In July 2019 I worked the volleyball team camp at College of Charleston (CoC). Although I’ve worked a bunch of individual skills types of camps, this was my first time working a volleyball team camp. I agreed to do so partly for that reason. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to meet some folks from the area, and get a better sense of the region’s volleyball situation.
Here’s a picture I took as the CoC players prepared to do a demo session for the campers. It’s from inside the arena where they play their matches.
This was a 3-day camp with a fairly simple structure. Days 1 and 2 featured a morning session, an afternoon session, then an evening playing session. Day 3 was entirely play, with a tournament format.
The first two sessions of Days 1 and 2 each had a theme. CoC coach Jason Kepner and members of the team started them with a 15 minute demo session. This is pretty typical of many camps, team or individual. We then split out to our courts to do our work. Those evenings we spent about 2 hours playing in pools to try to get 3-4 games against other teams from the camp. Obviously, they tried to match up competitive levels.
Day 3, as I noted, was all play. The morning we were in pools of three, so got two matches. Those comprised two sets to 25. In the afternoon it was brackets. Everyone was assured at least two matches then as well. That was accomplished by having the losers of the first round play each other. It wasn’t a loser’s bracket, though. They couldn’t win their way back in. They just got to play an extra match.
A different focus
One thing Jason made note of to the staff at the beginning was that volleyball team camp has a different focus than individual camp. In the case of a skills camp the focus is on the 100% kids. You need them to have a good experience so they want to come back.
In the case of a team, though, the person who decides if they come back in the future is the coach. That means you want them to feel like they and their players had a good experience.
There’s a lot of overlap to that, obviously. You still want to give the players the best experience possible and help them develop their skills. At the same time, though, you’re working with the coach to make sure you address the things important to them. Further, those coaches vary in how involved they want to be with things.
I was assigned to the Junior Varsity* squad for one of South Carolina’s stronger high schools located near Columbia. They had a new coach who was moving there from the Charleston area (the varsity coach spent some time with us as well). So she had some prior coaching experience, but was brand new to that program (I should note that the coaches bringing their teams to camp ranged from zero experience to quite a bit). My assistant coach for the weekend was one of CoC’s recently graduated former players. The three of us had a lot of fun working together.
My work was mostly done during the training sessions. I coordinated with the other camp coaches to determine court rotations and games we could play with each other when sharing (we often were in situations where we’d have 3 teams over 2 courts). I also, for the most part, decided which drills we used when working just among ourselves. The team’s coach, though, drove the focus in terms of what she wanted to work on.
During the evenings and on Day 3 my role was much more supportive. The coach took charge. I advised her on things she could do with the line-up, but she basically ran the team like she would do during the season. I took the opportunity to speak to individual players about things they could work on or adjustments they should make, and sometimes add a comment to the team during a huddle.
In case you were wondering, we had a really good run in that Day 3 tournament. The camp was split into two groupings. Not surprisingly, since we were a JV team, we were in the lower one. Our day started with a pretty competitive pool. We won it by taking three of the four sets we played. That gave us one of the higher seeds for the bracket and we progressed from the Round of 16 right up to the Finals (best of 3 format), playing all four matches consecutively.
In the final we played the team we’d split with in our morning pool. Proving again how closely matched the two teams were, we ended up having to go to a deciding third set. Alas, we lost it, but it was a good day of play for the team overall. The coach got to see a whole lot of them in action, which gave her way more information on them than she had coming in.
An additional note on the format
One last note on the format that might interest you if you plan a volleyball team camp. Jason set the camp up in two waves. This didn’t impact things in the evenings or on Day 3 when all the teams were playing, but it factored into the training sessions.
There were actually four training sessions each day. They began with one wave attending an 8:00 demo that rolled into an 8:15-10:15 session. That group then came back at 12:00 for the next demo, and were in their second session from 12:15 to 2:15. At 10:00 the second wave had their first demo, with a 10:15-12:15 session following. They then came back at 2:00 for the second demo, and then a 2:15-4:30 session. All teams were then back at 6:00pm for the evening play sessions.
Roughly half the camp did the early wave the first day, then the later wave the second day. The other half had it reversed. In my case, I actually had the later start both days because my team was shifted so we could share training courts with some better teams.
On Day 3 everyone was in the gym at 8:00 to start the tournament.
You may also be interested in my Volleyball Camp Drills and Games post.
* For those unfamiliar with the US high school volleyball structure, the varsity team is the top one for a given school. Junior Varsity (or JV) is generally a developmental team with players in their freshman or sophomore years (grades 9 and 10, ages 15-16). Some schools, though, do have dedicated freshman teams.
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