9 Ways to Elevate Boys Volleyball in Your Club
July 11, 2018 | Categories: Blog, Club Director, Boys
Over the last decade, it has been exciting to witness and be a part of the growth of girls volleyball in North Carolina. More girls are picking up the sport at younger ages, and more athletes whose primary sport is soccer, lacrosse, basketball, or softball are trying it out and finding that they really enjoy it!
Boys volleyball isn't one of the first, let alone tenth sports that comes to mind when discussing boys athletic programs in the south. But those that have played or watched men's volleyball, have witnessed first hand the excitement, fast pace, and power that accompanies the sport. When we started our boys program at Carolina Union Volleyball Club four years ago we had no idea what to expect.
We had a dad who played in the adult leagues at our club. We found out that he had a son who loved the sport. As we got to know Dylan, the dad, we started having the conversation, "Hey, you ready to start a boys' team over here?"
And so it began, with a team of 8 boys in the first year, and a couple of pretty talented players to build around. They were young—with several 14 year-olds playing in 18's division tournaments, because that was what was available. But they showed promise, and Dylan kept plugging away.
Four years later, we have four teams, multiple middle schools in the area followed by high schools, are sponsoring boys volleyball as a club sport. We've had 8 boys sign to play college volleyball, and two consecutive years now our top 18's team has finished 17th in 18 Open USAV Nationals. Dylan was named AVCA Boys Club Coach of the Year in 2017.
While there is no cookie cutter way to get started, here are nine keys that we believe helped the growth of our program, as well as boys volleyball in the area.
- Find the right person to run the program, and allow him/her to be dedicated to the boys' program. It's tough to start something from scratch. It's even tougher when your priorities jump back and forth. While Dylan has helped with the girls' program, his focus is the boys. That has given us a point of contact for new parents, and it's kept him from being pulled in different direction.
- Be willing to lose money at first. Having coaches who won't take pay doesn't hurt either! 2018 was the first year with our top Boys' team that we approached a Girls' travel budget, but it has been a building process each year. We also hold free and low-cost clinics at the club in order to attract kids who might be trying the sport for the first time.
- Tap into the sibling market! With a few rare exceptions, most of our guys are younger brothers of girls who played club and many of whom played collegiately.
- Promote signings! We currently have 8 boys who have signed, and this is a big draw for our athletes, especially multi-sport athletes who might not love their options in other sports. Our most recent almost-signee is a very good basketball player who touches 11'5". But, he didn't like his options as a basketball player, and after just a couple years on the volleyball court he is choosing between multiple schools to go play volleyball.
- Promote Men's College Volleyball. We are fortunate in Charlotte that there is a fairly dense cluster of Division 1 programs in the area (in all other sports they compete at D2)... yet most people have no idea that there are 8-10 programs within 2-3 hours of Charlotte. They won't know unless you and others get the word out.
- Pay to bring out the big dogs. Last year we hosted a Boys' camp and brought out the UCLA and Stanford Assistants to run it. This brought in players from NC, SC, Virginia, and Georgia. Come tryout time, several of those players ended up travelling to Charlotte to play for our Boys' team. There aren't a lot of programs around in the south, so kids will travel... which leads to the next point...
- Allow for flexibility with the boys practice schedule. Don't assume that they will operate like your girls programs. For some of our guys, this was their third or fourth sport when they started. If you try to pigeon hole them into a M/T/Th schedule, there's a decent chance it won't work like you want. Because so many of our boys travelled these past couple of years, we would have one practice during the week (which usually had 10-15 kids between our four teams), and then they would practice Friday nights, Saturday mornings and nights, and/or Sunday mornings and early afternoons. As a club director, you have to let your Boys' Director work outside of the box and simply ask, "What do you need?"
- Go to the schools, and find parents who are involved in those schools. Parents will do anything for their kids. And if they have sons who want to play volleyball... then they will try to start a program! Also, Dylan and several of our players did a number of free clinics at several middle schools in the area. One player becomes two becomes 5 becomes 20 . . . and coaches want other teams to play, so coaches reach out to coaches to start up programs.
- Host tournaments for the Boys' programs that schools start. This year, we were able to host a tournament for the now 6 boys high school club programs in the area. This was great for marketing, as each of these teams had a connection with our club because of a player or coach. So, it was a chance for the guys and their parents to see what we have to offer.
The boys game is growing, and it's exciting to be a part of it. Find great people, promote your program, think outside the box and, of course, be patient, and you may just find yourself with a budding new program!
About the Author
John Brannon has been the club director of Carolina Union Volleyball Club for six years, and a JVA Member since 2011. Now in their second facility, CUVC has grown from 12 teams to 45 teams since 2012 that includes a boys program and two satellite locations.