1st to 25 – Tryouts
First to Twenty-five – Post 1
Losing sleep before the first day of tryouts has become a normal activity for me. The excitement of a new season, the invigorating feeling of a fresh start and a bright hope that fills me within, like the smell of citrus in the morning awakes my competitive desire. This is how I know that I still love coaching.
Unfortunately when I arrived at the first day of tryouts, only 22 total boys showed up for tryouts and my spirits fell right through the floor. The ages were broken down like this, 6 freshman, 3 sophomores, 5 juniors and 8 seniors. The most devastating part is that just 5 miles down the road; they have over 60 boys trying out for the same 24 to 26 positions on junior varsity volleyball and varsity volleyball.
As a coach, this means my gene pool is 1/3 of what the other schools have. They get to pick and choose who makes the team; I get to only rearrange the ones that showed up.
So do I make cuts? Yes! One huge coaching mistake I see over and over is to keep an athlete that is significantly behind the pack. My example will be the senior that tried out that has never played before. I am a firm believer that it takes 2 years to develop enough skill to compete at a competitive high school level. For me to keep a player that cannot serve receive, hit or dig a ball in a high level competitive volleyball environment would only hurt my other players.
There are some exceptions to my 2 year general rule of thumb. The major exception is height. It is not that tall athletes are any better at volleyball than short athletes, but their height allows them room to err when performing skills. They don’t have to jump as high when they put up a block and most importantly they can make timing errors with their approach and attack and still get the ball in the court.
So with a talent pool of only 22 boys this year and an average of about 28 to 30 every other year, how do you create a sustainable volleyball program?
My current philosophy on bridging the gap and creating a consistent stream of talent in your volleyball program is to include sophomores in your varsity volleyball program. By including sophomores it creates a 3 year varsity program rather than a 2 year program of only junior and senior volleyball players. If you lack talent in any given year, speaking mostly of your senior athletes, you can overcome that year by having a 2nd year varsity athlete that is a junior bridge the missing whole. As you do this year over year, you create a program that is consistently competitive.
This usually means limited playing time for the sophomore and many coaches hesitate to take this route. Many coaches would rather have a sophomore play every game at the JV level rather than sit the bench at the varsity level. Many coaches want the athlete to have “game” experience. My goal is that every sophomore I pull up to varsity will have a good chance of being a starter their junior year. In order for that sophomore to be competitive their junior year, they must experience volleyball at a higher, more competitive level. I would assume that for most programs, the instruction and coaching at the varsity level is a little better than the junior varsity level.
At USC coach Pete Carroll, a true idol of mine always said to his incoming freshman, that he didn’t guarantee playing time, but he did guarantee them an opportunity to compete for a starting position. He has said that over the years, having freshman athletes starting on their national championship team has led them to many of their wins.
First to Twenty-five!