Competition Time!

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By Chris Beerman

Our season is off and running and Lexington United teams are beginning their competitive seasons with tournaments all around the lower Midwest. Our 17's and 18's got an early start in mid-January at the Mideast Power League and our 13 Black and 15 Blue teams made the journey down to the Knoxville, TN area for a tournament hosted by K2 Volleyball. Both battled hard and our 13's made a great run on Sunday losing in the Gold Final in 3 close games. Great competitive start and certainly room for improvement, and the greatest thing about actually playing is the results allow you to get back in the gym and train your weaknesses. I have been very pleased with the overall practice vibes of our teams and feel all of the coaches have bought into what we are trying to accomplish from a philosophical standpoint. I have been able to get around to almost every practice on every night, so I have a pretty good feel for the teams that are really getting it and likewise the teams that need a boost once in awhile. Our coaches have had good energy, been organized and are creating learning environments and generally happy players. Although Lexington had a smattering of club attempts in the past, nothing ever stuck, so our 23 teams represent an incredibly wide and diverse experience and ability spectrum. This fact makes for a challenge when scheduling tournaments for teams. We decided our Regional teams would literally play a "regional" schedule with Louisville being their farthest trip. The fact is we have so many great tournament options within an hour of Lexington, not to mention the events we host, so it really makes for an affordable, yet competitive tournament schedule. Regional teams will play 5 or 6 tournaments and wrap up their seasons' in late April. Our Elite teams play in 10 or 11 tournaments including AAU's at the end, so scheduling is much more intensive and diverse. We play in the Mideast Power League as well as various tournaments locally, in Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. We will also have a few teams travel to Houston for the JVA World Challenge and of course many of our 1's and 2's teams will finish their seasons in Orlando at the AAU National Championships. All in all, I believe our parents are getting a lot of bang for their buck and our competitive goals for our teams in regard to scheduling is to challenge our teams, but not overwhelm them. I've seen other clubs sandbag their teams by playing in lower divisions and claim easy victories and I've also seen clubs over-schedule, get crushed and take pride in the fact that they are playing against the best. The problem with that is if you keep getting your head beat in, you're losing your confidence and learning to lose a lot. I think being as honest as possible in evaluating the talent-level of your team and putting them in the best position to be challenged, yet have a legitimate chance to win matches is the best approach. On the other hand, we do need our top teams to play as competitive of a schedule as possible so we have "leaders" within the club. Then our less experienced players can aspire to that level and our club, led by the leaders, can gradually make moves toward being a regional power and eventually a national power. The other focus regarding our competitive season is we want our teams to peak at the end; to continually improve and through competitive trial and error, learn the factors in volleyball that decide winners and losers. One factor of a winning volleyball team (I'm impressed with already in our club) is the close relationships and cohesiveness of our teams, and how much fun they are having. It's something I want to make sure I continue to see all the way into late spring/early summer. Another really neat and important aspect of our club that we've been able to launch is our youth programs for both 6-9 year olds and 10 and 11 year olds. Both programs run one day a week for an hour and a half and are run by myself and two very experienced coaches who excel at fundamental training. As someone who coached at the collegiate level for 20 years and had very little experience with kids this age, I find these little ones an absolute blast to work with. The kids are so enthusiastic and excited and the improvement on a weekly basis is incredible. Introducing our great sport in a fun and fundamentally focused way to young kids and getting them hooked is the key to our community becoming the next great volleyball hotbed in this country. The cool thing I've discovered in working with this age group is you don't have to skimp on volleyball. We've been able to run straight, modified volleyball skill training with kids as young as 6 years old, and keep them rolling for over an hour. Too me the kids that age want to be like the big girls and learn how to actually play volleyball. Kind of cool! Thanks again for following the blog. My 16's team will be heading up to Muncie this weekend to launch our season at the Mideast Power League, so I'm excited to start competing. As always, don't hesitate to question or comment about anything. Best of luck to everyone competing this weekend!


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