Parent Council: To Be or Not To Be

By Sharon L. Galonski, Club Director, Next Level Volleyball Club

At a pre-season regional meeting two years ago, a presentation was given on the implementation of a parent council by one of the Mid-Atlantic volleyball clubs.  My initial reaction was, “No Way.”  Why would I want parents to have direct involvement with decision making at the club level?”  After all, over the past twenty years as a coach, twelve as director of Next Level Volleyball Club, my communication with parents tended to be when situations were out of hand between a player/parent/coach and I was called upon to step in to mediate and resolve. I saved the Parent Council information for possible review another day.

This past summer, as I was clearing out some old club files, I came across the handouts.  As I re-read the information, I thought, why not give it a try?  After all, we had just completed a season where many parents failed to follow the basic policies outlined in our Parent/Player Club Handbook.  More often than not, the parent attempted to claim that no one had ever informed them of, for example, refund policies in connection with players who decide to quit midseason or parents who didn’t follow the hotel policies and ended up with extra out-of-pocket costs.  I knew I needed to find another way of opening lines of communication to better educate the parent membership. 

I decided that it was my job to make sure that the club focused on all aspects of club volleyball – not just the athlete.  We had to do a better job of educating the parents who are attending every match and who will ultimately advertise our club and their experience to others. They are paying the bills after all. 

Why not put to use what could be our greatest asset to the Club? 
I received a lukewarm response when I presented the idea of a Parent Council to my coaches at our pre-season meeting.  Coaches felt that the Council would turn into nothing more than a venue for parents to complain, complain, and complain some more.  I decided to move forward despite the negative response.

After tryouts when teams had been selected, I asked coaches to seek a representative from each team.  The response by some parents was very hesitant, while others jumped at the chance to be represented.  One coach was unable to get a single parent from his team to step forward.  He asked me what would happen.  I simply responded that his team would not have a voice within the club.  Two days later, he provided me with the name of a parent possibly interested.    

As I mentioned above, my reasons for wanting to start a Parent Council were to open better lines of communication and to find ways to educate our parents.  By sharing ideas for uniforms, practice facilities, tournament selection, fund raising, etc. (and the list goes on), it’s my hope that parents will feel more involved in every aspect of club development.  I’d like to encourage the sense of “family” within Next Level Volleyball Club.  I hope to educate our parents in connection with issues we face involving bullying, racism and harassment by providing parent council representatives with information and guidelines to take back to their teams.  

It’s my hope to be able to discuss tournament rules, reffing requirements, and other guidelines that may be obvious to coaches, but not so obvious to parents.   I want to do a “Personal Insights Profile™” with the parents before we try it with our players to show them in advance different ways we can evaluate players and what strengths and weaknesses they might bring to our teams.  The parents get to be part of the decision making process in a setting that I can control. 

On the flip side, I could be opening a can of worms.  Am I crazy allowing parents to bring forward “concerns” from their team before they become “issues” to be mediated or before they discuss these same matters with their child’s coach?  Am I setting myself up for attack in having to defend every decision I make in connection with club policy?  Maybe the parents don’t know why we participate in USAV, JVA and AAU events?  Maybe they have questions about fees or surcharges with credit card payments?  Maybe parents can provide better feedback on hotels I choose for overnight tournaments?  Who knows – the list could be endless.  I might have to finish my night after a council meeting with a nice glass of wine, or two, or more.  Only time will tell. 

At the end of the day, I believe the combination of parents who have been with the club for years who know the ropes and parents who are experiencing club for the first year will result in better lines of open communication and an understanding of what Next Level Volleyball Club’s goals for the present and the future may be. 

Our first Parent Council meeting is coming up!  I’ll share in a part two article the results of our first season utilizing a Parent Council.  We’ll see if it was meant “to be or not to be.”

[1] Sharon L. Galonski is the Director of Next Level Volleyball Club based out of Franklin, Wisconsin.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of “Court & Spark”

by Leslie Hamann and Jack Hamann

Courtney Thompson pounded a chair.

She was a high school sophomore. Her club team, Kent Juniors, was a national powerhouse. But in a regional Seattle qualifier, Courtney’s team had dropped the first set to Washington Volleyball Academy, with a lineup that included our daughter.

As teams and parents traded sides, we passed behind the Kent Juniors bench. Courtney, a setter, fixed her eyes on her teammates, many of them older and taller. She balled her fist and pounded that chair, announcing, “We are NOT gonna lose to these guys!”

“Wow,” we whispered, “THAT’s a girl we’d want on OUR team.”

In the 14 years since that memorable moment, we’ve heard plenty of people say pretty much the same thing about Courtney. She led her high school to three state championships … her University of Washington team to three Final Fours and a National Championship … her professional club teams to glory.

Courtney's trophy drawer has an Olympic silver medal and a World Championships gold. She is certain to be among those considered for the 2016 Olympic Games roster in Rio. And through it all, she remains as much of an inspiration to players young and old throughout world as she was to her Kent Juniors teammates that day in Seattle.

When USA Volleyball’s Puget Sound Region learned that Seattle would host the 2013 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball Championship, it’s directors decided to create some sort of lasting legacy for those who love the sport. They approached us—veteran documentary producers—about making a one-hour video exploring all that volleyball means to players, coaches, parents and fans. We, in turn, immediately thought of Courtney.

Like all world-class volleyball players, Courtney has spent much of her adult life overseas, making a fairly comfortable living as a pro. Although she currently stars for a top-ranked team in Zurich, she was headed to Poland back in 2012 when we approached her about the documentary.

“Sure you can follow me,” she agreed when we suggested filming for a month in Europe. “But you have to agree to come in February.”

When asked why, she was ready. “In February, it’s dark. It’s cold. The season’s been going for months. The holidays are over. Summer’s still a long way away. That’s the time of year when those who really love and understand the game live the volleyball life.”

We call the documentary “Court & Spark,” adopting a Joni Mitchell song title to reflect the spark Courtney brings to the volleyball court. The program’s first half brings viewers to Łódź, Poland, where Courtney navigates the challenges and rewards of a volleyball-mad town where few speak or understand her language.

The second half brings us to Courtney’s improbable effort to land one of only 12 spots on the USA Olympic roster. Throughout the documentary, we hear from several of Courtney’s USA teammates, plus coaching legends like Karch Kiraly, Hugh McCutcheon, Marv Dunphy and many more.

Most important, Courtney offers extraordinary advice on issues that affect anyone who plays or coaches volleyball: how to deal with parents, how to deal with coaches, how coaches and parents deal with each other, how to handle adversity, how to balance sport with the rest of one’s life. Many who watch “Court & Spark” watch it a second time, and use it as a conversation starter with teammates, coaches and parents at the beginning or end of a season.

On that day back in 2001, Courtney’s Kent Juniors teammates got the message. After a comeback in the second set, they won the decisive third, earning the Regional title. No one celebrated more than Courtney. And no one was more impressed than we were. We still are.

"Court & Spark" the Documentary is available for purchase in the JVA Product Store for only $10 for JVA members (30% discount) and $15 for non-members. For more junior volleyball education and information on becoming a JVA member visit

Hello Recruiting Season!

This is a critical time in the recruiting process for all high school age volleyball players - Preparing for the start of the Recruiting Season!

The MLK Weekend traditionally begins the current year's recruiting cycle.  Per NCAA Rules, NCAA Division I volleyball coaches are allowed to leave campus to evaluate Prospective Student Athletes (PSA's) on the Saturday of the MLK Holiday Weekend (all other college volleyball categories have been able to be off campus to recruit over the Holidays).

For all college volleyball coaches, this MLK weekend tends to be the first weekend where they can attend a major tournament to evaluate PSA's.  Volleyball families must remember that the window of time from Thanksgiving to the MLK weekend can be professional chaos for college volleyball coaches.  Coaching changes, players transferring, programs not renewing scholarships…..all of these situations will create an urgency in the recruiting process, which many college volleyball coaches may not have anticipated.

Don't believe the recruiting rumors that all D1 schools are done recruiting the senior class, or that the only opportunity this late is being a walk on.  The reality is today's recruiting landscape (for all categories) is fluid - Roster spots and scholarship opportunities are constantly opening and closing for each recruiting class and for each level of college volleyball.  PSA's cannot control these situations but they can put themselves into the best position to take advantage of opportunities.

Recruiting is the most important component of a college volleyball coach's responsibilities.  There are a number of average college volleyball coaches which have enjoyed long, successful careers because they successfully recruit players.  And with the ever growing popularity of volleyball for high school age players, college volleyball coaches have the luxury of choice.  In economic terms, supply of quality volleyball recruits has exceeded the demand of college volleyball programs.

Here are some tips for Recruits to focus on in the next few weeks:
  • Reach out to college volleyball programs.  Recruiting has always been a competitive situation for college coaches, and with the current supply/demand recruit ratio, it is now a competitive situation for volleyball families.  The biggest mistake I see with today's recruits, is they wait to be found by a college program, as opposed to putting themselves digitally in front of desired college volleyball programs.
  • Use these days leading up the the MLK weekend and President's Day weekend (which is considered the next major recruiting weekend and a lead in to the heavy recruiting time period) to reach out to appropriate college volleyball programs.
  • Appropriate?  Yes, make sure that the college volleyball programs are a good fit academically, geographically, financially and athletically for you, so do your research.  If you don't have the size/talent to play in the Big 10, then do not reach out to Big 10 schools.  If you hate the cold, then don't write schools in Wisconsin.  If bugs the size of cars freak you out, then don't email schools in Florida (my apologies to WI and FL….both great states but they do have cold weather and huge bugs!).

Don't wait for schools to find you - Put yourself in front of them!  Just make sure that your reach out matches your recruiting comfort zone! 

For more recruiting education click here.

This article was written by Matt Sonnichsen, Director of Volleyball Relations for NCSA, the official partner of the JVA. 

A Beach Volleyball Club in Minnesota Eh?

You wouldn’t think that beach volleyball and Minnesota would go hand in hand.  Minnesota is known for snow, the cold, its numerous lakes, and possibly Paul Bunyan. But soon a new beach volleyball club for boys and girls will hit the market in the Twin Cities. Surface VBC is the brainchild of Eric Poppelman, current Head Coach of Northern Lights 18-2’s.  Eric has been processing his idea for his beach club for over a year.  After winning the 2014 AAU 16 Premier division with his Northern Lights 16-2’s team, Eric began writing things down on paper.

“Making the ideas tangible really helped the creativity flow.  I just began writing down ideas of who, when, where, and how I wanted to train volleyball players in order to help them develop a more complete skill set in the game of volleyball.  Surface VBC is what came about.  I want to train volleyball players that want to be successful on hard court, grass, and sand.  Many players struggle when transitioning to play the game in a different environment.  Surface VBC’s goal is to train its players to be able to perform on any surface and with any number of players.”

The beach club is set to launch their fundraising campaign and open up for registrations on 1/01/2015. The beach season will begin training in May 2015. In the next several months, we will be checking in with updates on the new beach club as it prepares for it's first season.

Here are programs the northern beach club will offer:
  • Boys volleyball will be an important piece of Surface VBC.  Eric grew up playing HS ball in SE WI.  Eric’s sophomore summer in 1990, he played beach volleyball nearly every day from 11-4pm in deep sand at North Beach in Racine, WI.  He grew four inches and increased his vertical by 7 inches that summer entering his junior season.  After noticing how easy the indoor game seemed after that summer of growth and development, Eric realized the importance of playing as much as possible.  
“The learning curve is so high on the beach because you must be able to perform all the skills necessary and work with only one teammate to be successful.   The outdoor game is certainly a struggle at first learning the timing differences and the movement issues, but the more you play the more you figure it out.”  
Dealing with the outdoor elements is also challenging.  Since there is no HS boys volleyball in MN, Eric wants to be able to offer a program to either get boys started in the sand, or allow current indoor, club, boys players a place to continue to develop their games as he did on the beach. 

  • Children of young ages will also have training options with Surface VBC.  Eric has four of his own children under the age of 11, and has been an elementary school teacher with PK-3rd grade teaching certification.  He understands the young learner and wants to be able to give them opportunities to learn the game early.  “We will work on movement, provide beginning fundamentals, and let them have a good time learning a fun game in the sand.  There is very little out there for young kids in our sport.  We will create something for them that will allow them to develop skills at an appropriate rate.  So, when they have the strength, movement, and fundamental skills they can begin playing.”

  • College and recent college players will also have the ability to train with Surface VBC.  Nothing exists right now, in Coach Poppelman’s knowledge, that offers the college player the opportunity to be coached, practice, and train during the summer on the beach.  There are certainly tournaments on the weekends and bar leagues in the evenings, but Poppelman wants to provide the college players with something more.

Another goal of Surface VBC is to offer flexibility in training programs by allowing Surface VBC members the ability to select from a “menu” of options that suits their needs best.  Although they haven’t trained their first player, they are confident they are moving in the right direction.  Poppelman is eager to share his journey with the volleyball community.  He is hopeful to follow up during and after their first season!

Minnesotans looking to get into beach, follow Surface VBC on FaceBook and Twitter for updates. 

For more junior volleyball education visit

Volleyball Recruiting Cliff Notes: November

From the NCSA, the offical partner of the JVA


November is the start of the National Letter of Intent season! Especially pay attention to the early signing periods that start November 12th and end November 19th.

Initial Signing Date
Final Signing Date
Early Period
November 12, 2014
November 19, 2014
Regular Period
April 15, 2015
August 1, 2015


The deadline for schools that accept ‘Early Decision’ or ‘Early Action’ applications usually falls around November 1st or 15th.

*This process is binding if they are accepted to the school.


The time starts now to prepare families for the FAFSA process! Follow the steps below to ensure all families are ready come January 1st:

  • Have last year’s tax returns on hand and fill out the FAFSA worksheet prior to   January 1st

  • Both steps will make the application process go smoothly!

Make sure families are aware money is on a first come first serve basis. Applying as early as possible will allow the family to receive the maximum amount of funding – some funding is limited and may be depleted if a family waits too long. Plus, no matter the families income everyone should apply for the FAFSA! This will ensure they are eligible for the maximum amount of aid possible and cover themselves in case an unforeseen circumstance arises with the family.

November NCAA Articles

  • On Thursday, South Carolina announced that it would be the latest school to commit to 4 year scholarships for a larger number of student-athletes. 
  • The program, called “The Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise: A Championship Experience,” will ensure that all student-athletes in the “Head count” sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball will receive 4 year scholarships. 
  • In a study in early September by, it was revealed that only four schools (Ohio State, Florida, Arizona State, and Florida State) that had a football or men’s basketball team finish in last year’s top 25 had more than 20 athletes on four year scholarships in all sports. 
  •  Ohio State led that group with 71 student-athletes with four year scholarships. 
  • The only way that a South Carolina athlete in those sports can be removed early from a scholarship is if they leave the team voluntarily, become ineligible, or violate university or athletic department policy.

  • The Big Ten Conference has given its initial recommendations to the NCAA to provide enhanced benefits for student-athletes in good standing as part of the new NCAA autonomy structure 
  • The plan includes the following recommendations:

o   Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.

o   Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.

o   Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.

o   Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes. 

  • The Big Ten has also agreed to address additional student-athlete welfare issues with a specific pathway and timeline for implementation in the future that includes:

o   Health and Safety

o   Time Demands

o   Comprehensive Academic Support

  • With big changes coming to major college athletics, the USOC is worried about the possibility of funding being cut or eliminated altogether for NCAA Olympic sports. 
  • USOC CEO Scott Blackmun last week outlined several ways in which the USOC may become involved with sports within the NCAA. 
  • One idea he mentioned is having US national sport governing bodies working with the NCAA to sponsor national championships in various sports. 
  • There are no set in stone ideas yet, but he went as far as to say they’ve already identified a donor willing to provide $5 million to back his effort if the right idea is found.

November Recruiting Calendars

Women’s Volleyball

                Contact Period: November 1st – November 9th

                Dead Period: November 10th – November 13th

                Contact Period: November 14th – November 30th  

For more junior volleyball education and junior volleyball recruiting information click here.
For more information about the NCSA click here.