Monday, March 14, 2016

Finish up 2016 Strong! Get Ready for next year's club season! Newsletter

Good morning!  This is a special time for junior volleyball.  If you are coaching club, this time of year almost mirrors the month of October for the high school season.  Why?  You are well into your season and everybody has "settled" into a rhythm.  Time to get ready to finish out this season and plan for the next. 

Here are a few thoughts and tidbits for you......
Start Recruiting for next year's team. 
A simple rule for junior sports:  Whoever controls the 9-12 year old talent in your area is going to win a lot of matches in the years to come.  Remember, you are not just recruiting against local club volleyball teams, you are competing against other sports.  Volleyball has a significant advantage over many other sports.  I often tell parents and prospective players that boys and girls that play volleyball are:  Smart, athletic, good looking, great kids from great families.  The reason our sport is so popularity is we attract good kids and great families.  FYI, girls volleyball just passed basketball as the second most popular sport for high school players.  We only have the sport of track and field in front of us. 

So here are some ideas:
*Collect e-mails from every person who is even remotely interested in volleyball. 
* Use these e-mails to start a newsletter about your club or high school. 
*See if you can work out a deal with a local YMCA, community center or grade school to do free clinics in exchange for access to their e-mail list. 
*Develop a positive relationship with the coaches and teachers that are working with the 9-12 year olds.
* Schedule a free clinic for young players and parents.

Finish Strong in 2016!
Last weekend, my club teams finished 5-1 in regional play.  This weekend, my teams went 1-5.  As a coach and club director of a boutique club,  I don't get caught up in wins and losses.  I put my focus on each player getting better every time they step into the gym.  The issue is,  as I mentioned before,  some players get in a groove where they show up, they practice, they go home.  They have lost their initial motivation they had in the first couple of weeks of practice.  This is also the time of year that players quit or transfer.  Some will engage in other sports or activities.  Some players suffer injuries or have to catch up on homework. 

Here are some ideas for finishing strong:
* Mix the teams up.  I have the luxury of training 30 players on two courts.  this allows me to have players of different ages and skill levels (within reason) play and do drills against each other.

* Schedule scrimmage with other teams in your area.  From now until the end of the season, the one thing that will get the players attention is competition against other teams.  Contact the teams in your area and see if they want to scrimmage. 

* Put boys in the mix!!  I have three 14 year old boys training right alongside our 16s and 18s.  They have more than held their own with the girls. The girls appreciate the "change of pace" the boys add to the gym.  Lions and tigers and boys, Oh my!!   

* Play "MoneyBall."  This is one of my favorite games.  Players show up to the gym with $10 each going into the pot.  The coach picks teams leveling out the talent as best as possible.  Play either queen of the court or a regular game.  The team that has the most wins and or points wins the expense money.  If you are a non-profit, you may have to forego this idea. 

The Difficult Player
Full disclosure:  I was not an easy player to coach.  Early in my career, I was a nightmare for coaches.  Why?  Simple:  I was a very talented player.  So, if I was better than everybody else, why do I have to work hard?  Talent rules, right? That was my thinking. I had a change of attitude after being kicked off my high school team, the USA Junior National team and the National Team (okay, so I was a slow learner!)  One of the ways coaches exercise control of the team is by cutting players.  Cutting players is a tough choice.  Do you put up with attitude as long as the player can produce? That is an option many coaches choose.  I often read articles on how to coach the "difficult player."  I empathize with coaches.  You need talent, but in a perfect world the talent has a fantastic work ethic and is a popular with their peers.   I have one guiding principal for practices: Players need to get better each time they come into practice.  Easy to say, hard to do.  Coaches don't get fired for winning and losing in professional sports.  Coaches get into trouble when their teams quit improving.  If you have a player who is keeping the team from have a serious problem.  How do players become a cancer?  They make fun of the coaching staff.  They get into arguments.   The belittle younger or less experienced players.  They "cruise" through practice.  We have all seen these players.  What can you do? 

Here are some suggestions:
*The first step would be for the coaching staff to sit down with the player (and parent?) and appeal to their ego.  See if they have the ability to lead by example and change the way they treat others:  "If you are a great player, we want you to become a great person!" This is exactly what Doug Beal did with me. 
*The second suggestion is to have an assistant coach work with the player in question to see if they can act as a buffer.  In retrospect, I probably did not know what I looked like in practice. 
*Another method is to have the players sign a contract at the beginning of the season so they know the expectations and limits of their behavior.   
*Legendary coach Al Scates had a simple solution for problem players: Send them down to train with the JV or Freshmen team for a couple of days.  (Ouch!)
*A popular idea is to have the player write down their goals for the remainder of the season and how he/she is going to attain their goals. 
* Lastly, see if some of the other  players on the team can talk to the player in question and have them come to an understanding.  Sometimes peers can have a much greater impact on the "challenged player" than a coach. 

Since parents are so involved in youth sports these days (really?) If things get out of hand, you are going to have to sit down with the player, parents, coaches and AD or Club Director.  Nobody wants to be there--especially the player--but they are a necessary tool in the process.  Make sure you document all of your moves.  Make sure you understand the procedure for terminating a player from the club or high school.  Consult with the AD/Club Director to keep them in the loop and ask for suggestions.  If after all of your attempts to seek peace with the player fail....cut them.  The reason these players are called a "cancer" is because their attitude and work ethic compromise the goals of the team.   Personally, I don't cut players.  I give them time to mature (like I did!) and work out their problems.  I have players come up to me and tell me they don't get along with one of the other  players on the team.  If the worst thing that happens to a person is they have to put up with a "problem player" on their volleyball is pretty good.

Technical Tidbit
My teams that struggled this last week were having issues in serve receive (common for this age group!)  By observation, I noticed that roughly 80% of the problem passes were the result of balls landing in front of my players.  So, what I did was to have the players take about 3/4 of a step forward.  I am willing to get aced or lose control of the deep floater, but I need to be able to take care of the short serve first.  Question:  Where are your players having serve receive issues? 

I am putting the final touches on my schedule.  Click here to see if I will be close to you this year. 

Interested in a private camp?  I have been doing more and more private camps for high schools and clubs over the last several years.  Send me an e-mail if you are interested:

Questions?  Answers:

Have a great spring and summer!

Pat Powers

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Truth about College Volleyball Scholarships

College Volleyball Scholarships:  The Straight Scoop

Why do you want your son/daughter to play volleyball?  The answer is kids who play volleyball are: Smart, athletic, good looking, great kids from great families!  That is the attraction of the sport.  Not an athletic scholarship.  You want your kids to be around these kids 2-4 times a week.  If you want to play at the next level, below is some general advice. 

You will choose your college based on these 4 factors and usually in this order: 
A. Cost of education
B. Athletics
C. Academics
D. Extra Curricular

If you are not an athlete,  take out the athletics. 

One of the first thing's things colleges/universities look at on your application is your SAT/ACT score.  Take a SAT/ACT preparatory class to raise your test score.    

Four ways for money:  Athletic scholarship, academic aid, financial need based aid and of course you can always pay for your daughter and son's education. 

1.  Volleyball Athletic Scholarship:  If you want a volleyball scholarship, you have to play club volleyball.  About 90% of the women and men NCAA volleyball players have played in the USAV junior club system.  The other 10% come from overseas.  Maybe more, maybe less.  Best results are when you play on a "Traveling Team" for your club.  These club teams play in what we call JO Qualifiers or similar tournaments.  The list of JO Qualifier tournaments can be found here:   Why do you want to play in these tournaments?  That is where the coaches are.  You will see more collegiate coaches watching "Open" players than the "National"  or "American" divisions.  Here is the big secret about recruiting:  If you are good, the coaches will find you.  Period.  They are very good at this.  It is their job.  You do not need to spend a lot of money on a club in order to be seen.   If you go to a JO Qualifier, make sure you go to the USAV's High Performance tryout the night before/after the tournament starts.  The coaches are there.  They will see you.  Be aware of the omnipresent "Combine/Recruiting" events.  Some are good, some are bad.  Here is another secret players and parents need to warm up to:  Coaches can watch you play for 30-60 seconds and they know whether or not they should keep watching.  I often tell the story of when Jeff Stork and I watched 129 boys play King of The Court at a HP tryout in Orange County.  We were asked to find the 30 best players.  We both scanned the floors for 25 minutes and we each came back and threw down a sheet of paper.  We missed each other's list by 1 name!!  It is that quick and accurate.  Any college coach can do the same. 

 Should you make a DVD/Tape?  Should you get a recruiting service?  Again, college coaches are very good at finding talented players.  Have your club director help you.  He/she is getting weekly e-mails with request from college coaches.  A good director is going to forward you this information.  The most popular way to contact coaches is to send them a short 3-5 minute YouTube video.  Send this YouTube video along with a short honest bio to no less than 100 coaches.  Coaches  get between 15-60 of these videos a week.  The first thing they are going to look at is how high you touch then your SAT score. 

What positions are the most recruited?  Since the game is won and lost at the pins (antennas) the most sought after recruits are opposites and outside hitters followed by setters and then middle blockers.  Liberos and defensive specialist will be recruited in 6-packs.  The wining libero or DS might get a scholarship their junior year.  Be aware of programs that offer something in the future.  College coaches are for the most part an honest group, but their job is dependent on winning and if somebody else better comes along, a decision will be made. 

There are about 300 DI women's programs that offer volleyball.  About 300 DII women's programs that offer volleyball and about 300 DIII that offer volleyball.  Figure an average of about 10 scholarships per DI program about 6 scholarships for the DII and no athletic scholarships for DIII programs.  Junior colleges offer athletic scholarships as well as NAIA programs.  Add it all up for the girls and there about/around/maybe 4500 scholarships.  Add it up for the men and there are about/around/maybe 100 scholarships. 

2. Academic Aid:  Did you follow my advice and take a SAT/ACT preparatory class?  Do you have a high GPA?  The good news is colleges and universities recruit good students a lot more than they recruit good athletes.  They will give you money if you apply for the right scholarships.  The best thing to do is to visit each school's web site and to look at the process for obtaining an academic scholarship .  Work with your high school counselor.   If you can go to the school and make an appointment with the admissions to ask questions about scholarships, so much the better.  Keep on top of it.  Words of wisdom:  If the school is going to give you money, you need to maintain a certain GPA.  If your GPA falls below a certain threshold, they will warn you, them pull your academic scholarship. 

3. Financial Need Based Aid:  This is what I did my last year at USC.  You can go to to register for student financial need based aid.  Once you register (they track you through your SS#) they will want to see two years of your parents income taxes, bank statements, IRA and other financial account statements, equity in real estate etc.....They compute this and will send you a letter in early April telling you that you have been accepted into the school with three types of aid:  Grants, Work Study and Loans.  Grants are what you want.  It is free money.  Loans you have to pay back.  Work study is how the universities and colleges fill their labor needs.  Two thoughts of advice:  The first is universities will front load these packages with grants the first two years with the last two being more loans.  That is why students graduate with so much in student debt.  Secondly, you must apply for these grants every year.  There are deadlines for turning current financial information back into FAFSA.  Make sure you meet those deadlines or you will lose all of your financial need base aid. 

There are Three parts to being an Athlete:  Athletic ability, The ability to change and the ability to positively influence those around them.  Let's look at  these individually.

*Spotting athletic ability in sports is the easiest part of a coach's job.  In football, what is the first question they ask about a football player?  "What is his 40?"  In men's and women's swimming, they ask:  "What is your 100 free?"  In crew, they ask:  "What is your ERG score?"  In the sport of volleyball we ask: "What do you touch.?"  As a very general barometer If you touch 9'6" you will probably play at the next level.  If you touch 9'8" you are going to probably play at the next level, but not where you think.  If you touch 10' or above, you could not hide from the college coaches if you tried.  If you touch 10'4" or better you are already on the radar of USC, UCLA, Stanford, Nebraska, Washington, Penn State, Texas et al......If you touch 9 and above, you are looking at a D11, D111 or a NAIA school.  Boys, you need to be able to touch about 11'3" to get the attention of coaches. 

You will know when you are seriously being recruited when one of four things happen:  The college coach invites you on an un-official or official visit, or the college coaches asks to see your official or unofficial transcripts and test scores.  Everything else is parental fluff:  The phone calls, the letters, e-mails.  Fluff, fluff and more fluff.  Understand how colleges recruit. Coaches will look at between 100 and 400 players a year.  On an average year, they  will bring in 3-4 new players.  You need to expand your possibilities and look at many colleges. Do not narrow your choice.  You will be disappointed.

* The second part to being an athlete is the ability to change.  It is the wholly grail of volleyball, athletics and life.  Common situation:  You just got beat in a drill.  Do you have the ability to compete?  Can you change physically, technically and mentally to beat your teammates?  Can you be beaten by others?  Do you beat yourself?  It is my estimation that only 2%-4% of the junior population are natural learners and have the aptitude to get better each day they play.  Oldest sports cliché: "Get better each Day!!"  Hardest thing to do as an athlete. The ability to change has one more name in today's society:  Leaders. 
*  The ability to make others around you better is the third part of being an athlete.  I will give you two examples:  Barry Bonds, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens.  Great athletes.  Hall of fame talent.  But they did not make the players around them better.  As opposed to the greatest athlete that has graced us in the last 50 years:  Magic Johnson.  All Magic did was make the players around him better.  You East Coast homers can vote for your very own Larry Bird as another athlete who would make this list.  Tim Duncan is my latest addition.  Making players better can be a result of your personality, your play or your display of work ethic.  In that very rare case,  players will possess all three.   

Collegiate Club Volleyball If the coaches are not beating a path to your door or wearing out your e-mail inbox?  Think about  club volleyball at a major university.  Everybody wants a college scholarship, but it is quid pro quo.  You give them your time and talent, they give you money.  Trust me when I tell you it is an even exchange.  Club volleyball at the university or collegiate level is made for the students who want to stay involved with the sport, but do not want to wake up at 6am and do weights.  They don't want to spend 3 days on the road.  They don't want to feel so tired after practice, they cannot keep their eyes open.  Club volleyball is one of the fastest growing parts of the sport for both men and women.  Check into the Rec Centers at your college and see if they offer club volleyball.  Typically, club teams train once or twice a week.  They have tournaments once a month.  And, they have a season ending national tournament! 

Junior Colleges   I love junior/community colleges!  I am a product of a junior college.  I still go to junior colleges to take courses on subjects that interest me.  My daughter goes to junior college--not because she could not get into a 4 year school.  There are 3 major reasons I like junior colleges: 
1.  They save you a lot of money! (this is an understatement!) 
2.  Great teachers!  ( I hate to bag on my teachers at USC, but my CC teachers were great!)
3.  Students with tough majors can take GE courses and transfer (hopefully!) that class into a four year program.  They are not competing  against the curve!

College Reality  Here is a scary statistic:  Nationwide, 30% of freshmen do not return to the same academic institution for their sophomore year.  20% of sophomores do not return for their junior year.  The numbers are going to be different for private institutions, but it is an eye opening experience for many students who come into a college thinking it is going to be easy.  Why do students drop out of college?  Grades?  Money?  Too much social life?  Problems with roommates?  Health issues?  Maybe a combination of these things?  Going to college is the greatest experience of your life.  But it is not for everybody.  Learning how to compete in a volleyball match is a walk in the park compared to the level of competition in a collegiate classroom.  You need to learn how to take studying seriously......for the simple reason is there are quite a few students in your classroom that do take studying seriously.  If you are like 80% of all college students, you are going to have a "crisis" your first year or so of college.  Your success in college is going to be determined by how well you handle this issue.  Talk to college counselors.  Talk to your teachers.  Talk to your parents.  Don't let the problem manifest in you giving up hopes of a college education.   You will meet lifelong friends in college.  You will receive a great education in college.  You will learn more about yourself and the way of life than at any other time in your life. 

Enjoy college!!! 

Pat Powers
Olympic Gold Medalist 2015 Schedule

2015 Schedule.  

(Key: The letter "E" after camp dates = Evening (After 5:00 PM)