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Play the Game to Teach the Game

usav_palmetto_region_champions_18sIt’s the little club that could. Low Country Volleyball Club with a total of 3 teams in the entire club, won the 18 Open Division of the USAV Palmetto Region Championship this past weekend in Charlotte. This is the second year in a row the team won the region to advance to the USAV Nationals, held in Miami this July. I’m proud to say I coached at this club a number of years ago and it was a joy watching many of the girls I once coached win the championship…again. A club of three teams.

So how does a club of three teams dominate clubs that have that many teams in a single age group alone? Some of these clubs have 40 teams! The 73 year old club director and head coach of the 18s team is a big reason. You can teach old dogs new tricks, and this old dog wants to learn. He’s attended clinics by Mary Jo Peppler, John Kessel and the likes, and continues to adopt pieces of each of their coaching philosophies into his program. When I started coaching at the club, I was skeptical of his coaching practices. It seemed all the girls were doing was playing games. When were they to learn the intricate and dynamic movements of each individual skill? All they did was compete against each other at each practice. As time went by and I utah_volleyballcoached alongside Al Stern, I learned, as he learned, that kids learn best by pass, set, hit, pass, set, hit. USAV preaches this “pass, set, hit” practice philosophy as motor movement is best learned in this setting. Recently, I was fortunate to sit in on a practice by Head Coach, Beth Launiere at the University of Utah, her practices are run very similar. She too designs competitive, score-keeping practices in which motor skill learning through playing and competition are at an optimum.

At the club level, especially smaller clubs, gym time is at a premium. Many coaches spend at least half the practice coaching skills which can leave the girls actually playing volleyball for maybe 2 or 3 hours a week. Then when a tournament comes along on a weekend, we expect the girls to play well? It doesn’t often happen. The more time the girls have to play the game, the more time they have to learn the game. Skills are taught throughout these at practice through playing. A player is pulled off on the side to focus on one aspect of her game, then returns to a drill with a mental emphasis on that specific skill adjustment. I am learning, this type of player development is best. Seems to work for Low Country Volleyball Club and the University of Utah is doing pretty well too. 😉

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