Thursday, April 17, 2014

International Game Grows at the Junior Level

Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break, Spring Break. 
These are breaks, right? Yes. These are breaks from school. They are also the perfect time of the year to take a junior volleyball team to Europe, Asia or South America to train with and compete against international teams.  You bet.

A lot of factors account for the increase in international travel. Clubs realize that international travel and play is a quality experience that adds to their overall product. The increase in American professional players in Europe plays a role.  Many of the junior clubs that go on tour have had former players play in Europe after college. The players go back home and coach for the club and encourage international travel because they had such a wonderful experience.

Bring It USA has been running tours since 1996 and during these 18 years the professional volleyball agency has seen a substantial increase in junior teams coming on tours. This week there are four Northern Lights teams and one Club Fusion team in Italy and two Mizuno Long Beach teams in the Netherlands. In addition, Premier Academy just returned from Nicaragua. All teams traveled during spring break so players did not miss school. Read about Club Fusion 18 Black's trip here. The trips consist of playing friendly matches and training with the international teams, followed by tournaments and sightseeing throughout the trip. 

"The tours are very feasible so more and more clubs are sending teams. Europe is the most popular destination, but we have had many junior teams in Nicaragua, South America, China, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand etc. We can take them anywhere in the world" shares Cory Solomon, BIP Director.

The experience is very eye opening for junior players who get to experience some key differences between U.S. and. international rules and training such as:
  1. International teams play only with their club teams. So they don't split time between high school teams in the fall and club teams in the spring. 
  2. In addition, unless its a Junior or Youth National team tournament, most international girls are not divided up by age, but by talent. So a really strong 16 year old will already be on teams with college age girls. 
  3. International players use different rules, so it really effects their training. Meaning you can't be an outside hitter unless you and serve receive, there are no DS positions and middles really have to serve well as the libero can't serve.
International teams are also making their way to the U.S. to compete in junior tournaments. New to the AAU National Championships this year is the International Division. The International Division will take place June 17-20, 2014.   Right now there are 6 teams coming from Israel, Slovenia, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and Dominican Republic. The winner of this division will play the 18 Open National Champion, the top team from the United States.  This match-up of the best team from the USA versus the best international team will take place on June 20, 2014. Watch this video for a fun video on the AAU National Championships.

Prior to the start of the Championships, other top 18 Open teams will have the opportunity to play the international teams in practice matches.  In addition to the International Division, other international teams are expected to compete in this summer’s AAU Championships within the 14 to 17 age divisions including teams from Finland, Colombia, Canada and St. Thomas.  The goal is to keep growing the international division each year.
Prior to the start of the Championships, other top 18 Open teams will have the opportunity to play the international teams in practice matches.  In addition to the International Division, other international teams are expected to compete in this summer’s AAU Championships within the 14 to 17 age divisions including teams from Finland, Colombia, Canada and St. Thomas.
- See more at:
Additional reading on international travel among junior clubs:

Understanding True Love and Respect for the Game: Sports Performance Travels to Japan

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let's Vollis! A Fun Sand Volleyball Drill

By Laura Ratto, CEO, The Volleyball Network
The Drill for this month is a fun drill that is near and dear to my heart – it’s name is VOLLIS! There are several variations of this drill and it can be played with anywhere from 2-8 players/court.
2-Player Vollis
Each person starts on one side of the court (court can be cut in half based on skill level and specific rules). The ball is initiated with an underhand toss or serve (easy and to the person on the other side).  Players can only contact the ball with a forearm pass.  The strategy of the game is to put the ball where the opposing player isn’t on the other court.  If you have more than two people, then the players split up evenly on each side and wait for their turn to come onto the court.  Players can rotate, either as soon as they send the ball back over the net, OR at the end of a rally.  Warm-up games can go to 11, 15, or 21 depending on the number of people and how long you want to do the game (I suggest a game to 15).
Having trouble viewing the diagram below? Click here.

Additional Notes on Voleste/Vollis
 Having trouble viewing the diagram below? Click here.
For more information on additional variations and how to use Vollis as a progression into a game-type situation, visit
Check the JVA Sand Box every month for new videos and topics.  Next month we will have an entire practice that focuses on defense.  If you have a specific topic you would like me to discuss, please feel free to email me at Laura.Ratto@VBNetwork.TV

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Tipping Point: Two Teams to 24 in One Year

The word Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment, the supreme moment. 
Club Director Mitch Lunning started Kairos Elite Volleyball Club in 2012 as a part-time job. The club only had one 18u team that first year.  Last season the club grew to two teams (17u & 18u). This year Mitch decided to leave his old job as a Financial Advisor to be full-time Club Director, and the right moment presented itself... the club grew to 24 teams: 18 travel teams, along with 6 teams that play in a league in the club's facility located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

So what factors attributed to the exponential growth
in one year?

"Volleyball is growing big time here. We have some very good athletes but the level of high school volleyball is low compared to other parts of the country. Also, kids have always played club for their local high school and did not travel outside our area. So this club experience is very new to most of our kids" shares Lunning. "A lot of players have never played club with players from other high schools before, and they are finding out how beneficial and fun that can be!"

Over the years there have been very few players from Sioux Falls that have gone on to play NCAA Division I volleyball, mainly because the kids never went out and challenged/exposed themselves to the rest of the country. This year the Kairos Elite 18-1 roster has student athletes committed to Louisville, Cal State-Fullerton, Pepperdine, North Dakota, South Dakota State, and Creighton. The team was selected as the 18s team to watch this club season by  "That helps us get everyone else in our area excited" explains Lunning.
 The 18-1 team is participating in the Northern Plains Power League, one of JVA's newest Power Leagues. The Pentagon Volleyball Club, another new club in Sioux Falls, is one of the hosts for the Power League, along with River City Juniors and Nebraska Juniors.  Next year, Lunning plans to have all of the Kairos Elite National teams participate in the league.
The word Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment, the supreme moment.  In 2011, junior volleyball in Sioux Falls was at a tipping point. "There really weren't any other clubs around before us. Most kids played club volleyball with their high school teams. We have kids in our club that travel from up to two hours away, and there are only a few clubs in that range" shares Lunning. 2012 was definitely the opportune moment to start a club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The young club director has high hopes for his club's future with plans to grow to 30 teams within the next few years. Kairos Elite has a year round Academy for K-12th graders, as they try to model a similar structure to JVA powerhouse Sports Performance. The Kairos Elite staff spent a few days with Club Director Rick Butler at the Great Lakes Center in May as an opportunity to learn from the club who has consistently had national success in girls and boys junior volleyball. Currently the club uses four locations to train: one church, one school, and two separate sports facilities owned by Avera (a hospital in town), however Lunning is working on getting a full-time facility to be the home of Kairos Elite.

In an effort to grow boys volleyball in Sioux Falls, Kairos Elite also offers boys Academy sessions, but they have not been very successful yet. The club also hosts a lot of camps with college coaches. With all the additional opportunities on top of the club team program, Kairos Elite is starting to get more kids interested in volleyball and raising the level of volleyball around Sioux Falls immensely. We will see what year four will bring, maybe an indoor sand program? 

Kairos Elite is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association. For more information on the JVA and its resources for junior volleyball club directors and club coaches visit

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jinx Takes Houston by Storm

It's Championship Eve... 
 Are you Ready? 

Tell grandma, tell your neighbor, cousins, everybody - they can watch the Gold Medal matches tomorrow! 
The schedule and results are available in the JVA Dig It App. Click here to download the app.

Besides the whistles, cheering, and sights on a championship, the Reliant Center was filled with something else...
Dig Pink Day at the JVA World Challenge brought out more than just pink; teams came together to support cancer research and raise awareness for breast cancer. Pearland Juniors 12 Maroon raised over $1,400 in one week and were honored as the highest donation of the event and also earned Team of the Day. More than 20 other teams joined the cause and each donated $100 or more for the Side-Out Foundation Dig Pink campaign, in addition to making hospital cards for patients at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston and showing off plenty of pink! Some of our favorite photos tell it all...

This dad is showing off his pink polished pinky nail with a jewel embellishment - proud to wear PINK!

Now THIS is how you get yer hair did for DIG PINK DAY!


Jinx got his exercise today as he made sure to say hi to each and every player, coach and fan. He even had time to talk shop with legendary coaches such as Mick Haley, Head Coach for USC, Russ Rose with Penn State and Jerritt Elliott from the Texas Longhorns.
 Some players are taking Jinx home with them, that is, if he survives Championship Day! (Jinx bobbleheads were awarded to players for various contests throughout the day)
 So what else did teams do while they were soaking up the fun at the #JVAWC? Making a music video, of course! The Volleyball Network and Rox Volleyball are preparing a fun treat for everyone participating in the JVA World Challenge and some teams got to show off their dance moves. These players from Alliance 14 Mizuno were having so much fun, their dads decided to join in!

We hope everyone had an amazing time today and we wish all teams lots of fun tomorrow! Play hard and enjoy every minute. Follow the JVA on Twitter and Like us on FaceBook for the latest updates, contests, and re-cap of the matches.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Houston... We've Landed!

The JVA World Challenge Presented by Rox Volleyball is more than just a volleyball tournament; it's an event for the entire family. Teams travel from near and far, from our neighbors to the north and south, and the goal is for everyone to have a memorable experience and love every minute. So we've tried to capture the highlights of the day and share what's to come tomorrow! 
Consider this the cliff notes version of the #JVAWC.

The Volleyball Network is interviewing coaches, players and volleyball fanatics all weekend long in the JVA/VBN Social Media Area near courts 27 and 31 (near the trampolines and bouncy house - can't miss it!)
Championship Matches will be web-casted live so family and friends can watch at home and you will be able to view the match later too. Click here to sign up for free.

This year we are featuring a NEW and FUN way for participants to get in on the action off the court with the Scavenger Hunt and the NEW and IMPROVED JVA DIG IT APP - FREE DOWNLOAD! 
Congratulations to the clubs who had the most downloads of the app:
Texas Coastal, Skyline, Asics KIVA, Juggernaut and San Antonio Elite - each club received their own room at the Reliant Center and t-shirts for all their teams.
Anyone who completes the Scavenger Hunt gets a free t-shirt AND gets entered into a raffle to take home a large flat screen TV or lifetime membership to the Volleyball Network! 
All you need to know about the tournament, junior volleyball and Houston in the palm of your hand. Plus more Contests and Coupons from local restaurants and vendors are in the JVA Dig It App.  Click here to download the app.

Get your Scavenger Hunt Checklist at the JVA/VBN Social Media Area.

Q. Who's the handsome jaguar struttin' around? 
A. That's Jinx, the newest member of the JVA!
Q. How do I get one of the t-shirts with Jinx on it?
A. Follow the contests on the JVA Dig It App and the JVA World Challenge FaceBook page Teams have won shirts for submitting creative photos in the App, participating in the Rox Dance Contests and tweeting photos with Jinx t name a few. 

Jinx knows no fear.
He received his Verified ID with NCSA.

And then... he turned into a dare devil and showed off his jumping skills on the trampoline...

Fort Bend Fire showed Jinx a thing or two about trampolining...

Y'all shared your Kodak Moments with Jinx


So What's to Come Tomorrow?
Saturday, April 5th

  • It's Dig Pink Day! The JVA World Challenge is a tour stop on the Dig Pink Tour and the Side-Out Foundation has various ways you can get involved and make a difference:
    • Every team that raises $100 for Side-Out will be entered into a raffle at the Side-Out booth to win Team of the Day on Sunday,  April 5thThe winning team will receive a grand prize from a vendor at the tournament!
    • Create a Card for a Patient at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston and every team that makes a card for the Hospital Cards Project will be entered into a raffle at the Side-Out booth.  The winning team will receive t-shirts!
 Have a great night y'all!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making a Volleyball Tournament an Event for the Entire Family

It doesn't take long to get hooked on volleyball. Indoor volleyball continues to grow at the juniors level and it's not surprising when 2 and 3 day tournaments can become fun-filled events for the entire family.  Everyone wants to come home with a gold medal, or a bid to the national championships, but on the flight home, or looking back on the season, and even when you dust off the photo album and reminisce, it's the memories, videos, photos and memorabilia that remain.  

The JVA World Challenge, a 3 day midyear championship for girls ages 10-18 takes the stage at the Houston Reliant Center on Friday, April 3rd with 415 teams on 60 courts.  
  • The tournament will be highly competitive, bringing top clubs from Texas, the Midwest,  mid-South and Canada and Mexico!
  • With AAU's support, the top 2 teams in each division earn a paid entry to the AAU National Championship in June! 
  • The championships are front and center with 3 championship courts featuring warm-up music, championship ceremonies, live web-streaming with player and coach interviews, and crowd give-a-ways. 
  • The JVA Dig It App is new and improved with contests &  prizes all day long! A free download for all smart phones.   
Speaking of contests and prizes...
Rox Volleyball, the title sponsor for the third consecutive year, is back with dance contests and give-a-ways for all participants. In 2013, Rox and JVA organized an 80 court Harlem Shake before the whistles went off at 8am. Check it out!

The Volleyball Network and JVA are teaming up for Social Media, Interviews with Coaches, Players and Fans, and Live Web-Streaming of the Championship Matches on Sunday, April 6th.  
The VBN has a special you can't miss! 
If you sign up for the Volleyball Network through May 6th you can purchase a 1-year membership for $65 (regularly $99.99) and a 3-year membership for $150 (regularly $299.97). A free membership is also available. Click here and create an account!  
The club that gets the most people to sign up for a 1-year or 3-year membership to the Volleyball Network will win a FREE clinic coached by Laura Ratto. VBN will fly Laura out to coach a 2-hour skills clinic, as well as a 1-hour coaching clinic*. The winning clubs Director will also receive a lifetime membership to the Volleyball Network. Be sure to put your clubs name down when you register. For questions, email Info@VBNetwork.TV 

Thursday, April 3rd
At an ordinary tournament you would simply check-in the night before right? But at the JVA World Challenge players can participate in the AVCA/NCSA College Prep Combine to get tested and ranked based on volleyball specific data during a 90 minute assessment.
Read more here.

Friday, April 4th
Jinx the JVA mascot
will be at the event to help participants win the JVA World Challenge Scavenger Hunt! Complete the Scavenger Hunt for a Chance To Win a large HD Flatscreen TV, a Lifetime Membership to The Volleyball Networkor set of t-shirts for your entire team!

Team of the Day will be announced Saturday morning. How can your team win? Share your Team Photo in the Rox/SOF Photo Booth in the App!

In the App select JVA World Challenge-Submit Photos–Choose the photo–and submit!!  Best tournament photo wins t-shirts!

 Saturday, April 5th
Dig Pink Day at the JVA World Challenge
Raise $100 for The Side-Out Foundation and Receive Pink Laces to Wear! Plus your team gets entered to win Team of the Day on Sunday, April 5th.  The winning team will receive a grand prize from a vendor at the tournament.  Teams can also Create a Card for a Patient at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston. Every team that makes a card for the Hospital Cards Project will be entered into a raffle at the Side-Out booth.  The winning team will receive t-shirts! 
Click here for all the Dig Pink Details - and get involved!

The F.A.S.T. Collegiate Tournament takes place ALL DAY Saturday at the Reliant Center. Top Division I teams from the South are competing, including the 2013 Final Four Texas Longhorns.  Click here for more info.

Sunday, April 6th
Championship Day!

Who will be our winners? Stay tuned and WATCH LIVE on the VBN!

Believe it or not, there's even more to share  The JVA World Challenge is truly an event for the entire family.  May your phone and camera batteries be fully charged and your scrap books be plentiful, for it's going to be a fun-filled, action packed, memory filled weekend! YEE-HAH!

For the rest of the info, RSVP to the Event and download the JVA Dig It App. Follow the JVA @jrvbassociation for instant updates on junior volleyball and the JVA World Challenge.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

8 Helpful Coaching Tips to Transition Junior Indoor Players to Sand

As the sand game continues to grow, many junior players are transitioning from the indoor game to sand, and there is a big difference in how the two sports are played, as well as coached. Below are 8 tips for coaches who are working with indoor players and hopefully these tips help make the transition a smoother one.
  1. FUN: Make it a fun beach day and ask your players to come down to the beach or to a sand facility to play some volleyball. Once you get them on the court they will love it and it is great conditioning and cross training for them.

  2. TEAM OF 2: Make sure your players know that playing on the sand is very different than playing indoor with six players on the court as they will be playing doubles. 

  3. COMMUNICATION: Although the court size is slightly smaller than the indoor court they will need to communicate more than normal as there is only the two of them covering the entire court. If they communicate well they give themselves the best opportunity to win. 

  4. OUTSIDE FACTORS: Be aware of the elements like the wind and sun. If they win the toss they should always take the side where the wind is blowing toward them. The other advantage is to look up and find the sun and try to start on the side with the sun behind them. If the wind is blowing towards them and the sun is behind them then they have the good side to start the game which is a huge advantage. 

  5. HYDRATE: Bring sunglasses, sunblock and LOTS of fluids as it's usually very hot in the summer on sand courts. Do not let them wait until they are thirsty as this is a common mistake with new sand players and often results in dehydration and cramps. Also tell them to not only drink water but a good sports drink or coconut water will hydrate them best. 

  6. MOVEMENT: It is not easy moving in the sand but it is a lot of fun to dive in! Always be ready for the ball to come over and a good thing to put in their heads is the THINK DINK. If you are always ready for the short ball you will be a great defender and remember that it's fun and easy to dive on the sand. Volleyball is a forward sport so make sure they aren't letting balls fall in front of them and you will have a good team that will also create a lot of rallies and make the game much more enjoyable to play and watch for a coach. 

  7. KEEP IT LOW: Don't pass, dig, or set the ball too high. The object is to find a good rhythm with your partner and if you can teach them smaller touches on the ball they will find it much more comfortable on the court and their opponents won't have as much time to reach to their offense. Simple rule of thumb is the windier it is the lower you need to keep the ball. 

  8. GOALS: Set realistic expectations. Let your players know that although the sand game is very different, they are there to have fun and use the skills you taught them.
Now you are ready to conquer the sand with your players!  See you on the beach!

Albert Hannemann
National Volleyball League

Juniors: Play in the NVL Rox Beach Series this summer!  Looking to train all year round? Club Med Academies in Florida is where you want to be. Click here for more beach volleyball education.