As I write this I reflect on the conversations I’ve had with potential coaches, current coaches, and club directors within the last two weeks. The number one phrase that keeps escaping their mouths “Wow, things have certainly changed with Club Volleyball….” Followed by, “since I played” “in the last few years” or some other time frame that they measure their last interaction with the sport. It’s so TRUE! Just like all changes in life, some are good, some are frustrating, some we refuse to conform to, some changes are welcomed with open arms while some we begrudgingly accept. Someone much smarter than me said ‘The measure of intelligence is the ability to change’ -Albert Einstein.
So let’s talk about the “SUMMER TRYOUT” for USAV Volleyball. Clubs throughout the nation typically hold tryouts between July and October for the upcoming club volleyball season. As long as I can remember (up until the last few years) Tryouts in our area were held at the End of November AFTER the High School Season had mostly wrapped up and usually after the 1st round of districts.Who knows exactly why, maybe Larry Danielson or Tim Davison one of our local 30 + years of Volleyball Veterans can tell us. Maybe it had to do with Coaches being busy coaching high school season. Maybe it had to do with Summer Vacations being over, maybe it had to do with matching up with WIAA rules since coaches coached both high school and club and didn’t want to get in trouble.Maybe it was what people at the top thought was best for the players…. At this point, it is rather irrelevant.Our USAV Region, “Evergreen Region” made a decision a few years ago to adapt their timelines to allow for the summer tryout (which let me inform you MANY other states, areas, regions, and other organizations like JVA or AAU) were already allowing.When it happened I got a sense from the region that they were trying to keep up with the Joneses and adapt to the times.Makes sense.
So what does that mean for you?
Regular Season (Regionals) finishes at the End of April, while Postseason (Nationals) Wraps up July 6th but all are done with anywhere from 3 months to 3 weeks to prep for tryouts. Mostly kids are doing (or should be doing) Off-season lifting, training, outdoor volleyball, and for incoming freshman-seniors a few months of High School Summer ball. If you haven’t realized it by now… VOLLEYBALL IS LIFE!! Lol. Well for some, hardcore players this is true. Kids are specializing in sports way sooner and choosing one or another and for the die-hard players (whether it’s club soccer, little league, or volleyball) probably 10-12 months out of your year is filled with some sort of participation in the activity of your choosing. So am I saying the Summer Tryouts are a good thing? Maybe…
Let’s look at the Pros:
Players – Kids are still in the groove of their teams, sports, and the club environment. You know what’s going on, whether you need to jump ship to another club, or your team is solid and wants to move up together, or fill just a few roster spots. There is less time to have to worry about the “what if” or have self-doubt, less time in between to compare yourselves to another player, choose what team you will play for depending on “what your school friends” are doing and make a club/team decision based on what is right for you.
Clubs -can plan and budget, project and order uniforms, book gym space, etc. The list goes on and on. When you know what you are working with you can use as much time as possible to produce the best product. Heck, if your team wants to be REALLY Competitive, like other sports they could start practice right away! You could make a killer awesome team and get connected right up through your school season. No rest for the Wicked right?!
Parents – can plan – You will likely have a good estimate from the club and what it will cost and take to fund your season. You will probably have a good idea of the traveling your child will participate in.
Okay, now the Cons…
Incoming Newbies – mostly they just got their kids involved with school ball and after the season is over or during they start hearing other parents talk about this “club thing” and by then it could be too late if all teams are made in the summer.
Player Growth – A lot can happen and change after a year of school ball, practicing every day with maybe older or more advanced athletes. Maybe you accepted an offer on a club team that was a 14-3 team but now your player could make a 14-1 team or a National or more competitive team.
Parents – They plan their lives ahead and now their kid has a tryout. Potentially summer vacations or other events. Making decisions for your kids 4 months ahead, especially when you know you have a kid that changes her mind every other day. Geez, what a commitment.
Clubs – A lot of the player & parent concerns are the same as the clubs.What if we could have made stronger teams? What if Players were out of town and we didn’t know about them? What if you sign someone and they get hurt and can’t play and then you have open roster spots? What if a player quits altogether and doesn’t want to play anymore. The what if’s could go on and on.
And honestly, we could probably spend hours going over all the good and bad of the Summer Tryout, or any other rule change (don’t even get me started on the “Let Serve”, I’m still frustrated about that one. I graduated in 2001 so for 6 years the ball couldn’t touch the net, now it is okay….GRRR). With all changes in life sometimes our personal frustrations or opinions don’t really make a difference. You can’t stop time, right? You can however decide and make a choice that is right for you, your player, your family, your team or even your club.
And that my friends brings us to here where we are today.
So does one Adopt the Summer Tryout, or Abandon it?
Sure there is still the good ole “Fall Tryout” option. If you’ve been a part of the Club Scene before, Daylight Savings time likely means something different to you than everyone else. I really feel like this is a player/parent/club decision. I know with my club I made the decision to do the Summer Tryout the last few years for a variety of reasons. The first year’s reason was different from the 2nd year’s reason. This year I decided to go with the flow. The flow of the region, the flow of other USAV clubs in the nation, and the flow of our local clubs. Trust me, there have been plenty of times in my life *and volleyball life* where I have been a salmon swimming upstream. Forget the flow, and go your own way. I started the indoor portion of our club during the pandemic and held “Peaceful Protests” in the park because I stood by my convictions so I have respect for each organization and family to do what’s right for you. I feel like this is “the new way” and many many clubs if not all will end up doing a summer tryout in the near future. At this point, it is the third year, it’s not going anywhere. In a few years, kids won’t know the difference and it will be just like the “double the first ball rule” you’ll never know you couldn’t.
And I get there are downsides. It doesn’t make it EASY. My dad had this horribly crude saying that he used when I was younger. He said, “if it was easy, women and children would do it”. I remember being highly offended (being both a woman and a child), let’s chalk that up to a sign of the times. I have recently adopted and adapted the saying to be “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” And really…. this is true. Club ball is not for everyone It’s not really supposed to be (or at least my version of club.) Club ball is for the highly committed. It’s for the die-hards. The lifers. It’s for my kids who started at 8 years old and me at 40 who can’t leave it alone. Now, not everyone’s club ball journey will end as a lifer. Not every player that plays for my club will have the same journey or mindset and that’s okay. Some kids will play for 1 year and find out it is not for them. Some will play for 3 years until they make a varsity team and find they are happy there. Some kids will play until their last possible tournament at U18 and they try to find a way to keep playing either in college or by coaching. Let us remember “Club” sports started as a competitive step up from school sports. Elite or like-minded athletes are pulled together from all walks of the earth to create teams that want to participate and grow for longer than the school season allows. It’s not an elite group for the rich… it’s for the committed. Be your commitment for 1 year, or 10. It’s waking up at 6:00 am to drive an hour to a tournament that you have to be there 2 hours before your kid even plays. It’s 2 weekends a month for 4 or 5 months. It’s rushing to practice after scarfing down something fast and hopefully semi-healthy so you are not late and have to run lines when your mom drives too slow. It’s for making volleyball friends across the town that you will play with for 5 months and then play against in your high school teams but will high five or hug every time you see and remember that one tournament when you either hit a girl in the face with a killer hit or were the girl that got hit in the face, broke your nose, dove into the bench full of parents with or for a clearly unobtainable ball.
Now your club, or someone else’s club, may be a different story or have a different philosophy. They may choose to make as many teams as possible and get get coaches later. They may choose to do only 1 or 2 teams that are highly competitive and fly all over the planet to play. They may have teams already decided and who have chosen to play together for years. They may be all from the same school or be affiliated with the local ymca. They may be scrimmage-only teams that don’t travel or they may have girls that drive from 3 hours away to be a part of. Your club may not be the same as my club. Your club may do it differently…. and that’s okay!!!
When I started my club and I still feel the same way as I do know, and it was with this mindset:
I want players, parents, and coaches who want what I’m putting out there. Where communication is a priority. Coaches have volleyball experience. Players are committed to the season and the club. Management is aware of what is going on and is a support system for the coaches. Teams are not ‘made’ until they are made and offers are given. Parents and politics don’t influence decisions made by club management. Coaches have a say in what players they choose and what tournaments they attend. All participants have like-minded goals to teach/learn competitive volleyball by instilling strong fundamentals and respect for the sport. I want my coaches to coach kids and parents to trust us to do so and respect the coaching decisions that are made. If you feel similar I invite you/your child to attend our tryout and see what we are offering. Make your decisions on what is right for you.
That being said, We will adapt and adopt the Summer tryout (as we have for the last 2 years).We will see what teams we make and make coaching/club decisions based on the commitment of players from that tryout. If we have additional roster spots or coaching/team capabilities we will utilize the fall tryout as well. If a player tries out and is offered a position on the team they will have the standard 72 hours to accept the offer. The position may be filled with a waitlisted player if not accepted. The position may not be filled and we will look to the fall tryout for additional participants. These decisions will be coach/club decisions that we will make, and could depend on the each team and the level of play or age group. Thank you for taking a moment to consider our point of view. If you have any questions I am BIG on communicating, feel free to reach out to me and let’s toss this around a little more. I love hearing feedback from parents, coaches and other perspectives. If you have any questions about tryouts, I’m here. 509-302-0550
Yakima Elite Volleyball Club