Congratulations to everyone for making it through the BIGGEST TOURNAMENT EVER! Some of you are old pros and some of you went through the experience for the first time. Either way, the Big South tournament is truly an event to behold. I’ve been coaching in this tournament for many years, before it was even in Atlanta. It started out in Tampa, then grew to Tampa and Orlando, and finally outgrew Florida all together so they moved it to the GWCC – the only place big enough to have it all under one roof. In my 20 years of coaching, it never ceases to amaze me how far our sport has come and where it is going. The growth of the sport has been explosive and the level of play has been steadily rising for a long time now. The volleyball you see today is NOT the same volleyball that was being played even 5 or 10 years ago. The Big South tournament really gives us a great snapshot of the sport at the Juniors level. The tournament is huge, we get to see and play against teams of all different levels from all over the country, and the whole event is an amazing thing to be a part of, something the girls will remember for the rest of their lives. I’m sure most of you picked up a t-shirt too.:)
Thank You: I have to say a profound Thank You to all of our coaches. Their dedication to our kids, the teams, and the club really goes above and beyond. Many had to take off work or school on Friday and many were there from sun-up to sun-down all three days working with their own teams as well as helping with and supporting the other teams in the club. Their job is monumentally difficult trying to manage the team, each individual player, the parents, and coordinate all the behind the scenes stuff. We don’t say thanks enough, and I would just like to let them know that they are appreciated.
Personally, it was a long weekend for Reilly and me. We had to go downtown and take care of team registration and check-in on Thursday night and then be ready to go first thing Friday morning. The 17s didn’t play until the afternoon, so I was excited about the opportunity to sit with a number of teams in the morning wave. Throughout the course of the weekend, I managed to see every team play a game or a match, and in some cases, multiple matches. I have a couple of big-picture observations I would like to share.
First of all, I fully realize that in any given match that we play, at any level, I am watching a completely different game than the parents are watching. Parents watch their individual daughter more than I do, while I watch how our team or the other teams execute their systems. Parents watch ball contacts, where I watch what happens away from the ball and in between contacts. Parents may be thrilled watching the girls dive all over the floor and somehow win a rally in the end. I may not be thrilled with the same play because I know that we had three girls out of position. Parents may agonize about the ball Sally just hit out of bounds to end the game. I may love the play because the passer executed our serve receive perfectly, the set was on time and Sally had the courage to take the swing. There are many different ways to compare success and failure. The final score and points won and lost is NOT how I view our successes.
The Process: I talk about the Process a lot. It encompasses a number of different things that all players must go through before they can become truly proficient. They must learn the game, the fundamentals, the systems, their teammates, how to compete, and many more things. No player will become a great volleyball player in one season. The Process takes time, a lot of time. So when I really got to see our teams this weekend, I have to say that I am very pleased with our progress through the Process. From the 12s to the 17s, every last player, coach and team is getting better. A lot better. It doesn’t always translate into points on the scoreboard right now, but we are trying to play volleyball the right way. Does each team have things they need to work on? Sure, there will always be room for improvement, but in the long run we will be better volleyball players because of the things we are working on right now.
In our Club, we have a lot of first year players, some second year players, a few third year players and a handful of fourth year players. Different players and teams are at different points in the Process. Everyone makes progress through the course of the club season. Sometimes it isn’t easy to see because we have a tendency to compare our performance today to our performance yesterday. What we really need to compare is where we are today vs. where we were at the beginning of the season. This is much more difficult, but the improvements are dramatic. And our improvements are outpacing the competition. This is even more difficult to see, especially without several years of experience.
Success: I am a firm believer that if we are diligent in our Process, we work hard enough and we pay attention to the (not-so) little details, that the wins will take care of themselves in the end. The 17N team has no first year players, most of the team is in either year 3 or 4, and the roster has been relatively consistent from year to year. Our 14s year was a tough one. We didn’t win very much, but the girls worked hard, developed a love for the game, and the parents were very supportive. This culture has taken hold and has persevered from year to year. The 17s have steadily improved and at the Big South we were silver bracket champions in the 17 National division. This was a great accomplishment as the only teams to beat us finished top 5, and we came away with big wins over teams from Club South, Tsunami, Birmingham VBC and a couple of teams from other regions. Our dramatic championship match on Sunday resulted in a hard fought win against an A5 team. These are all teams we would not have been able to defeat just a couple of years ago. The Process is working.
During the 17s championship match on Sunday, I was glad to see a lot of players and parents from our other teams watching and cheering. This was commonplace throughout the tournament. At every match I had the chance to see throughout the weekend, there was someone from another team supporting the team that was playing. This is part of the culture that we have really tried to cultivate, and it is a great and powerful thing to have the support of the entire club in your corner. The parents have really been great supporting your daughters, the team, the coaches and the Club in general. I cannot stress enough the powerful influence parents can have on the teams, and I would like to thank you for your positive support.
As we head into the latter part of the season, I would just like to say keep up the good work! We have a great future ahead of us. Go PLA!!