Club Tryout Tips for Athletes and Parents

The anticipation of tryouts is filled with a lot of questions and concerns for players and players. Deciding where to tryout and how many clubs to tryout for is just the start. Below are some tryout tips to act as a guide or check list in hopes of making the process easier so you feel good about your decision.
 How Do We Choose a Club? 
1. Easy Thing First – What are your Choices?
  • Identify your age division
    There are two major club affiliations: USAV and AAU. Both have the same September 1 Birthday Cut-off 
  • What Clubs are in my area? Check your USAV region and AAU District web pages for clubs in your area.  Search for clubs on Google. 
  • Determine how far you are willing to travel. 
2. Do Your Research   
  • Visit the club website, contact the club director, attend a parent meeting, and talk to other parents who have played for the club.
  • What is it going to cost me?  Club volleyball can be very expensive.  There are ways to minimize the expense.  How much travel is expected? Does the club have an in-house program that provides training and limits travel?  Does the club have a fund raising program or fees based on income? Does the team travel as a group to out-of-town tournaments or does a parent need to travel with the athlete?
  • Club Dues and Add On Fees: Find out what is included in your dues and what the payment schedule is.  The typical club expenses: administration, court rental, equipment, coaches’ stipends, uniforms, tournament fees, tournament travel, and coaches’ travel expenses.  If there are costs outside of club dues, find out what they are and how they are assessed.  
  • Practice Schedule:  How often and where do the teams train?  What if I miss practice?
  • Tournament Schedule:What is the typical tournament schedule? What if I am unavailable for a tournament?
  • Coaching Staff: Who are the coaches at my age level and what is their experience?  Does the club have someone who oversees the training plan or does each coach prepare their own training plan?
  • Club Philosophy:  This is probably the hardest nut to crack.  Many clubs promote themselves as “elite” or “premier”, but are they really?  What does that mean to them? Do you need a premier club? What are your athlete’s goals after grade school/after high school?  Find out how long the club has been in existence.  If they truly are premier, they will have a track record in the business. While every club wants to win, how does the club make sure that every athlete is valued?  Look for affiliations like Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) or Junior Volleyball Association (JVA).  These are groups that offer resources and education to clubs who prioritize the health and welfare of the athletes.  
  • How Do I Join?  Most clubs select their member through a tryout process.  Ask how the tryout process is managed.
3.  Common Myths
  • Bigger is better 
  • A #1 team in any club is better than a #2 team in any club
  • More expensive is better
  • A paid coach is better than a volunteer coach
  • A coach who played DI is better than a coach who never played at a high level
  • If I play club volleyball, I will get a scholarship

4.  Questions to Discuss as a Family  

  • What do I want out of my club experience: enjoy the game with friends and/or train to have an opportunity to play in college? 
  • How much time do I have to dedicate to club volleyball: will it interfere with a part-time job, with school, with other club sports or time with friends?
  • How much can we afford: dues, travel, family travel?
  • How important is it that I am on the same team as my friend(s)?

How do We Manage Tryouts?

Once you've done your research on the club(s) in your area, and discussed your options as a family, you are ready for the next step.

Identify the clubs that you have decided fit your needs and match your goals.  Follow the registration process required by the club.  Know what the tryout rules are for your area.

Tryout Day
  • Know before going into a tryout where that club fits into your choice list.  
  • Arrive early properly attired.  If a tryout shirt is not provided, wear something noticeable that will stand out. 
  • Check yourself in (do not let your mom or dad do it for you) 
  • Speak for yourself 
  • Follow directions 
  • Hustle at all times: from station to station, shagging balls, huddle-up. 
  • Have fun – smile, be loud, encourage your teammates 
  • It takes no athletic ability to hustle, work hard and have a great attitude! 

It is a tryout, not a clinic.  It is your job to show the coaches what you can do.  Kids will be moving from court to court.  No matter what, keep working hard and keep having fun.
Before you leave, make sure you know how and when selections are made.  If the club is #1 on your choice list and you get an offer, take it – don’t make the club wait.
If you don’t get an offer from your 1st choice and you haven’t been given an indication of your status, call the club director and ask if there is a depth chart and where you are on that chart.

Junior club volleyball can be the best experience of your life but it is your responsibility to do the research and find the right fit.

Good luck this season!

For more junior volleyball education visit

The Player Coach Teammate Relationship

Coaching. At times it can be like parenting, at other times it is like being best friends, but the key to a successful player and coach relationship is succeeding at the fine line between the two.  
A coach has to know when to a) push a player and b) when to laugh and be supportive.  When the relationship is built in this manner, trust exists; and that leads to a bond, a friendship and a desired level of success.

Kerri Walsh Jennings said, “Adversity, if you allow it to, will fortify you and make you the best you can be”.  

As a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a two time collegiate national champion and a four-time national All-American, she knows the importance of
1.) handling adversity
2.) working hard
3.) and utilizing coaching. 
When you play at an Olympic level for over a decade, a coach being over your shoulder is not always necessary, but the process, friendship & ability Kerri and Misty May shared over the years is something all volleyball players can learn from.

Just as important as coaching are the

a.) relationship

b.) cohesiveness

c.) and understanding you have with your teammate(s).

Understanding positions, placement and predicting behavior before the ball comes over the net are keys to success.  When all these characteristics come together, with a coach who acts as a successful mentor and “manager” of the game, the sky is the limit.  Just as it was May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings.

As a coach, there are times to be tough and there are times to be supportive.  Understand the personality of your players and the times they need motivation and the times they need support, because when you can walk this line, you will be a friend and a mentor, not just “Coach X”.

Here are three tips to help you be a successful coach:
  1. Leadership-  Know when to lead and how to adapt.  Adaptation is the key to success.
  2. Knowledge Obviously this is key.  But more than just knowledge of a game, you have to understand your personality, your players’ personalities and how they work together to reach a goal.
  3. Charisma- Have an appeal and a manner that is always what your players are looking for.  Be a tough coach when necessary, but be a supportive friend when needed.  Walking this line can only bring you and your team closer.  

As a teammate, remember three tips to assist you and your team in succeeding and reaching desired success.
  1. Rather on the court or off, be on the same page.  Understand each others tendencies and needs to where you can predict behavior and act as a cohesive unit on the court or in the sand. 
  2. Hard work- Every athlete should work hard.  Rather you are Misty May or playing the game for the first time, hard work and determination will assist you as a player, but more than anything, help you gain the respect of your peers and lead to them working at the same level. 
  3. Have fun, be determined- As athletes, we all know that the term “it’s just a game”, usually does not hit home.  If it was, what would be the point of practicing hard and having a true drive for competition?  But what is vital, is to understand the need to smile, have fun and still be determined to a point where your team is not just close in a match, but they are a family each day of every week.

Click here to Join Team Connection’s TC Club today. It is free, and offers incredible deals on name brand apparel and accessories and includes exclusive content, such as this.
Join the team, where Volleyball Fuels Life
-Brad Gaither, Team Connection Inc.


Beach Volleyball During the Colder Months

By Jeanette Simenson, Former AVP Pro and Beach Club Coach

Well it’s that time of year again, fall festivals, pumpkins, and the changing of the leaves. It’s a bittersweet time for beach volleyball coaches and players. We may still get a few days in the sand but we know it is coming to an end and soon the snow will cover the sand. Well not for you in the south and west, and yes we are jealous! This doesn’t mean we need to end the beach training, we just need to figure out a way to stay in beach shape through these winter months.

When I played on the AVP Tour and lived in Chicago, it was always a trick to stay in “California shape” as I geared up for the Ft. Lauderdale event at the beginning of April. I had only three days where I could get outside into the elements, and they were a challenge. Windy and 45 degrees was the warmest of the days I was able to train outside. So what else can you do to stay in beach shape?
  1. Besides the obvious, buy warm clothes so you can train on any day warmer than 35 degrees.
  2. You will need to continue to build beach drills into your indoor workouts
  3. Find an uneven surface to continue to do lateral movements and jump training
  4. And watch videos of yourself and of other athletes playing.

All of these in combination with your indoor season will continue to give you that added edge of cross training.

The beach drills you did during the summer are a nice change of pace to any indoor practice, kind of like how a two person pit drill or queen of the court can add competition, ball control, and agility to any workout. Make sure to give the athletes goals. For instance, a simple triangle drill where one athlete passes to the center, the other passes the ball to the pin, and the passer waits to approach and hits high line after a solid call from their partner. This works on accuracy of passing, an out of system set/pass to the pin, calling the shot for the hitter, and then execution of the hit to the open area. All skills that need to be foundational to a great club or college team.

Sand or uneven surface training can be easy. Just bundle up and do star drills and 3 step movement drills with or without a ball. On a nice sunny day you can get used to the sun and wind with just movement to the ball and either full execution or just catch and toss.

Serving, the most key essential to any sand game, is an easy thing to do on a day over 35 degrees and preferably some wind so they can work on using it to their benefit.

In our club, Chicago Elite VBC, we are using video training for the indoor practices and putting them on a YouTube link for all the athletes to watch. This is a great idea for sand as well. Have athletes upload games from the summer and share them with teammates. Have conversations online or in person about strategies and how to correct errors. As the coach, you can find great matches of the pros and share those with your sand athletes as well. Watching those videos and then practicing can make a strong mind-body connection for those visual learners we have. 

Lastly, we all know that slump we have in the middle of a long club season. Switching it up, making it fun, and creating a different set of competitive drills can add energy and life to any team. Make a fun Saturday of it with team building and cohesive activities. We did this with my college team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our coach, Steve Lowe, liked to take us to the lake on a warmer day during the spring and do some team bonding. I am convinced this is what helped our team win the first ever Big Ten Championship for the University. To this day we still relish those team days, 23 years later.

Jeanette Simenson-Gurolnick, former UW-Madison Middle Blocker (1988-1992), WPVA/AVP Beach Volleyball Player (1994-2007), Assistant Coach at University of Illinois-Chicago (2002-2004). Current JVA Midwest Representative, Recruiting Coordinator and Beach Club coach for Chicago Elite Volleyball Club (formerly Powerhouse VBC) in Chicago, IL. Where it gets bitter cold and windy!

If you have additional questions on Chicago Elite VBC’s beach program email Jeanette at

For more junior volleyball education, click here.