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10 Tips for a Successful Tryout

Posted June 27, 2022

There is an old saying that goes, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” Nowhere is this truer than at a volleyball tryout. Volleyball is an extremely competitive sport. Numerous athletes compete for limited numbers of positions on the best club teams everywhere. Doing your best at the tryout can be the difference between being on the team or being on your way home. Proper preparation before a tryout can make the difference between making the team and going home disappointed. By following the below suggestions, you can maximize your chances of making a club team.

1. Get There Early

Don’t get stuck in the registration line. Showing up late for a tryout is a sure-fire way to get noticed, but it’s not the kind of attention you should be looking for. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before registration starts. Besides revealing your maturity level and character, arriving early allows you to relax and begin focusing on doing your best. Rushing in at the last minute will leave you tense and flustered. Plan to warm up after you arrive early. There are several reasons for warming up before a tryout. The most important reason is that by warming up, you’re more likely to perform at your peak. Getting your blood flowing and your muscles ready also reduces the chances of an injury during the tryout. Finally, it shows the coaches that you’re mature enough to understand the correct way to prepare physically for an athletic event.

2. Don’t Bring Your Cell Phone into the Gym

Coaches don’t want to see you texting when you should be concentrating on volleyball. If you do have your cell phone in your bag then make sure it is on silent. Coaches aren’t babysitters and don’t want to spend their time and energy looking after their players. They expect their players to be mature enough to be prepared when it’s time for tryouts, a practice, a game or a tournament.

3. Hustle and Go for Every Ball

Even if you know it’s unlikely that you’ll get to it, don’t stop pursing the ball until it hits the floor. Even in warm-ups! Coaches love aggressive players that will not let a ball drop. If you’re shagging balls, run to get them. After taking your turn at a drill, run back to the line for your next turn. When you take a water break, run to the drinking fountain or to your water bottle. If a coach is looking for a volunteer to shag balls or feed balls, be the first to volunteer. Be willing to help out in any way you can during the tryout. Show that you’re ready to lend a hand and willing to go that extra little step for the team.

4. Show that you are Coachable

No matter how good a player you are, every coach you ever play for wants to know that you’ll improve under his or her tutelage. For this to happen, the coach has to believe that you’re capable of being coached. Behaviors you display during a tryout can convince him or her that you’re open to guidance. If a coach tells you how to improve some facet of your game, take the suggestion positively. Don’t tell him or her this is the way your old coach taught you to do it. Verbally acknowledge the suggestion and then immediately start performing the action the way he or she has suggested.

5. Don’t Talk when the Coach is Talking

It’s disrespectful to talk when the coach is talking and sends a bad message to the coach. Each time someone on the staff addresses you, you need to give him or her 100 percent of your attention. Make eye contact with the coaches as they are talking. Nod your head when they ask if you understand what they’ve told you. If you don’t understand their directions, raise your hand and ask for clarification. It’s better to ask a question than to look like you weren’t paying attention.

6. Communicate and Always Call the Ball

This is one of the few things you can control and it is an underrated skill that coaches will notice. Almost every coach who ever laced up a pair of shoes and hung a whistle around his or her neck tells players the same thing: “Call the ball!” Have you ever had a coach who didn’t tell you to do this? By calling the ball during tryouts, you’re demonstrating that you’ve learned something from past coaches and you’re likely to learn things from your next coach, as well. Be a vocal leader by encouraging other players to do their best. Cheer them when they make a great play. Help teammates by telling them whether a ball is in or out during scrimmage play.

7. Be a Hard Worker

Playing volleyball at its highest levels takes a tremendous amount of work. Coaches are drawn to players who are willing to work hard enough to play at that level. Never assume you’ll get selected if you’re giving anything less than 100 percent of your abilities. Most coaches will select a player who is hard working over a more talented athlete who is hardly working at all. Another way to demonstrate your willingness to work hard is by hustling every- where. If you’re shagging balls, run to get them. After taking your turn at a drill, run back to the line for your next turn. When You take a water break, run to the drinking fountain or to your water bottle.

8. Shake it Off!

Don’t carry a mistake with you into the next play. A coach can tell by your body language if you’re not over being messing up on the previous point. Avoid negative talk about yourself, the tryout and former teammates. If you start getting down on yourself for making a mistake, you’re likely to make even more. No one wants to hear negative talk about the team you were on last year. Coaches know if you speak badly about previous seasons, next year you’re likely to speak badly about this particular team, too. Show your enthusiasm during the tryout by keeping a smile on your face. Be friendly to everyone you interact with. Have fun and make sure people who are watching can tell you love playing volleyball.

9. Be Open to Stepping into Another Position

Coaches want players who can adjust and are willing to be versatile if that’s what’s needed to make a drill work or help the team. Have confidence in yourself. You need to believe in yourself and your abilities. A player with a great deal of confidence isn’t as likely to crack under pressure during a match. After all, if you don’t believe that you can make the team, why should the evaluators believe it?

10. Be a Team Player

The rules require that six players be on the court during a volleyball game, so it’s impossible for even the best player in the world to win a match by him/herself. In addition to athleticism and skill, coaches are looking for players who work well with others to build a team. It will be a miserable season for coaches and players alike if the players lack the chemistry that allows them to work together well. You can help other players do their best by giving them the best pass or the best set possible. Taking that extra step to make them look good makes you look good, too. During tryouts, you can demonstrate that you’re a team player by doing your best to get along with other players. Cheer for others when they make a good pass. High five someone who just had a monster block. Get excited when a teammate serves an ace during a scrimmage. Players who exhibit a positive attitude toward tryout competitors are likely to make good team players during the season.

Bonus: Don’t show up for a tryout wearing a T-shirt from a rival club.


The “Helicopter Parent”

Posted June 26, 2022

The “Helicopter Parent,” as professionals refer to this new phenomenon, is quickly becoming the norm in our society, rather than the exception. We all know them, and sadly have seen them in action. The parents that hover over their child, fixing every conceivable problem that arises, ready to swoop in at a minute’s notice and alleviate the suffering of their poor, helpless flock. This is the definition that is being given. Not necessarily my definition, but by professional standards, what many view as the problem of the next generation of children.

We read the stories, hear it on the news, and listen to horror stories from friends. Some of us have even witnessed the behavior firsthand. Parents who stomp into school demanding that grades be fixed, yell at the neighbor kids for their child’s perceived mistreatment or call the coach to demand more playing time. The ones that fight with each other during football games, curse at teenage line judges for bad calls, even kill each other over a hockey game. When did this become acceptable behavior for parenting? What exactly is it that creates such havoc in a child’s life that forces parents to become more like a lioness protecting her cub, rather than a cheering section for the team?

The more I am exposed to the top levels of volleyball, the more I am beginning to see this behavior infiltrate our sport as well. I began this story by taking a straw poll from coaches across the country, asking them some general questions, and asking for input on an anonymous basis. The answers came from high school, club, and college coaches. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the answers were very similar across the board. The coaches surveyed have come from small to large high school programs, high caliber club teams, and top DI level college programs. The collective coaching experience of this group was 107 years plus. Each coach surveyed brings with him or her a minimum of 10 years’ experience in volleyball. Some had experience in other sports, as well, so a comparison to other sports is a fair one.

There has been a noticeable difference in the behavior of parents from an average of ten years ago until the current date. The biggest difference most have seen is the attitude in parenting. It has gone from spectator to that of manager. Coaches perceive the behavior as a vicarious attachment through the child to one’s own self, thus enabling the parent to become more vocal in his displeasure. Because the competition to get your daughter to a top-level club or college program has become so heated, many are willing to do whatever it takes to get their child recognition that they may or may not deserve.

The behaviors witnessed by many of the coaches seem to be non-biased according to sex.
Although one coach did feel that dads are a little more vocal than moms, stating, “Moms quite traditionally are quiet by nature. You get some boisterous ones, but by and large not too much. Fathers USED to be very quiet, perhaps because of lack of knowledge of game, or lack of involvement. But I see more and more fathers at the tournaments, and they are becoming much more vocal.”

The behavior that is being witnessed by these coaches runs the gamut, from the more assertive direct confrontation of the coaches to the more subversive attacks on the coaches and other players through subliminal messages to the coach, other parents, and worst of all, to their own child. By feeling the need to insulate a child from hurt feelings, and a damaged psyche, many parents are resorting to psychological arguments with coaches.

“If a girl isn’t getting ‘equal’ playing time as others on the team, the parent assumes that this is harmful to their daughter’s self-esteem. Some guise this as expressions of “what can we do to help our daughter see more playing time?” – translation “We want you to play our daughter more.”

At the older age levels, one coach said that this is the most popular form of confrontation. Many coaches feel that the louder, more obnoxious parent come from the younger age group, and for one reason or another, have resorted to more underhanded means.

The underlying message is not as insidious as many parents might think. Perhaps parents don’t even realize that their question may be construed in this manner. Sometimes the world that we now live in has caused people to try to be so politically correct in their manner of conversation that they avoid the direct approach in order to avoid offending anyone else.

What many coaches are suggesting is to not pose the question at all. “I have a meeting with parents at the start of the season. Rules are … I don’t discuss playing time or player position with parents, period. I deal only with the player on these matters. I did have one parent who called because her daughter was unhappy with her playing position, and the daughter didn’t feel she got a satisfactory answer. I allowed the mother to vent. The next practice, when the player couldn’t let go of her anger, she was dismissed from the team.”

While this may seem harsh to some, dealing with these issues as a coach can be frustrating. Some coaches have even resorted to a sort of ‘screening’ if you will, of parents before the season even begins. “I have asked how previous parents were involved, and if there were problems, how did previous coaches deal with them, things of that nature,” was one response, and another stated that he had not taken a talented child for his team based purely on the parent’s behavior.

Rest assured, many of these coaches are not denying anyone entry into a program to be spiteful to a child, but to try to preserve the sanity they begin the season with. One coach said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I usually try to root out that behavior right away, by getting my players to focus on me and not the parents, but it still happens. I have seen parents make their own kids cry by the way they talk to them after matches, and of course, when their kid isn’t playing, their own body language can be contagious to their kid.” While this may not be a mentality that is universal, 90 percent of the coaches I spoke to said that they at least did some asking about parents. Only a few had denied a girl a spot on a team, while others did not actively screen, but only because they were high
school coaches and their program did not allow for this.

For all the complaints about the parents that coaches have, one would have to wonder if it affected their coaching methods or styles. Many claim it does not, stating that they are coaching a team, not one individual child. “I don’t even look at the parents when I coach. They are not on my court and shouldn’t matter. About the only time I notice the parent is when they attempt to coach their kid from the sideline and their kid is actually paying attention, and that situation I deal with right away (sometimes with a timeout).”

Some of the coaches see the problems with other teams, as well. “I had a team that was so bad, their
players were smack talking my players before the match, and their parents were smack talking my parents! We have seen parents that will scream and/or swear at referees, line judges, opposing coaches, players, and everything in between.” And many parents will concur with this statement, as well. One coach had to deal with this problem from his own team. “When I was coaching 12s, I called a timeout to yell at my parents who were all yelling score, score, score at the 10-year-old doing flip.” So, if coaches are not paying any attention to the parents, why all the fuss? The core of this argument comes down to the requests, demands, and threats given to coaches by parents.

A club or high school coach is not making enough to recoup their costs and investments of time, trouble, and travel to begin with, much less trying to break even. So as you try to better yourself through classes, experience, and lessons, you are on the losing end of the stick. None of the coaches I talked with ever starts out in this business to get rich, or even to earn a living; some who are lucky and talented enough to reach the collegiate level have become all too happy to have left the club and high school ranks. The majority of the high school and club coaches have outside careers, and mentors kids to better the sport and to give all girls the experience of playing. But, if you are constantly bombarded with parents who are making unfair requests, and sabotaging your every move, then where is your
motivation?

The costs of club sports and even some high school sports have risen dramatically over the years and seem to be something that coaches feel many parents have come to believe that they have earned the ‘right’ to criticize since they are paying top dollar for their participation. “Do your homework before club starts. Ask other parents about their experience with a particular club and ask as many as possible. Ask about coaches and find out about how big the roster size usually is. If there are typically 10-12 players on a roster, obviously not all kids are going to get equal playing time. Ask your child if playing on a 1’s team and sitting half the time is going to be as good for her as playing on
a 2’s team and playing all the time.”

Another coach said, “Be realistic about your daughter’s abilities. If your daughter is 5’4” tall, she is probably not going to be an outside hitter for an 18’s top team. Many parents can’t believe that their daughter plays all the way around in high school, but not in club. If I have a kid that has played specifically a libero or defensive specialist position that can do it better than the high school player that played all the way around, you can bet the defensive specialist is probably going to get that spot.”

The best advice for parents from one coach was, “Let your daughter be her own best advocate. If she truly feels she is not getting enough playing time, she needs to talk with me. I am capable of having an intelligent discussion with anyone that has a realistic argument. I don’t want to hear from parents unless your child is on her death bed, meaning, I want the girl to call and tell me why she can’t be at practice, or make a tournament because of a work obligation, or because she wants to better her
chances of more playing time.”

All coaches agreed that if there are valid concerns that do not get addressed with the player meeting with the coach, then a parent should get involved, but only if the
player expresses the interest to pursue the argument, and the player is in attendance, as well. The common theme throughout most of the results is that many coaches do not feel that volleyball has become as harassing as some of the other sports that children participate in.

For all the bad behavior by some, it is by far the exception and not the rule. But, make no mistake about it, the problem is there, and should be addressed. The thread linking all of these coaches together is their love of the game, and their desire to teach it to our youth.


Club Volleyball Tryouts and the Team You Make…Does it Really Matter for Recruiting?

Posted June 26, 2022

My short answer is NO. My long answer is YES…then, I say “it depends” and come back to my short answer, NO.

And here’s why I say NO…College coaches know which teams are the top teams in the country. The top players in the country are being recruited by a lot of coaches. BUT many coaches want to find a diamond in the rough. A player that is not at their peak in high school, and has time to develop, along with the athleticism to improve and help make their college team better and help them win! 

D1, D2, D3, and NAIA coaches will watch a player and stand at court #78 (it doesn’t matter the court number) to find a perfect fit! A really good scenario is one where you have emailed a minimum of 20 schools and they have seen your highlight video. You have good/decent grades, so you have done your job to spark their interest! They need your position in your grad year or they wouldn’t take the time to watch you play, so…college coaches are at your court and they don’t know exactly what team number you are on at your club!

Players and parents get way more invested in whether they are on a top 1s team or their team is considered 2nd or 3rd best at their club in their age group. College coaches don’t get wrapped up in this!

So, my immediate answer is NO, it doesn’t matter what team you make for your recruiting process.

The reason I believe this is BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE CHOICE AND THE POWER TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR RECRUITING PROCESS: As a proactive prospective student-athlete you CAN email college coaches and determine your perfect list of schools over time! 

It’s not 100% determined by what level of club team you make!

If you start the recruiting process as a freshman or early in your sophomore year, you will have a good quality target list of schools that fit your needs academically, location, finances, and level of play. You will figure this out OVER TIME… So, it doesn’t matter what club team you’re on because you will have good highlight video doing great things and the coaches will come and watch you. Then, you will keep moving through the process and after June 15th of your sophomore year, you will feel good about where you are in the recruiting process. 

Why is my long answer, YES, it matters what club team you make for your recruiting process? BUT it depends on a few things!  

I think it depends on these key things that ARE NOT ALWAYS TRUE if you’re on a top team. These 5 things MATTER MORE than being on a top 1s team at your club. If you make a top team, it helps with recruiting (in theory), BUT these things matter more:  

  1. The CLUB COACH that is assigned to your team matters. What if you’re on a top team, but your coach isn’t a good coach? I think your club coach and their level of coaching and commitment to making you and your team better REALLY matters. This type of coach isn’t always the top coach at a club. This type of coach…the best, most invested coach at a volleyball club could be coaching the 2nd or 3rd level team! Your club coach dictates your level of training and you want it to be as high as possible, no matter what team you’re on!  
  2. Your PLAYING TIME matters. If you’re on the top team at your club, but you get very little playing time, then college coaches can’t watch you play live at tournaments. You also struggle to get a good video of you competing, if you rarely get to play in tournaments.
  3. Your TEAMMATES’ ATTITUDES, WORK ETHIC, AND HOW SERIOUS THEY ARE IN PRACTICE matters. The overall intensity in practice and matches, competing, and fighting to win as a team matters, more than what team you’re on. In general, top 1s teams have players that are this way, but not always AND a 2nd or 3rd level team can for sure have all of these traits!
  4. What EVENTS YOUR CLUB TEAM TRAVELS to matter. If your team goes to at least two Junior National Qualifiers and to Junior Nationals at the end of the season, it’s great! If your team goes to Triple Crown in Kansas City or the Las Vegas Classic, that is also excellent. Sometimes, college coaches travel within their region to watch players during their regular club season tournaments. If you’re NOT on a travel team it will be more challenging for college coaches to watch you. Top teams will travel to these tournaments and usually the 2nd ranked teams and sometimes the 3rd ranked teams in volleyball clubs travel to some of these, which is great!
  5. WHO YOU PLAY AGAINST matters. The faster the speed of the game and the higher the level of play of your opponents the better! Usually, vs a great team, your team will rise to the occasion and play to their level. This will make you a better player. This isn’t dependent on what team number you are on at your specific club. All teams play good teams. When college coaches watch your court and you have some great passing off of tough serves and are blocking and digging hard hitters, this shows you can play a faster game, which allows the college coaches to envision you playing at the collegiate level. Video of yourself playing well against really good teams is beneficial. Not whether you won or lost, but could you make an impact versus a great team, and were you playing up to their level? If so, this is good in college coaches’ eyes! I love the underdog mentality from a competitive perspective and it’s so fun to watch players fight to win, no matter who they are playing! 

I know club volleyball tryouts are super stressful! Parents feel like they will have an ulcer and a heart attack all at once! 🙂 I want you to know that playing at the collegiate level is NOT dependent solely on what team you are on. There are many factors to take into account. Every volleyball club is different. Every year the club team roster is different, the coach is different, and it becomes a whole new dynamic. 

YOUR MINDSET: Approach the new club season with excitement about what’s to come! Your recruiting process will be what you make it. I think you should start creating your target list and emailing coaches as a freshman! The earlier you start the better! Be proactive in reaching out to coaches and researching schools. You will find the right fit for you! 

If you haven’t started this work yet, START NOW! Now is the time. If you have started this work, then keep going, and stay persistent and tenacious with your recruiting process. You got this!

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