This is the Transition Stage when players make the adjustment from a lighter ball to a women’s ball and a lower net to a women’s net height. The overall goals for this age are to enhance individual skills while improving reaction time, understand team strategy, and build on basic volleyball IQ. Players should play a variety of positions with emphasis placed on player development first-team development second! As the demands of the game increase, the goal is to maintain a level of hunger to learn and pure enjoyment for the sport.
During this stage, the physicality of the athlete can play a larger role in a team’s and individual’s success. This is a time of transition from self-centered to self-critical. It is important for the athlete to understand the “why” behind the principles he/she is learning, and to also learn to not compare his/her accomplishments to others, but to focus on oneself and the progress made day to day and week to week.
This is the “golden age of learning” and the most important age for the development of skill and love of the game. The impact of a role model is very important at this stage of development. The demonstration is very important and the players learn best by “doing.” This continues to be an important time to introduce and teach principles of team play and teamwork. It is critical to establish discipline from the beginning.
Coach Description, Requirements, and Role
An ideal 13U Coach is a patient teacher who enjoys the process of developing an athlete from the physical and mental aspects. Knowledge and experience in team development/management, as well as advanced skill development, is important. A 13U Coach should have the ability to demonstrate themselves OR be able to utilize someone who can (use an assistant coach, create modeling with older players). A 13U Coach can be stern but needs to also keep the training environment rewarding, positive and fun.
Understanding and competency on how to make line-up adjustments during the game are important for this age group. On top of that, a 13U Coach needs to be able to explain to the athlete WHY a change was made. Open communication is extremely important in the younger age groups.
At this age, it is important to find the right times for the athletes to learn to work through tough situations during a game, even if it means dropping a set or losing some points. The athletes need to have the opportunity to fail and grow from it.
A 13U Coach has the important role of enforcing a strong, solid training culture among the athletes and team. Teaching correct skill development and proper technique is essential. The coach must also emphasize that there will be no more parents coaching from the sidelines, or feedback during practice or games unless the athlete is hurt or there is an emergency. In addition, the athletes need to be encouraged to communicate directly with their coach in regards to their playing time and skill development.
Finally, it is important to be flexible and adapt each and every year to different challenges and different expectations. What you did last year, last month, or last week…it constantly changes!
Team Systems Development
While the focus of this age group should be on maintaining balance and learning correct techniques, simple defensive tactics need to occur. The tactics need to be implemented and trained, but more importantly…explained. The more cerebral athletes become at an earlier age the better the chance for Volley Savvy athletes in the older age groups. The cerebral part of the game is what will help them get to the next level, whether that be making their high school team in a couple of years or being able to obtain the college scholarship they start dreaming about at 13’s. The first three months of the season should be about individual player development, rather than wins and losses.
- Positions: Even though at this age players will play a variety of positions, they should have a basic understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the setter, the left side hitter, the middle hitter, and the libero
- Put players in situations where they are forced to learn other positions by competing in doubles, triples, and quads during practice or encourage it outside of practice (beach, grass, 4s tournaments). Cooperative or competitive “Columbus” style drills are also a great way to force the athletes to play all positions.
- Players should understand the service rotation and overlap rules (teach players to understand who they are across from in the line-up)
- Players should know how to sub
- Players should know the rules of the libero position (how they rotate, setting in front of the ten-foot line, and who they can serve for)
- Court awareness: Knowing when a ball is out of bounds. Transitioning off the court to hit, setters get to the net first. Defense according to opponent hitting angles and set.
- Importance of communication with teammates: “MINE”, “OUT”, “IN”, etc. Learn it early.
- Players should understand 3 across the serve-receive formation
- Offensive Systems: 4-2, 6-2, and 5-1 offense, out of system vs. in system offense, free ball offense according to setter location
The number one priority should be to continue to develop a pure joy for the game, and an eagerness to learn. Learn to compare yourself to yourself by evaluating your improvement from week to week. Build confidence by evaluating yourself and your own improvement.
Self-doubt, self-confidence issues, and comparing oneself with others is prevalent at this age. It is important that the athletes stay in a positive headspace to adapt, learn to respond to failure, and move on to the next opportunity.
Teaching athletes the importance of a growth mindset should be established during this age and understanding that it’s OK to feel uncomfortable when presented with a challenge or opportunity to change.
Continue to emphasize the importance of respecting the opponent and having good sportsmanship, while also developing the hunger to compete and win. It is important to teach the players to understand they won’t win every point and that’s okay. Understand they can’t dig every ball. It’s about “percentages.” 2-3 really good kills in the deep corner because your team is choosing to let that be the open hole, beats the 9-10 shots the opponent hits to Zone 6 so you set up a defense around the higher percentage shots.
Strength and Agility Development
It is recommended to do all fitness with the ball through fun and engaging activities.
- Leg strength
At the 13U level, athletes will continue to develop an idea for how to win games (serving certain people, hitting open spots on the court, going after someone who is struggling). At this age, the preparation before a match, gaining independence, and leadership skills by doing the little things consistently are still coach driven. The mental aspect of the game including visualization, staying focused, and understanding what separates the GOOD athletes from the GREAT athletes is important to teach and develop at this age.