A while back, Mark from At Home on the Court, wrote a post on the subject of youth and adult volleyball players competing on the same team together. He referenced a quote from Nikolai Karpol, the former Russian women’s coach. Karpol was strongly in favor of age integration as a way to help younger players develop.
In the US there tends to be very little crossover between youth and adult players. The kids play Juniors and school volleyball. The next stop tends to be college volleyball. It’s only after that that we see them competing on adult teams in adult competitions.
There’s an NCAA restriction on outside competition which keeps college players from playing in adult tournaments. There’s nothing stopping the Juniors kids from doing so, though. I actually had an 18s team once play in an adult tournament which took place before the Juniors season started. It was an eye-opening experience for them. They couldn’t believe a bunch of “old ladies” could beat them despite clearly being physically inferior. 🙂
Playing against adult teams is certainly a learning experience. It doesn’t go quite as far as what Mark and Karpol were talking about, though. They meant having youth and adult players together on the same team. I actually saw a mixture of that when I coached in England. Some teams playing in the National League and in the South West Regional league had squads totally comprised of Juniors aged players. At the same time, however, there were adult teams that included Juniors players.
Stepping up the levels of play, in Germany I saw a high school aged player in the SC Potsdam squad when I was on my 10-day visiting coach stint there. The team that won the Swedish Elitserie on the women’s side the last two seasons (Engelholm) featured a player who was only 15/16.
Certainly, we see teenagers in professional teams in other sports. Soccer is an obvious example. I am a supporter of the New England Revolution. Diego Fagundez started playing in their first team when he was 15. England’s Wayne Rooney famously got his start with Everton in the Premier League – one of the best leagues in the world – when he was only 15 or 16.
Granted, soccer is a sport where physical maturity is less an issue than in other sports. In more physical sports (think football), particularly on the men’s side when physical development is generally completed later, it’s tougher to encourage youth/adult integration. On the women’s side, though, physical maturation happens earlier – most often while a girl is still in the Juniors age group. From that perspective, there’s nothing to stop a kid from playing with adults.
Consider this. One of the best players in the history of volleyball, Karch Kiraly, is well known to have spent years playing with his father in beach doubles events in Southern California – adult events. Seemed to work out pretty well for him!
So the question is, why don’t we do more age mixing?
I asked one Volleyball Coaching Wizard with international coaching experience their thoughts. While they did definitely see the value, the concern expressed what whether from a child development perspective you want young players exposed to the more mature actions and conversations of older teammates – be they older youth or actual adults. I understand that view, but I’m not sure it’s that big an issue.
I’d like to hear what others think on the subject, though.
In places like the US where youth players rarely play with adults – and often not even with older youth – does it make sense for us to try to encourage more integration?
In places where there is a lot more age integration, should there be a move for less?
If so, why? If not, why not?