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 checked in, we measured height and reach, and tested block and approach jumps, plus a shuttle run. After that it was about evaluating the players in their positions and age groups. This took 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 had two sets of duties. During the first part we either checked kids in or tested and measured. In both cases I was on the jump testing station, which involved using the Vert device.

In the second part, the volunteers were either a court coach or an evaluator. Court coaches ran the drills and games. Evaluators assessed 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 – maybe 400 kids. The Select OH category I evaluated had 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 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.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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