If the Shoe Fits: Finding the Right Pair

By Brad Gaither, Team Connection, Inc.

If you are like me, whether it's walking, running, working or playing volleyball, it is vital to have a shoe that is the perfect mix of comfort, style and size.  Without this, we might as well not spend the money.  Nothing is worse than toe slipping, blisters, or the miserable feeling of unstylish footwear.  In today’s world, the latter usually is not an issue, but the other issues can be areas of major concern; so how can you make sure you have the right fit?

In the past, when specific shoes for the sport were an afterthought, who would have thought we would be where we are now.  We have reached a point where many players are equally as concerned about their looks as they are their performance.    Up until the 1930s and 1940s, there was no such thing as a specific volleyball shoe.  Sneakers were sneakers and that is what was used.  Now we have reached a time where each garment of clothing must much, from the shoe laces, to the numbers on our uniforms, each piece is equally vital.  But let’s not forget the most important piece, comfort, which is especially important in finding the best pair of shoes.

For the most part, when selecting a pair of volleyball shoes, for either gender, your 3 primary brands will be Mizuno, Asics and Nike.  Mizuno is usually considered the leader in the clubhouse, with the highest selection, as well as being the official footwear provider of USA Volleyball.  All of this is great, but how do you make sure you have the best shoe fit for your body and game?  
Are you a 220 pound male who jumps high and needs a lot of support for the force of landing?  Surprisingly, many who fit this mold have used basketball shoes in the past.  They have extreme support, with a strong mix of comfort and durability that match what a volleyball player looks for just as much as a hoops star.  Is this standard? No, but with a slightly smaller market in men’s shoes, and especially if the heavy hitter Mizuno does not have a product that fits your needs, this is sometimes considered a viable alternative.  

Usually, for women, a Mizuno shoe is the popular choice.  Mizuno has put the most time into creating volleyball specific shoes and truly understanding the market and player needs.  They have shoes that fit necessary criteria, from desired looks, comfort and durability.  Lateral stability is without a doubt arguably the most important feature for a volleyball shoe, and this is what Mizuno understands with the market.  With a mix of selection, lateral stability and shock absorption, Mizuno is tough to beat.

This leaves two other primary brands, Asics and Adidas.  Adidas, like Nike, has yet to really put a huge market focus into the sport of volleyball, though they still have some selection.  One guarantee with Asics, like the Gel Flashpoint 2 pictured to the right, you will rarely miss out on a fashion statement.  Asics is the closest to matching Mizuno's feel for the market and desire for a complete volleyball shoe, and for the most part they get it, but there colors are often times a work of art in themselves, which can especially attract a young crowd.

Most importantly, regardless of the shoe; volleyball or otherwise, colorful or black, the most important thing to do is get out there and play.  We share a passion for a great sport, and the modern developments of our apparel make the game more enjoyable and more popular for all.  So the most important thing is to get out and play and spread the word, because unlike volleyball shoes, one thing will never change, volleyball is and always will be a great sport.   

For more junior volleyball education go to www.jvaonline.org

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A Volley Dad, a Car Pool and a Great Club Experience

How a Few Families Saved Significant Dollars
During the Club Season
By Jenny Hahn, Executive Director of the JVA 

One of Milwaukee Sting Volleyball Club’s board members shared a spreadsheet that her husband had emailed out to the families in their car pool this past club season.  At first glance, I thought it was hysterical that anyone would stat and chart a car pool.  But then I looked at the numbers.  The carpool saved 11 families over $5,000 in gas and over 100 hours sitting in a gym.  

Steve Litzau is a “Volley Dad” and the man behind the car pool.  Steve has a successful career as an Engineer with Rockwell Automation and plays with friends in a rock ‘n roll band. His wife, Kathy is the Senior Associate Athletic Director and former Women’s Head Coach of UW-Milwaukee, is on our Milwaukee Sting Board of Directors and Head Coach for our 15 Gold team.  Steve and Kathy have four children: one son and three daughters who play club volleyball.

I sat down for lunch with Steve one afternoon to find out more about this volley dad.  Steve explained that this is actually the 3rd year of the car pool.  As an engineer, designing the detailed spreadsheet he used to assign trips was 2nd nature.  Curiosity and a course in statistics led him to track time and money saved.  Driving duties were assigned on a percentage, based on the number of trips a family’s players would have to travel. Everyone ended up driving 75% less than they would have done on their own.

Steve said that communication between the families was crucial.  Each family had a contact sheet with each other’s contact information. It was helpful that the club posted practice schedules 2-4 weeks in advance.  As complicated as it looks, Steve said he only spent about 2 hours a week managing the car pool.

Every time I see Steve at a tournament or in the gym, he has a huge friendly smile.  I asked Steve how he ended up a volley dad.  Not surprisingly, volleyball brought Steve and Kathy together.   Steve played in adult leagues while attending the University of Wisconsin and met Kathy (Cunningham) who was the 2nd Assistant under John Cook for the women’s team at the time, and they met through league friends.

I asked, “Steve, there must be something that you don’t like about club volleyball, what is it?” Steve replied: “Honestly, there really isn’t anything about club volleyball that I don’t like.  I love the opportunities it has given my family to share time together doing something so worthwhile.  The Litzau’s are very competitive and for my wife and children to compete at the level they do is a privilege.  We enjoy all the friends we’ve made and have so much fun with our volleyball friends.”

So if your families can save money, save time driving to and from practices and sitting in practices, and have more quality time, maybe the car pools will be as fun as the Litzau’s.

Definitions of the Data in the Table Above:

Trips Per Week
- This is the total number of trips each family would take for their families practices on a normal week without a tournament on the weekend.  Ex - Litzau - Monday - Kayce =1, Tuesday - Lauren & Danielle, usually at different times and locations = 2, Wednesday - Kayce = 1, Thursday - Lauren, Danielle, and Kayce, all at the same time and location = 1, Saturday - Lauren & Danielle, usually at different times and locations = 2, Grand total = 7.  Note there is an * (footnote) in front of some families denoting trips not taken into consideration in their total or additional trips taken.

Total Trips Without a Car Pool – Trips/Week x 28 Weeks = Family's trips that would have been taken without car pool.

Trips Taken - This is the total number of trips recorded that each family took over the year.   A trip was recorded if parent was the only driver that night, or shared the trip with another family and drove more than one family.

Trips Saved - Total Trips - Trips Taken = Trips Saved.  

% Driven vs Without a Car Pool - Trips Taken / Total Trips = % Driven.  As a car pool, they only drove 26% of what they would have by themselves!

Total $ Saved - Approximately $5000+ saved as a car pool! Estimated gas costs to be ~$7.00 per round trip per car driven.  Logic - It's approximately 20 miles each way.  Average car gets ~20 miles to the gallon.  ~$3.50 per gallon.  All gas costs are Trips (as stated above) x $7.00.

Total Time Without a Car Pool - Total Trips w/out a Car Pool x 3 hrs (1/2 hr each way for driving + 2 hrs of practice time).  

Total Time Spent In Gym – Steve kept track of when each family shared a car pool and when each family drove the car pool by themselves.  When a car pool was shared, each family in that drive spent 1 hour (1/2 hour there and back) of their time driving.  When a car pool was not shared, that family spent 3 hours (1/2 hour each way for driving + 2 hours of practice time in the gym) of their time driving.  These are recorded in full 24 hour days.  
Total Time Saved - Total Time Without a Car Pool - Total Time Spent in Gym.  The car pool saved 3+ months of time not being in the gym or in their cars!

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