you’re able to target the right businesses right off the bat. These businesses have the funds, the autonomy to spend, and can realistically benefit from what you have to offer.

Here are a few industries that align well with what volleyball clubs generally have to offer:


·       Fitness gyms
·       Insurance agents
·       Banks
·       Spas
·       Coffee shops
·       Sporting goods stores
·       Financial advisors
·       Realtors
·       Furniture stores
·       Les Schwab
·       Pizza places
·       Auto part stores
·       Burrito places
·       Office supply stores
·       Subways
·       Smoothie shops
·       Nail salons
·       Physical therapists
·       Dentists
·       Massage therapists

One of the easiest ways to determine which businesses to target first is to find out which parents in your club own their own company and which ones are employed by companies on your potential sponsor list. When you identify a few leads that could help you in your search, try striking up a conversation about their company’s giving policy or what they’ve given in the past to youth sports teams.


Step 6 – Sell your packages

Now that you’ve defined what you have to offer, packaged it, up, priced it out and identified some leads, it’s time to sell.

First things first: Find the decision-makers in your potential sponsor list, then figure out a way to get your sponsorship information in front of them. This can be done through email, in-person meeting or over the phone.

Regardless of how you get the information in front of them, make sure you cater your sales pitch to each business specifically. Highlight how sponsoring your volleyball club can help them, not how their money could help you.

If you can’t think of a way your club could help them, you need to go back to Step 5 and work a little harder on targeting the right businesses.


Step 7 – Activation

Simply put, this step is delivering on what you said you would do. To make sure this happens, create systems and checklists to knock off all your to do’s for each sponsor and carry them out better than you promised.

It also helps to check in with the sponsor a few times throughout the year to get feedback on the value you’re providing them and what you could do to increase their exposure or sales.

Also, a nice touch you can add is sending them a thank you card or poster signed by all your players and staff.

What you’ll find is it's the little things you do in the activation step that make it a no-brainer for the sponsor to sign on with you next year. So work hard to provide value and this process will keep getting easier and easier.



The Art of Coaching Volleyball is an educational partner of the Junior Volleyball Association.
For more junior volleyball education visit www.jvaonline.org

Fall in Love with Volleyball: How One Club is Growing the Game with Fun!

Memphis Metro Volleyball began their Youth Volleyball Academy one year ago with a mission to promote the sport of youth volleyball in a safe and fun environment. Many of their older players have younger siblings and they wanted to start learning to play as well, so the club came up with a fun, one hour volleyball class and the Youth Volleyball Academy was born. In one year the program has grown from 6 players to 72 players, which is the gym's capacity. So needless to say, Memphis Metro is looking at ways to continue to grow and improve the Youth Academy next year. Let's take a look at all the components that make this program SO MUCH FUN, the kids are falling in love!

Coaching
Instructors are not only Metro coaches but “Volley Veterans“ of the club, more experienced players 15-18 years old. They have an opportunity to demonstrate and further their leadership and mentoring skills. 


Equipment
What makes their program so unique is that Memphis Metro is introducing volleyball to children as young as three years old. The youngest “Volley Minis” are exercising and developing their muscles, coordination and agility while having fun. In order to make this a fun learning experience, the right equipment is needed: nets, volleyballs, tennis balls, foam balls, cones, balls of all shapes and sizes, cut out foot prints, jumping blocks, jumping tubes for the obstacle course, and hula hoops. 

Memphis Metro built their own net system for the YVA, and the net height is a big deal, as many kids are discouraged when they cannot get the ball over the net. The club uses mini nets that are made of light weight plastic pipes and the net replicates an actual volleyball net. The net height is adjustable so based on each age group the net is 4 feet high for the youngest group, 5 feet high for the next level, and so on. 



For volleyballs they use Molten First Touch V 70 and Mikasa Starter VT2, which are extremely light and soft. The tennis balls are used for throwing and other fun variations of balls are thrown into the mix.

Class Structure
The Youth Academy is structured into 3 classes:

LEVEL 1 VOLLEY MINIS  3-5 Years Old  
6 sessions: Sundays 1:30 -2:30pm 

Lesson Plan 

  • 50% Exercise, 30% Volleyball, 20% Fun 
  • Keep classes small
  • Give maximum attention to each of the "Minis”!

1:30 Welcome time! Hi, happy to have YOU here. 

1:35 Agility: Obstacle course “Follow the river” 

Variety of balance, run, jump, climb, crawl, tumble and roll. 
Click to Watch the Obstacle Course

1:45 Ball Time (use variety of balls, small, big, different shapes)


Throw the ball in the air 
Throw the ball in the air and catch
Bounce the ball to partner – add catch

2:00 Platform Time: Buddy thumbs 

Who can make a passing platform?
Knee Passing - pass the ball up and forward 
Corner Drill
Sticker Time!  

2:10 Arm Swing: bow and arrow 

Step and throw the ball over the net (nerf ball, tennis ball, mini ball)
Hit the ball over the net (ball is being held)
Hit the ball over the net (ball is being tossed)
Sticker time!

2:20 Agility: Roll them, Throw them, and Hit them. Obstacle course - add balls. 


2:30 End 


LEVEL 2 MINI VOLLEYBALL  6-8 years old  
6 sessions – Sunday practices 1:30 – 2:30 pm

Click to Watch This Drill in Action
LEVEL 3 YOUTH DEVELOPMENT  9-12 years old  
12 sessions 


Tips for Club Directors
Memphis Metro is having so much fun building their volleyball community one “volley mini” at the time. For clubs planning to start your own program, here are some tips

  • Start small. When quality is there your program will grow. 
  • Make sure to find the "special" coach who can relate to very young players and bring the fun and energy to each work out. 
  • Make it fun and enjoyable for all. That is the number one goal.  

Let them fall in love with the game  

Memphis Metro is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization that focuses entirely on growing and improving the sport of volleyball at the youth and junior levels. To learn how your club can be involved with the JVA, click here.  For more junior volleyball education visit www.jvaonline.org