by Jeff Smith
For most of our 12 girls club teams, the 2017-18 volleyball season ends in April. The school season doesn't begin until the second week of August or, for some schools, as late as early September, giving athletes a break lasting anywhere from 3 1/2 to five months between seasons.
What should your daughter do with so much time off? Here are five suggestions:
1. Thank her coach, teammates and parents for the club season.
The club season is a huge commitment of time and energy for coaches and athletes and finances for parents. As a club director, coach and father, I believe parents should encourage their children to express gratitude to their coach and teammates for everything they did to make their season an enjoyable success.
- Coaches pour countless hours of their time into your kids through their practice planning, coaches' education, teaching, individual and team feedback, lineup construction, team and parent communication, in-game coaching, team building, training opportunities, encouragement of each player and mid-season and postseason evaluations, among other responsibilities. If it were up to me, every Serve City coach would receive a note of thanks from each athlete and parent with their team.
- Teammates make a difference through their own dedication at practices and tournaments and how they push, challenge and encourage one another to learn and grow and build relationships with your daughter.
2. Take some time off from volleyball.
The best antidote to protecting against burnout on volleyball is to take a break from the sport. My own daughters don't play volleyball from late April till early June, when they begin sand volleyball season. This six-week break re-energizes their love for the game while allowing any lingering hurts or injuries to heal up. This is especially beneficial for my libero daughter, whose legs and knees are covered in bruises from dives and digs by the end of club season.
3. Set goals for the summer and fall.
Setting goals will help drive your daughter's summer volleyball plans.
Is she going to be trying out for the freshman team at her high school? She may need to play in two or three summer camps geared to teaching the skills she'll need to excel at in tryouts, such as setting if she wants to be a setter or hitting, serving and serve receiving if she wants to be an outside hitter.
Is she going to be trying out for the seventh-grade team at her middle school? She might need to work on her all-around skills at a summer camp or sand volleyball program.
Is she going to try out for her high school varsity team? Maybe she needs to take part in an intense overnight college camp that will teach her high-level skills and extend her outside her comfort zone.
4. Play volleyball this summer.
The best teacher of the game of volleyball is the game of volleyball. Playing dozens and even hundreds of hours of volleyball this summer is the best route for your daughter to develop her skills and understanding of the game. Sand doubles, grass court triples and quads, games of 6 on 6 -- the more competitive volleyball your daughter can play this summer the more she will grow as a player.
5. Hit the sand.
When University of Nebraska coach John Cook wanted to take his program to the next level a few years ago, the most significant change he made was training his players in the sand during their spring training season. Cook quickly saw several immediate improvements in his players from their two months of sand training:
- Improved all-around skills
- Higher and quicker leaping ability
- Better quickness to the ball
- More explosive jumping and blocking
- Greater confidence on the court
- Stronger serve receiving and defensive play
- Improved reading and anticipation skills
Besides being an exciting sport in and of itself, sand volleyball is a great complement to the indoor game. Training this summer with Chicago Sand Volleyball or another program will sharpen your daughter's skills, improve her athleticism and develop her all-around game more than a couple of week-long camps or two-day clinics. Throw in participation in two or three sand tournaments and your daughter will see her game soar in the sand in a mere eight-week-long investment.
Jeff Smith is Serve City's girls club director.