Branding and Building Culture Key for Club Volleyball Success

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To excel in club volleyball, directors and coaches can't just think of X's and O's.

Organizations must have a strong brand and culture to attract athletes, and emphasizing these attributes can be important to giving clubs and the players the best possible opportunity to succeed. It's a game plan many Junior Volleyball Association club directors around the country have followed with great results.

Sherry Fadool, the Executive Director at Triangle Volleyball Club, has subscribed to such principles for the past 15 years to keep her Raleigh, North Carolina-based club going strong. For her organization, it starts with a focus on the players and their families.

"Our families' positive endorsements are the most sincere and effective source of brand promotion we could ever hope to articulate through digital, print or video marketing," Fadool said.

That focus is ingrained in the club, from its mission statement to the regular communication among staff, no matter how minor it seems. Everything says something about the club and what it's about, she added.

It even extends to the coaches, who are held to high standards.

"They reflect our organizational values in both their teaching and interactions with athletes, parents and community," Fadool said.

Ozhan Bahrambeygui, Director of Coast Volleyball in San Diego, similarly sees coaching as key for a club's success. He said the girls come to the program because they want instruction from coaches who are into working with athletes.

Marketing its coaching staff has translated into success on the court for Coast. The program gets the athletes who have helped it compete nationally, and many have gone on to play NCAA Division I volleyball.

Paul Schiffer, Club Director of the Academy for Volleyball in Cleveland (AVC), said style of play, on-court achievements and success sending players to Division I programs are also important to branding. AVC promotes its national success as a club and track record of sending players to Division I programs, and Schiffer has seen it pay off.

"People in and around the market tend to see us, whether they play for a club or not," said Schiffer. "They tend to migrate to our courts and watch our kids play and tend to want to be a part of that."

However, it takes time to build such success, something Schiffer has experienced since founding AVC.

"It was a big effort in the beginning to really go find the kids and identify them all and attract a few," Schiffer said.

That equated to fielding just a couple high-quality teams early on, but Schiffer's hard work resulted in growth. It took a couple teams reaching nationals to really get things rolling for AVC.

"Once we started winning, it became easier to attract kids to our facility [and] kids to our club," Schiffer said.

While directors can identify winning as an important part of their clubs' cultures, it can't be the only feature of their promotional strategy.

Fadool chooses to highlight Triangle Volleyball's emphasis on sportsmanship, character, positive relationships and service as principles for her players to compete and live by.

"We hear from many people we interact with in the business that there is something unique about our culture that is perceptible from watching our teams both on and off the court," Fadool said.

Triangle Volleyball uses practical means to achieve that culture, starting by sending each team on a retreat day every season to focus on its core values. It doesn't stop at the players, either.

"We also actively engage our parents in our culture and help them to recognize their important role in sustaining our club culture and setting a good example for our athletes as they support their child, team and club," Fadool said.

Because Schiffer's club gets a high volume of interest, his staff monitors players over time to determine if the athlete fits the culture of their program. It's not all about talent for Schiffer, who said his organization looks for kids who are "we first" instead of "me first."

Fadool also makes sure her program has the players living 'we first' off the court, too. Triangle Volleyball players get to participate in service opportunities such as teaching the game to people with disabilities.

"An active service life creates a unique bond with young people and extends what we call the 'Triangle Experience' well beyond volleyball and thus creating a lifelong connection to our club and its mission," Fadool said.

Whether a club has an explicit service piece, the principle of personal development remains consistent across JVA clubs -- one worth spotlighting.

"The culture of the [AVC] program is success through hard work and training," Schiffer said.

Four attributes clubs can highlight in their promotional and branding campaigns:

  1. Family/player endorsements. Positive endorsements paint a picture of your organization to potential players and their families.

  2. Coaches. Highlight your coaches' backgrounds, philosophies, accomplishments to set your teams apart from others.

  3. On-court successes. Spotlight style of play, team achievements and the club's success at developing Division I athletes.

  4. Character development. Identify the ways your club can help athletes improve their sportsmanship, character, positive relationships and service to the community.

Triangle, Coast and AVC are all members of the JVA. To learn more about how a JVA membership can help your club take the next step, click here.  For related articles about building your club brand and culture, click here.

About the Author

This article is written by by Matthew Davis from SportsEngine, the official technology partner of the JVA. SportEngine offers special pricing and packages exclusive to JVA member clubs. More than just a website, SportsEngine can help you solve serious challenges you face with tryouts, billing and collections, team communication, tournaments, and more. For more information click here.


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