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Tag Archive for competition

Volleyball England making a turn

When I coached in England I wrote an article about the competition/participation conflict. I wrote a follow-up when I got a reply to it from someone at Volleyball England. I also talked about it with U.K. coach Jefferson Williams, whose interview is one of those in the first Volleyball Coaching Wizards book. The focus of those pieces is on the challenge of developing competitive teams, clubs, and structures when increasing participation is also a priority – sometimes is the bigger priority.

At that time, Volleyball England was very focused on growing participation. It was part of the mandate of their funding from higher up. That apparently has changed.

A new focus has developed at V.E. They describe it as “core market”. A recent letter from the newly appointed Core Market Officer clarifies what that means:

For me, the simple answer is that the core market is made up of anyone involved in organised, competitive volleyball. These people could be players, officials, coaches or volunteers. They might be operating in a formal club environment but could just as easily sit outside a club structure – in a school or a youth organisation for example.

They could be participating within an officially sanctioned VE environment or even outside (more of that later). And they will represent the whole range of playing standards from novice to elite and from junior to senior.

What the core market will not include are those people who may only be playing occasional recreational volleyball; people over whom we have negligible influence.

That last part is the big shift. For years V.E. encouraged efforts to get more people into the sport, even if that was just on an “occasional recreational” basis. Clearly, that is no longer the case. The concentration now is on the competitive side of things.

I, for one, agree with this move. It’s the competitive side of the sport that in the long run drives participation. V.E. needs to raise the profile of volleyball in that country. The more visible it is, the more interest there will be in playing the game. The greatest visibility is always on the competitive side. People see the game played and become interested in playing. That’s how a sport grows.

Now to actually get that going. Have a look at the article to see how the plan to do that.

At what age should kids compete?

What is a good age for kids to start playing in legitimate competitions?

I’m not really asking here whether little ones should have scores kept. That’s a bit tricky in volleyball since it’s a point target sport. You have to switch to a timed model to be able to toss out the score, if you really wanted to go that route.

Rather, what I’m asking is at what point it really make sense to have kids playing in meaningful competition. I’m talking about big tournaments and things like that rather than simply playing in an in-house type of league. Is there really any benefit to these youngsters playing in regional or national level competition? Is the potential higher level play meaningful in their development?

This is something Volleyball Coaching Wizard Tom Turco talked about in his interview. He runs a Juniors club, but for the 12s age group they do not take part in even regional competition. They are strictly in-house. Tom doesn’t see any potential benefit worth the added time and expense involved for the families.

I go even further and wonder whether the kids would be better off not playing in these bigger tournaments from the perspective of early specialization. I challenged a 12s coach from Texas a while back on this basis. By all accounts it’s very hard to judge at that age what position a player is likely to be best suited for down the road. That being the case, it doesn’t make much sense to have them in fixed positions.

Unfortunately, the desire or pressure to win encourages coaches to field their best team, which often means positional specialization. If we take that aspect of things away for players in these younger age groups, would we end up producing better players in the long run?

And maybe reducing the competitive pressures early on helps keep more kids in the sport.

Thoughts?