By Cassandra Prewitt
I have noticed in many areas, especially southwest Missouri, there is a growing epidemic in the club volleyball world. More and more high schools are making their own club teams. This could be for several reasons. The coaches could be doing this in order to keep their players together because they want their high school team to reach its full potential. It could also be argued that there isn’t an affordable club team close enough for the players. However, I did notice last season several of the girls who typically play for a larger club team did not continue with that team because their high school put together a team. I couldn’t help but wonder if this would affect their possible future volleyball career.
With all these teams being developed and more players being kept for their high school’s team I had to ask how college coaches felt about this. After all, I know there are many girls that would like to play in college which raises other questions. For example, if the high school team isn’t very good, does it benefit the individual player to stay with the high school team during club season? Perhaps a player is significantly more talented than her counter parts. Would she then be allowed to go to a different club team resulting in more recruiting exposure? Or, does it even matter? As stated before, my main concern is for the individual athlete and her possible future volleyball career.
I decided to ask several college coaches, from various levels, to comment on this growing trend. I asked them specifically, “With more high school teams developing their own club teams and requiring girls to play for them, do you think this is beneficial or, do you think it would be better for the individual player if the girls are allowed to play with girls from other high schools?” I received somewhat of an array of answers. Some agreed that it would be better for the players if they are allowed to learn from other coaches and experience playing with other girls. Other coaches didn’t see an issue with it as long as the players were being developed further and experiencing good competition.
For example, Coach Chris Willis from Davidson College in North Carolina said, “I think it is better for the development of the individual players to be exposed to a variety of coaching philosophies. I also think that athletes should learn how to play with other teammates and against the best competition possible. Most likely these objectives can’t be met by staying with the same coach and same players.” Coach Jim Moore from University of Oregon adds to this opinion by noting that, “the top players may not get a fair chance to grow if they are not exposed to a high level of play.”
When I asked Coach Chris Herron from Washburn University in Kansas this question, he replied that he finds it wrong for a high school coach to require playing club in order to play for the high school team. In fact, he notes, “high school coaches are becoming more irrelevant,” in that more coaches are recruiting their players through the club teams they play for and not from the high school teams on which they play. Therefore, it is important for the high school coaches to realize this and not restrict their athletes. Herron also likes that the girls can play with other players and get different perspectives because there are many aspects to playing the game.
Coach Nicole Cirillo from IUPUI adds that she doesn’t actually mind that coaches are creating their own club teams. It is the fact that they are requiring that their players participate on the high school’s club team that concerns her. Cirillo believes that most teams have one to two good players and if those girls want to play at a high level then they should be challenged and surrounded by players that will make them better. She is also not a big fan of having the same coach all the time because there are so many different ways to teach the game. One coaching style may work for one player while it doesn’t for another.
Then there is the opinion of Coach Nicholas Griffin of Georgetown College in Kentucky and his assistants who are in agreement that it’s on a case-by-case basis. They believe that sometimes high schools have to create their own club team due to location issues and proximity to larger towns or cities with larger club teams. But they also noticed that some coaches keep their girls together in order to benefit their own school season. They do not think either one is a horrible reason to start a club, however, the top players on the team are often held back. He suggested that if players are, “looking to reach another level, they need to find the best coaching and environment for them.”
Coach Jason Holt from Missouri S&T seems to be in agreement that every situation is different. However, he did reply, “it might be better for individual players to play with players from different teams, unless the level of players on that particular high school team and their competition are strong enough for the players to improve.”
In addition, Coach John Cook from Nebraska believes that “sometimes it is all they can do.” He doesn’t have an opinion on who they play with. Cook went on to say, “I think they should play as many sports possible,” which is another issue, for another article. Coach Kaki Morehead from Eastern Oregon University doesn’t really have an opinion on this issue either. She believes that it is simply beneficial if the girls are playing on a team and working to get better every day. Although, she does mention that it is beneficial for kids to “get a break from those kids they play with all the time and learn a new level of volleyball.”
It seems as though the general consensus is that it may not actually matter if the girls are playing on their high school club team or for a different club team, as long as they are given the opportunity to excel. As noted above, playing on a high school club team can have its benefits. However, I personally feel it is better for the girls to play with different teammates because it gives them new experiences and helps them grow. I truly believe the best thing is for the players to experience different coaching styles and a higher level of play during their club season.