Joining a Volleyball Club : Part 1 - The Process
October 9, 2019 Author: Dave Sears, 14's Assistant Coach
So your daughter has indicated to you a desire to play club or travel volleyball. Welcome to a journey that will have many ups and downs, but in the end, it is well worth it. This three-part series is designed to help you and your daughter understand club volleyball, the process of player selection, what coaches are looking for in an athlete and what questions you should be asking clubs. Hopefully this series will assist you in finding and selecting the right club. The first part of this series focuses on what is the process for joining a volleyball club.
When should my daughter consider playing with a club?
If your daughter has an interest in playing volleyball, the sooner you can get her associated with a club team the better. East coast volleyball is slowly catching up to the West coast and Midwest volleyball clubs. The East coast does not start competitive volleyball as early as other regions. We asked a team from the Midwest about their 14s team and when they started playing together. They answered, ‘this is the third year they had been together’. On the East coast we are lucky if athletes start playing at 13s.
What is the timeline for joining a club?
The official club season starts with tryouts in early to mid-November depending upon the age group. 13s are usually in the first week of November. 14-18s the second week. The club season lasts from November to May. If your team is going to AAU Nationals or USVA Nationals, then it will continue through June and maybe into the first week of July. The unofficial club journey starts the two months prior to tryouts. Volleyball clubs want to get to know your daughter. This will allow the family to evaluate the club, the coaching staff, the coaching philosophy and the returning families to see if it is a good fit. It allows the club to evaluate the athlete and the family. The club season is very long. If you find out during the season that the club or the player is the wrong fit, there is no ability to join another club. If a club you are interested in is offering clinics, it is because they want to see potential players for their club. You need to go to these clinics.
Are there different types of clubs?
There are many different types of clubs that play at many different levels and for differing costs.
Travel Teams: At the top are clubs like Virginia Elite, which look to train your daughter to be recruited to play in college. These clubs have a significant time investment for the family. They will travel to many tournaments which may be out of state (Qualifiers or JVA Tournaments). This is especially true as you move into the 16-18 age groups. These teams go to tournaments where there are a lot of college coaches so the athletes can be seen. These teams will practice 3 times a week and will expect the athlete to do some form of weight training on non-practice days. Every three-day weekend will have a tournament. During Spring break there will be a tournament so do not plan family trips during that time. For the younger age groups, you still may be able to take a spring break trip, but check with each club. The best of these clubs will have recruiting coordinators, who will help your daughter get recruited by colleges.
Regional Teams: Regional teams are clubs which typically play within the CHRVA region and may go to one or two overnight trips. These teams may practice 2 times a week and could include some light conditioning. Many of these teams have good players on them. The athletes may be specializing in another sport and still love volleyball, just not as their primary sport. These teams are designed to help athletes play at the high school level, with the additional possibility of playing in college, albeit at lower levels.
House Teams: These teams are for athletes who love volleyball, but are not interested a highly competitive environment or do not have the physical stature to compete at higher levels. They will practice one to two times a week. They will play in only local tournaments. These teams are designed to help athletes play at the high school level.
What is the process for selecting a player for a team?
This is a very challenging question to answer and it will vary from club to club and coach to coach.
At Virginia Elite we have a fairly straight forward process.
Summer: During the summer Virginia Elite will run Middle School and High School Clinics. These clinics give coaches the opportunity see to athletes play in a low pressure environment. It also gives the athletes a look at the club and coaches. Athletes can work on skills to raise their level of play.
Fall: For 9th graders (and some 8th graders) and up they will be playing with their High School teams. This is a great way to stay in condition and play some good volleyball. Virginia Elite coaches will go to as many games as possible to see returning players and to scout out potential new athletes. For the younger age groups, i.e., 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders, Virginia Elite holds Middle School clinics during the week. This is one of the main ways Virginia Elite sees potential candidates for 13s and 14s. Virginia Elite has a philosophy to see your daughter play in as many conditions as possible. This is very important for your daughters. The coaches get to see your daughter warm up in games, how they interact with the coaching staff, how they interact with their teammates, what happens when they make mistakes, do they try new things, do they celebrate their teammates successes, do they cheer on the sidelines when they are not in the game/drill or are they able to keep a positive attitude when games/drill are bleak?
Most clubs hold some version of prep clinics in the fall on weekends. This is another opportunity for the club to see your daughter. If you are interested in a club, go to as many of these clinics as possible. In some cases, high school coaches will forbid their players from playing in these extra practices. We still recommend you come to the clinic, even if you have to stand and watch. This indicates to the club that your daughter is interested in playing for them. Finally, the last real benefit of Virginia Elite watching your daughter multiple times is that come tryouts, it is not the first time we are looking at your daughter. We have had athletes, who are on their third tryout and are exhausted and do not show well. We have seen players have to miss tryouts due to family obligations. We have seen players who just have a bad day at tryouts. We have seen players unable to tryout due to an injury. By the time tryouts come in mid-November we know what each athlete is capable of doing. There are very few surprises.
During the fall Virginia Elite holds prep clinics on Sundays broken out by age group. Athletes who are interested in playing for Virginia Elite are highly encouraged to come to prep clinics. Prep clinics are designed to see athletes in a competitive environment and train them in the Virginia Elite way. Virginia Elite coaches are constantly evaluating athletes to see improvement, see them in a more stressful situation and playing against better competition. The clinics are designed to allow families and athletes to evaluate Virginia Elite, to ask about our philosophies and to get to know the club and to see if it is a good fit for the family. Prep clinics allow Virginia Elite the opportunity to meet with families and athletes to see if you are a good fit for the club. Every club will ask you and your daughter ‘Is club X your number 1 club?’ As a family, you must evaluate if this is a club you want to be a part of. Virginia Elite is really unique in that they post all club fees up front, playing time philosophy and club information. We do not hide anything. This is a hard decision for your family, but Virginia Elite, and every other club you are looking at, will want to know the answer to this question. You need to stack rank the clubs you are looking at. You should know this answer before tryouts and communicate your interest with the coach staff.
Fall Tryouts: Tryouts are always a stressful time for the athlete, family and the club. You may have a particular club your daughter would love being a part of. The tryout process is usually scheduled for a main tryout and a call back, if necessary. At Virginia Elite a typical tryout will allow the people who have a vote for a player making the team to just watch and evaluate. Other coaches from the club will be running the drills. The club will measure height, reach, approach jump and block jump. Drills will incorporate all the skills: passing, serving, serve receive, hitting, setting, defense and game play. At Virginia Elite we have a 3 vote system for a player to make the team. The Head Coach and coaching staff for the age group get 1 vote. The Technical Director of the club gets 1 vote. If there is a tie between the Head Coach and the Technical Director, the President of the club will have the tie breaking vote. Tryouts are usually 2 hours long.
What happens if my daughter receives an offer from a club or she is named as an alternate?
According to CHRVA rules and guidelines, clubs are not allowed to give an official offer until tryouts for your daughter’s age groups start. When a club extends a written offer, usually via email (make sure the club has a valid way of reaching your family), you have six days to respond and either accept or reject the offer. A club cannot rescind an offer once it is given. The club will make offers to the maximum number of their roster size. They cannot make more offers than spots on the roster, otherwise if all players accept they have to have a slot for them even if it exceeds their roster size. It is not a first come, first serve system.
If your daughter is told she is an alternate at her number one club and is given an offer at her number two or number three club, she can wait to see if a spot opens up on her primary club. The other clubs still have to honor their offer to your daughter. At the younger age groups i.e., 13s and 14s, clubs may have to go 3 or 4 deep with alternates in order to fill their rosters. At the older age groups, there is less of a chance if you are a second or third alternate. We have seen families panic and accept an offer, only to find out they could have played with their number one club if they had waited.
As mentioned earlier, by the time you and your daughter get to tryouts, you should have stack ranked your clubs. You should know if you can afford the club, if is a fit etc. Learning about the club after or during tryouts is a disservice to the club and other players attempting to make the club. As a courtesy to the clubs and to other players, you should make your decision as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is for a club to fill its roster if you decide not to accept the offer. It is against CHRVA rules to make a family decide whether they want to play for a club before they leave the gym after tryouts. These high-pressure tactics are why CHRVA allows for up to six days to decide.
When you accept an offer you will need to respond to the written offer. We suggest reply all so the head coach knows you have accepted the offer. You will then have to go to CHRVA website and select Virginia Elite as your club. Please make sure you select Virginia Elite. Many clubs have similar names. It is an administrative nightmare to switch if you make an incorrect selection.