Every year in December and January, tens of thousands of athletes all around the country are starting the club volleyball season. Some of my favorite volleyball memories are from the seasons I spent playing club volleyball and I’ve even stayed in touch with my teammates through the years following. The club season is one of the most important times of the year, so below are some tips for making the very most of it in terms of development and exposure to college coaches.
It goes without saying that if you have collegiate goals, you need to take every practice seriously. How will you set yourself apart from the other tens of thousands of athletes who want to play in college? Start by never letting the stress or frustration from your personal life impact the way you practice. Start by giving 100% mentally and physically for every minute of every practice. Start by never missing practice.
Is there an older/better team in your club that your club director and coach will allow you to train with on occasion? Becoming a better player, in part means surrounding yourself with players who are better than you and then training up to their level. Talk to your coach about what opportunities exist within your club to visit other teams’ practices in addition to your own.
More extra practice
Can you come early? Stay late? Will your coach hit just one more ball at you? Gyms often create tight schedules for their courts, but you may have a chance to stretch your practice a little longer in one direction or the other. Is there a gym near you where you can set up a net and drag a parent or friend along with you to throw balls to you?
I met a player once who was dying to make her high school volleyball team, but wasn’t a strong server. She didn’t own a volleyball and didn’t have access to a gym, so for an entire summer she went out to her backyard and practiced serving a soccer ball over a fence. Her circumstances were far from perfect, but she got in the extra practice that she needed and made her high school team later that year.
Private or small group lessons
If your finances allow, consider getting some individualized attention from an expert. I recommend small group lessons over private lessons for the following reasons
- The cost of a private lesson is significantly less if you split it between two or three people
- One on one lessons are exhausting—consider a group lesson unless extra conditioning is part of what you’re looking for
- You can do so much more on the court with multiple people
To make the most out of your practice time, you need to be in good shape. You never want your skill level in practice or matches to suffer because you’re too exhausted to play well. Whether or not you have access to a gym for conditioning, find a space where you can practice volleyball movements. For example, go to a local gym, park, or your backyard and practice spike approaches and blocking moves (you don’t necessarily need a net for this). Do lots of short sprints and plyometrics.
Take every opportunity to watch players who are better than you. When I coached a 12 year old team a few years ago, I used to make them watch the 15 year olds and take notes. If you have a weekend off from tournaments, go to local colleges and watch their spring matches. If you have some down time during a club tournament, go watch the best team in the gym. If you have a smart phone or computer access, watch clips of the Olympic team during your free time.
Always ask yourself, “what else can I do to get better?” And never forget the principal that people enjoy what they’re good at. The better you become, the more fun volleyball will be!
Whether your team travels all over the country or you play only local tournaments, you need to let coaches know when and where you’re playing.
- Start the season out by sending a schedule of which tournaments you’re attending to the schools that you’re interested in
- If a coach comes to watch you play, email or call them afterwards to thank them
- If a coach doesn’t come to watch you play, send them some video highlights from the tournament
- If your team wins a tournament or places significantly higher than usual, make sure to let the schools you’re interested in know!
Make it easy for coaches to find you at big tournaments by signing up for University Athlete (it’s free!).
The club season is where coaches have the most time available to them for recruiting, so it’s crucial that you do your part to make yourself known to them.