By Chris Beerman
I think the old saying “you can’t please everybody” probably applies to directing a volleyball club as much or more than any other profession! As I’ve discussed with my coaching colleagues for 20 years, the ultimate team to coach would have 6 players on it. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible with all the reasons that kids have for missing practice and even tournaments now a days, Hunger Games premier, orchestra, swim meets, softball games, etc. , You need to have a roster size that allows for the missing players. As our new club heads to the midway point of the Elite team season and the stretch run of the Regional team season, I’ve been able to do some State-of-the-Club evaluations.
One thing I’ve learned. Parent education is critical for them to understand how club works vs middle school or high school, as well as making sure parents understand the different levels of volleyball that can be played. The differences between an “Open” level team, a “Club” level team or even a strictly beginner, Regional level also must be explained. For example, we just had all 23 teams play in the Bluegrass Pre-Qualifier (hosted by KIVA), a very large tournament in Louisville that supported 3 different competitive divisions per age-group. With so many teams attending we had to put a few of our teams in the Open level of competition (or not at all) and that level was definitely above their heads. I made sure the coaches explained to their parents and players that it might be tough going, but would be a great experience to play better more experienced teams, and it would pay off for them when they returned to their correct level of competition.
The teams performed as I expected, but the parents could not see the forest through the trees and just focused completely on the fact that their team lost. The lack of focus on their child’s development as a volleyball player or the fact that they were playing against great teams and players simply didn’t matter; they lost and that was all that mattered. The negativity obviously fed down to their kids and the kids then lost focus on what the experience was teaching them.
Another interesting observation is how parents rate the ability level of their own child. I’ve always been very realistic about my own children’s ability levels and always made sure they had to “earn” everything in athletics; nothing would be handed to them and often teammates would be better than them and they would often play superior opponents, so they would have to learn to compete all the time. I have parents of 13 Regional kids playing in their very first club tournament ever, upset about results! These kids have never even rotated before! Some stunning stuff, but very educational for me as a first year Club Director, and gives me a much better perspective moving forward.
We have definitely experienced growing pains and my administrative style may not please everyone, but we are getting to know the kids, setting a strong volleyball culture standard and developing young players and young coaches. This will be a marathon, not a sprint and we will make sure we listen, learn and continue to do things the right way. As always, I will coach to the highest, most motivated kid’s level and expect the others to come up to that level. I will not “dumb it down” and put my efforts into saving situations that aren’t savable. That said, the overwhelming sentiment of the club has been very positive and my coaches continue to do a great job.
I continue to listen to complaints and where possible resolve problems the best way possible for all sides.
This is not a profession for people who can’t handle criticism or be able to confront problems and be blunt when necessary. I enjoy the challenge, and my problem-solving nature and blunt reality-based personality seems to work OK for most people and problems. In the end, the fun part is seeing a 13 or 14 year old kid block somebody for the first time or make a great dig and get a huge smile on her face; the excitement of seeing a 12 year walk into a convention center with 100 courts for the first time and get “hooked” or a 15 year old getting her first college letter. That enthusiasm and LUV of the game is what it’s all about and will always keep me coming back for more!