Observations from USA Volleyball High Performance Try-Outs

During a couple weekends in April 2016 I took part in the High Performance try-outs. They happened the evening before the Lone Star qualifier tournament. The first was on a Friday before the younger age groups competed Saturday through Monday. The second was on Thursday before the older age groups played Friday through Sunday.

Each try-out was basically 4 hours. The first hour or so is administrative. The kids got checked in, measured (height and reach), and tested (block and approach jump, shuttle). After that it’s about evaluating the players in their positions and age groups. This takes place through a series of single position drills, then multiple position drills, and finally 6 v 6 action.

From a staffing perspective, coaches like myself who volunteer have two sets of duties. During the first part they either check kids in or test and measure. In both cases I was on the jump testing station, which involved using the Vert device.

In the second part, the volunteers are either a court coach or an evaluator. Court coaches run the drills and games. Evaluators are responsible for assessing an assigned group of players. I was in the latter group both times around. The first week I had the outside hitters in the Select age group (born 2002-2003, so basically 14s). The second week I again had the outsides, but this time for the Youth group (2000-2001, basically 16s). This meant gauging the players on hitting, serve reception, defense, serving, and things like volleyball IQ.

The first tryout was very big. I’m talking maybe 400 kids. The Select OH category I evaluated has 72 by itself. The second tryout was probably only about half the size as the focus was more on the older kids.

Obviously, there are challenges to running any try-out, never mind ones that big. I think there are ways to implement technology that could make things more efficient in terms of managing data, but you can’t really short cut the actual testing and evaluation processes. The evaluations are very standard and are used for all try-outs. That includes the exact drills used. This is done to have consistency of measurement across try-outs which take place all over the country at different times.

Get out and help
I’m not going to say working these HP try-outs was the most exciting thing in the world. Try-outs generally aren’t high on most people’s list of fun times. These in particular, though, are a good way to meet and work with other coaches from around your region and beyond. They are also a chance to see how USA Volleyball does things and to maybe pick up some stuff you can incorporate into your own coaching in one fashion or another. They always need help, so make yourself available.

By the way, if you have any aspirations of getting involved in coaching at the national level you need to work at least one try-out. They are basically mandatory for being considered for inclusion in the staff of any of the programs USA Volleyball runs over the Summer. Those, in turn, are how you move up the USAV coaching ranks, should that interest you at all.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.