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Serve City Frequently Asked Questions

Can you explain your three levels of programming?

We offer three primary club programs: a national program (eight-month season), regional program (six-month season) and short season program (nine-week season). Each program is geared specifically to athletes in a range of situations, from the most serious and committed volleyball players to volleyball athletes who are involved in other activities and players who want to either get a taste of club volleyball or just want to play to learn and have fun.

Each SCV team will feature a trained and qualified coach with strong teaching skills and great enthusiasm for the game along with weekly support from a lead trainer who is one of the most experienced coaches in the Chicago area. Our teams will also be entered in tournaments that fit their experience and skill levels and will stretch their skills and abilities in a fun and exciting competitive environment.

What is Serve City’s mission as a volleyball club?

Serve City is committed to training our athletes to reach their highest potential on and off the court. We are dedicated to instilling our athletes with a growth mindset that believes they can learn and master a wide range of skills and developing their skills and understanding of the game, but that’s just part of our mission.

We are also devoted to helping our players grow as leaders, teammates and mature, servant-minded adults who positively impact their world both today and as future spouses, parents, employees, family members and citizens. The values we teach — from work ethic, confidence, teamwork and dedication to passion, perseverance, time management and zest for life — are lifelong characteristics that will benefit our athletes in every area of their lives, from family and school to church, friendships, athletics and beyond.

What role do your coaches play in our daughter’s development?

Our 2019-2020 coaching staff is equipped to teach all of the skills, tactics and strategies of the game at the age and competitive level they are assigned to, including the more advanced techniques of the sport, in an atmosphere that is fun, challenging and stretches our athletes outside their comfort zone to help each player reach their full potential.

Our 2019-2020 coaches are an exciting blend of teachers and leaders who share a deep passion for volleyball and for youth athletes.

why does serve city offer the lowest fees of any chicago-area volleyball club?

In short, we believe club volleyball should be affordable for any working-class and middle-class family that wants their daughter to play this incredible sport. Serve City was founded to give families a fair and competitive alternative to the over-priced clubs that dominated the club volleyball landscape in Chicagoland. Our fees are anywhere from 40-percent to 80-percent cheaper than other clubs in the region, enabling athletes from less affluent families enjoy the benefits of club volleyball training and competition and allowing all families to spend a fairer price on their daughters’ club volleyball experience.

Our hope is that our commitment to more affordable pricing will spawn a revolution in the club volleyball world. We hope you join our revolution by enrolling your daughter in our program!

my daughter is registered for tryouts. when will we know if she made a serve city team?

Within 24 hours of the completion of tryouts we will send out emails to families offering spots on a team to the athletes that our coach evaluators ranked and chose for each team’s roster. These selections will be based on a thorough evaluation process that our coaches will follow as they evaluate each athlete during tryouts followed by a post-tryout evaluation meeting with the coaches and club director to discuss the evaluations and make final decisions on which athletes merit offers. Families will then have 24 hours to accept the offer or else the offer can then be passed to another player.

Players who ask to try out for a national team but do not make that national team will be given the option to play for a regional team.

how many athletes will be on a team roster?

Our 2019-2020 rosters will feature 9 to 11 athletes on our national and regional teams and 9-12 athletes on our short season teams. Rosters of these sizes are best for our coaches to manage each athlete, offer individual and small group feedback in training and provide a healthy allotment of playing time while creating a large enough roster to give teams a helpful buffer in the event of illnesses, injuries and other absences and to enable productive practices.

how will serve city communicate with my family and my daughter during the season?

The short answer is early and often! One of the qualities that families appreciate about Serve City is our attentive and personalized approach to club volleyball. Even recently, a parent lamented to us that his daughter and his family received little personal or direct communication or feedback from his daughter’s coach and the club’s directors during his daughter’s season at a larger, more impersonal club.

By contrast, Serve City strives to over-communicate with families in these ways:

Our club director, Jeff Smith, sends emails and text messages (via GroupMe, a free text message app that enables Serve City to send urgent and important information to families and athletes on their phone) to families several times a month. These emails and messages cover a wide variety of purposes, from announcements about upcoming club and team clinics and events and tournaments to reminders about tournament schedules, club news, special offers, volleyball skill development tips for athletes and important changes and updates to practice and tournament schedules. He also taps into his 21 years of volleyball coaching to write a weekly volleyball blog that shares helpful advice and best practices for volleyball player development and how to maximize your family’s volleyball experience.

Our club’s coaches also communicate regularly with their team’s families and their athletes through GroupMe and email, particularly about practices and tournament schedules. In 2019-2020, our coaches will also send each family of their athletes a mid-season player evaluation and a post-season player evaluation that will provide your daughters with specific feedback on their strengths, areas of growth and ways they can grow in their skills, tactics, strategies and competitive mindset.

Serve City also will create and update team pages on our website that will feature team rosters, team schedules, photos and videos of your daughter’s team in tournament action throughout the season.

We also communicate frequently through our social media channels, particularly our Instagram and Facebook accounts, posting photos and videos of our athletes and teams in action at tournaments, practices and team and club events as well as inspirational quotes, funny memes, announcements and more. Be sure to click our Facebook, Instagram and YouTube links in the icons at the bottom of this page and follow us on social media so you are kept in the know on all things SCV!

Our coaches and club director are also available throughout the season if you or your daughter have questions for them about how your daughter can improve and grow in a particular area of the game. Our coaches love to offer advice that will give their athletes the wisdom and ideas they need to keep stretching and refining their games, and our club director also serves as our lead trainer for our teams and is available throughout each week to share his 21 years of volleyball wisdom accrued coaching at the college, high school and middle school age levels.

As a smaller, service-minded club, we strive to apply a personal approach that many other clubs don’t choose to provide.

do you offer a sibling discount?

Yes we do! We offer a $100 discount for each additional sibling participating in our full-season national or regional season during the same season. This discount doesn’t apply to our short season program.

why don’t serve city teams travel to out-of-state or overnight tournaments?

The Chicago area is one of the strongest volleyball regions in the country. Chicagoland features more volleyball clubs per capita than nearly every other metropolitan area in America.

Because of this, there’s no need for club teams to travel across the country to other tournaments. The Chicago area already offers some of the most competitive tournaments in the U.S., including the Asics Jr. National Championships in June at Navy Pier in Chicago, universally regarded as the No. 3 national tournament in America behind only USAV Nationals and AAU Nationals.

The rich array of power leagues and competitive tournaments in Chicagoland also means we don’t need to substantially raise our club fees. Countless families have come to Serve City from other clubs, telling us how our fees are 3-4 times cheaper than the clubs they came from where each family spent $5,000 or more just on air travel, accommodations, food and tourist expenses at the glamorous out-of-state national tournaments, not to mention another $3,000-$4,000 for the regular-season fees, including the hidden costs that clubs don’t advertise up-front, such as the expectation that each athlete will take part in private lesson training and extra positional training that are additional costs above the advertised club fees.

Serve City’s goal is to provide productive, valuable, effective training through practices and tournaments that doesn’t financially gouge our athletes’ families.

what is your policy for multi-sport athletes?

We are one of the staunchest supporters of multi-sport athletes in the club volleyball scene in Chicagoland. In fact, many of our athletes the last three years participated in one or two other school, park district or travel sports in addition to Serve City.

We will work with the families of multi-sport athletes to help them navigate the scheduling challenges posed by training for two different teams at the same time. This includes offering these athletes the opportunity to participate in practices with other teams of a similar age level during weeks when scheduling conflicts arise as well as marking absences as excused when, for instance, a school soccer game conflicts with a volleyball practice and the athlete needs to either miss volleyball practice or arrive late or leave early.

We are also supportive of families who determine that their daughter would be best served by playing on a regional team or short season squad instead of a national team. Our goal is to support our athletes and families, not to twist their arm or try to convince them to make a greater time commitment if doing so would not be in the best interests of their daughter or their family.

do serve city athletes receive positional training?

Yes, at least one practice per week and sometimes both weekly practices will feature some skill-specific training for hitters, back-row defenders, front-row blockers and setters. The amount of time spent will vary depending on the practice. Our lead trainer and coaches also design practices that include positional training within the drills, and our coaches also are trained to provide helpful on-the-spot positional feedback throughout practices to middle hitters, pin hitters, setters, liberos and defensive specialists.

What is the focus of Serve City’s 2 practices a week?

Our teams practice twice a week for two hours per practice. One of those practices will take place with one or two other teams of similar age and skill level. This enables those athletes and teams to get valuable experience and preparation competing in 6 on 6 drills and games to sharpen the teams’ and athletes’ game readiness and refine their skills, tactics and strategies. On these days these teams and athletes will also be grouped together for part of practice to engage in skill-specific positional training.

For the other weekly practice, the team will practice on its own court and will focus on a mix of skill development and team development.

what is serve city’s philosophy on playing time?

For our national teams, playing time is earned and not given, though for regular-season tournaments our coaches make every effort to give playing time to every athlete who is meeting all club criteria (see below).

For our regional teams, playing time is given equitably but not equally. Some players may earn the opportunity to play all around, while others play for three out of every six rotations (such as a front-row position or a back-row position). For regional teams, every athlete plays in every game of every match if the athlete is meeting all club criteria (see below).

For our short season teams, like with our regional teams, every athlete plays in every game of every match for either three or six rotations (all around or only back row or only front row) if she is meeting all club criteria.

Playing time is determined by the coach based on the criteria espoused in our club handbooks. These criteria include attendance, practice effort, attitude toward coaches and teammates, game performance and skill.

If there is a conflict over playing time, playing time and related issues are to be resolved between the player and coach. If there is still a conflict after discussions between the coach and player, a formal meeting will take place with the player, coach and a parent. The final step if still unresolved is to hold a meeting between the coach, player, parent and club director.

Where do tournaments take place, when are they held and how long do they take?

Tournaments take place on Saturdays and/or Sundays in the Chicago area. Each tournament in the Windy City Power League or Chicago Volleyball League typically runs for 4-6 hours. Teams play approximately three to five matches. For national teams, the season-ending Asics Jr. Nationals takes place for three days for 14U to 18U teams and for two days for 12U and 13U teams.

What are club expectations for parents of athletes?

Our policy is open door, meaning we encourage parents to communicate with our director and coaches except if there are questions about a daughter’s playing time or playing role during practices and tournaments. Questions or concerns about playing time and playing role are only to be asked of coaches 24 hours or later after a tournament to ensure a cooling-off period.

We ask all parents to be positive role models both for their daughter and for the other girls on the team. Our coaches and staff run and organize all team practices and tournament participation so parental involvement is not needed, though coaches or staff might ask parents to assist with coordinating snacks, meals or team bonding activities.

Parents should not coach their daughters during any practices or tournaments nor distract their girls from their team responsibilities during a practice, tournament or team or club event. We also encourage parents to cheer for all athletes on their daughter’s team during tournaments and not just their child in order to create a supportive team environment.

My daughter is interested in playing volleyball collegiately. Can Serve City help?

We are more than happy to assist you and your daughter in the college recruiting process. You may contact our club director and meet with him and your daughter’s coach to discuss ways to start or further your daughter’s college recruitment at no additional cost to you.

who is serve city’s club director?

Serve City is led by one of the most experienced volleyball coaches in the Chicago area. You can learn more about Jeff Smith by visiting his bio page on our website. Jeff has coached every age level at the club and school level from 12 and under to 18 and under at two different clubs as well as five years coaching high school and middle school athletes in sand volleyball and one season as an assistant coach at Wheaton College.

Jeff recently crossed the exclusive 1,000-win coaching plateau in June, an achievement accomplished by fewer than 100 past and present coaches across the country over the years, and currently has a 1,005-445 win-loss record.

In his role as club director, Jeff serves as the club’s lead trainer. He has created a player and team development plan starting at 12U and running through the 18U level for all Serve City coaches, athletes and teams to follow to ensure that our athletes and teams are on an aggressive growth and training track. He also will be managing each coach’s practice planning to ensure that practices meet Serve City’s growth mindset-focused training model and philosophy and will write the practice plans for Serve City’s multi-team practices and sometimes lead these practices himself to establish our practice philosophy built on “fun, fast-paced and challenging” training that expands athletes’ love for the game while ensuring that our practices are productive and effective.

Jeff is a staunch believer in Serve City’s mission and our club’s purpose and focus. His own daughters played for Serve City and now play at Judson University and College of DuPage. His older daughter coaches our 13U national team. He and his wife, Kelly, and their family live in West Chicago and attend Christ Community Church in St. Charles.

Does Serve City provide refunds or prorated amounts on club fees?

We don’t offer any type of refund or prorated amount for any of our club programs. The reason is, when we offer spots on a team to specific athletes and their families accept by signing our club handbook financial agreement, those roster spots represent revenue streams that we depend on to enable that team to practice and play tournaments.

We depend on each family that accepted an offer to fulfill its financial commitment. Otherwise if they don’t we then will not have the incoming funds available to meet that team’s financial obligations to the park districts and churches from which we rent gym space, the coaches we hire to coach our teams, the club director we employ to run our club, the church from which we rent office and storage space, the tournament and league organizers we pay to enter our teams in tournaments and power league competitions and the athletic suppliers we enlist to provide us with uniforms and apparel.