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(Last update 5/23/23)

The following information is part of a document created and maintained by Chuck Dougherty to describe club volleyball to the beginners, as well as provide tips and guidance on how to better your chances for making a club volleyball team.

What is club volleyball?

Club volleyball is a volleyball program that runs from approximately December 1 through April/May.  Teams will practice approximately 2-4x per week and play anywhere from 6-12 tournaments on weekends, depending on the club.  Some clubs also offer weight training and optional skills clinics and open gyms play as part of their package.  Club volleyball is not a league where a team plays weekly matches against other clubs.

A typical club team ranges from 10-12 girls.  Clubs may offer multiple teams at each age group.  The more popular clubs may have close to 100 girls trying out at the more popular age groups.  A majority of the girls that want to play club volleyball can find a team.  There are things that a player and parent can do that will increase the chances of getting an offer from a club team.  These things will be discussed later.


The common ages for club volleyball are 13U through 17U.  The most popular age groups are at 14U and 15U.  Many clubs offer teams for 12U & 18U. 
The age cutoff date for eligibility is July 1.  Google "usa volleyball age chart" to find the current year's matrix.  Below is the matrix for the  season.

Playing Up
Girls may ‘play up’ according to the rules.  Many clubs are reluctant to allow it, except for the 12U level.  Most club directors are trying to field the strongest team possible at each age group, so they don't want their strongest 15U player to play on their 16U team for example.  Talk to the club director if you feel it best for your daughter to play up.

Playing Down 
Some clubs also allow a girl to ‘play down’ if she is close to the age cutoff (age waiver). USA Volleyball Clubs are not permitted to waiver players down, however AAU clubs may do so at their discretion.  Clubs are reluctant to allow girls to ‘play down’ because it significantly limits the number of tournaments that the team may enter.  The most common reason for a club to allow girls to play up or down is to fill the roster of a team. 

Most clubs offer multiple teams at the popular age groups.  As the girls get older, it is harder to make a team.  For example, it is far more difficult to make a 14U team than it is to make a 13U team.

AAU vs KRVA vs JVA vs Independent Insurance

These are all Sanctioning Organizations that host National Tournaments and Championships.  They are also the main way a club provides insurance for the players.  The Sanctioning body is sometimes associated with the level of play.  This is like saying the Barcelona Football Club stinks because they don't play in the English Premiere league.  Don't let people judge the quality of a club because of where they get their insurance, and don't judge a club as bad because they use a soccer reference in their analogy. 

The 2 main sanctioning bodies that host volleyball tournaments in PA/NJ are KRVA (Keystone Region Volleyball Assoc – part of USA Volleyball) and AAU (Amateur Athletic Union).  A third organization JVA (Junior Volleyball Association) is more popular West of PA, but offers tournaments in the PA area that both AAU and KRVA teams may enter.

KRVA imposes some restrictions on a player preventing them from playing for multiple clubs.  Once a girl commits to a club, KRVA restricts them to only play for that club. 

AAU does not force a player to commit to only 1 club.  AAU team rosters can change for each tournament.  Both organizations charge a membership fee, and KRVA also charges a fee to tryout for a club.  Clubs may enter teams into both KRVA and AAU tournaments.

KRVA will attract the elite level teams, and offer more tournament options. 

AAU offers competitive play, with far fewer costs and restrictions on players, coaches, and club directors.  Most clubs will register teams with BOTH KRVA and AAU. 

The perception that AAU tournaments are mainly for beginners is not true.  Both KRVA and AAU will provide competitive tournaments for teams to compete.

JVA (Junior Volleyball Association) is a similar organization that primarily operates in the mid-west.  They have the ability to offer a tournament that KRVA and AAU teams can join.  Some of the larger tournaments are switching to JVA because of the flexibility it gives them. 

Starting in 2020, larger events were not using a governing body to provide their insurance.  This was a HUGE development as it allows any team to play in their tournament, regardless of their affiliation.  Tournaments such as MLK, Prez Day, Irish Rumble, Boardwalk Blast, Charm City Classic have all gone this direction.  This decision means that a club's governing body is essentially not important unless your team wants to attend a specific event that is still tied to an organization.

Club vs Mixed vs Open level tournaments

Tournaments will be classified in 3 different categories based on skill level:

·         Open – The best teams will play in Open tournaments.  They will be far more competitive.   Clubs will enter their top teams in open tournaments, if they feel the team is strong enough.  Open tournaments will feature the best players in their age group.

·         Club – Club level is not as competitive as Open level.  The top teams 'should' not play in club level tournaments.  It is up to the club director to shooe which group they enter, so nothing is in place to stop the occasional 'sandbagging' team from entering.

·         Mixed – Both Open teams and Club teams may enter.

Where are tournaments?

Most tournaments are single day tournaments and are located between 60-90 minutes away.  For some reason, Lancaster seems to be a volleyball hub.  There is a large complex called Spooky Nook Sports near Lancaster that hosts many tournaments.  A typical 1 day tournament starts play at 8:00 am, and the playoffs end around 5pm. 

There are also Multi-Day tournaments, requiring travel and an overnight stay (or 2).  Holiday weekends are typically targets for multi-day tournaments (Presidents Day, MLK, St Patrick’s Day).  Multi Day tournaments feature a full day of play on the first day, and limited play on Day 2 to accommodate the playoffs.

Some clubs feel the need to travel all over the country to enter events.  They do this as a way to bring the team to large events that have many college coaches in attendance.  This approach will dramatically increase the overall coast as travel costs are not part of club fees.

How are tournaments run?

Teams will be grouped in the pool of 4/5 teams and assigned a specific court.  Play usually starts around 8am.  Each team will play all teams in their pool in a 2 or 3 game match.  One of the teams will be required to ‘work’ the match, keeping score and judging lines.  The other teams in the pool will be off and free to eat junk food, catch up on their Snapchat that they missed while playing their last match, or even talk to the other players on the team.

Teams will set up a campsite somewhere at the location where players and parents will leave the bags and chairs, and gather between matches.  It is a great day of team bonding for both girls and parents.  Girls are more likely to remember how much fun they had at the campsite than they are to remember the record for the team that day.  Teams sometimes coordinate snacks for the team.  Girls will coordinate hair ribbons or spirit bags.  Tournaments will always feature a snack bar, and some will even make a commemorative shirt for the tournament.  Bring your own chair, and something to do for a few hours while the girls are not playing.

How much does club volleyball cost?

There is a large variance in cost for club volleyball.  Before you tryout, make sure you know the club fee.  Clubs do not always post their club fees on their websites.  If it is not posted, it is not cheap.  Tryouts also involve a tryout fee, and usually offer discounts for signing up early, and signing up online ($35-$100).  Club fees will range between $1500 to $4000+, depending on the club and team. 

Travel and hotels are additional and not included in the club fee.  Some clubs also charge extra for uniforms.   Compare the entire package when considering cost. Understand where you will be travelling.  For example, a hotel in D.C. for President's Day can run close to $375 per night with a 2-3 night required stay, while a Hampton Inn in York might cost $100 per night.  Some clubs also schedule tournaments that involve airfare.

Girls will also need to be registered through KRVA in order to tryout for a KRVA club.  A KRVA tryout membership is $15 and can be upgraded to a full membership ($75) if she makes a team.  AAU has a similar yearly membership that costs $14 per player for the year.  AAU is cheap enough that they don't have to offer a tryout membership.


Why so much variance in cost?

There are many factors that make up the club fee. 

·         Profit vs non-Profit.  Some clubs are run as a business.  A business earns a profit.  Profits are built into the club fee.  Other clubs may be run as a non-profit organization that is not operating with the bottom-line in mind.

·         Gym costs.  Gym time is the largest expense for a club.  Be sure to know how many hours per week the team will practice, and when the club season starts and ends. 

·         Quality of the coaching.  The best coaches are sometimes paid more than other coaches.  Some clubs have technical directors and master coaches that are tasked with training coaches and players, instead of being assigned to a team.  Some clubs use a single coach to coach multiple teams.  Other clubs employ 2-3 coaches per team.

·         Administrative Staff.  Larger clubs have full time employees.  Smaller clubs may be run by parents or volunteers.  Employees get paid more than volunteers.   

·         Swag.  The uniform package varies greatly from each club.  Some clubs only provide a jersey and backpack, while others make you purchase 3 jerseys, backpack, warm-up, spandex, socks, and sneakers.  Some clubs will not include the uniform package in your club fee, while others may give a discount for returning players keeping their old jersey and backpack.  Some clubs insist on Nike or Under Armor while others use cheaper names.  A uniform package is usually part of the club fee and could cost the parent from $75 to as much as $500+.

·         The number of tournaments entered, and number of multi-day tournaments.  Multi Day tournaments are generally twice the price.  In addition, the club generally pays for the coach’s hotel rooms and travel. Tournaments that involve airfare and have multiple coaches and administrators attending the tournament can add significant costs to the club fee.

·         Strength training and conditioning is offered by some clubs which involves a dedicated strength trainer and additional gym time. These sessions may be mandatory or voluntary, but the trainer gets paid either way.

·         Some clubs offer ‘free’ skills training clinics in addition to the regular practice time.  These sessions are built into your club fee, as the coach and gym rental are not 'free'.

Compare the full package

Things to understand when comparing club prices:

·         What are the start and end dates of the season?

·         How many hours of court time per week?

·         What time are practices held? Can your schedule make it to practice on time?

·         How many tournaments?

·         How many coaches per team?  What is the coach to player ratio?  More coaches equals more attention for each girl, which can translate into more improvement for the player.

·         What is the experience level and background of the coaching staff?  Girls may want to play for a club where their future high school coach is working as a way to have the coach become familiar with her.

·         Are there master coaches that work with all teams that are not assigned to a single team?

·         What is included in the uniform package? (How many jerseys?  Spandex, socks?  Warmup?  Bag?  Shoes?  Ball? Tshirts?)

·         Are there training and conditioning sessions?

·         Are there additional skills clinics offered to the girls in addition to practice?

·         How much travel is required, and how many overnight stays (Not included in club fee).  Any airfare required?

·         What is the club culture?  Are they focused on winning or fun?

Which clubs to try out for?

There is a perceived ‘hierarchy’ of clubs.  Nothing is formally published, and the ladder changes from year to year.  Some clubs are known as the top clubs, and attract those girls seeking to play college Division 1 volleyball.  Other clubs cater to the girl that will never be a D1 player, but loves to play the game, and has hopes to play in high school.  The top rated clubs are generally more expensive, and travel to tournaments outside our region.  Girls will improve their game at any club, not just the ones on the top of the hierarchy.

·         Don’t sell your daughter short!  The top clubs have multiple teams at each age group.  Do not rule out making any club until you go to an open gym and check it out. 

·         Don't be wooed by a club name.  Understand what you really want from the club volleyball experience.  Is playing time important?  High pressure vs having fun?  Do you want the ability to play multiple sports?  Do you want to get smoked by some of the Nations best teams?

·         Investigate the coach’s background.  The biggest thing you should be paying for at Club volleyball is the quality of the coaching, and the expectation that your player will improve.  Where else does the coach work?  Do they run a well respected school program?  You can find a good coach at a cheaper club, as well as find a bad coach at an expensive club.  The common wisdom says that you are paying for the quality coaching, and not paying for playing time at a tournament.  Ask around to find someone that has played for the coach before.  Does the coach alter the lineup or never make changes? Know your coach before you commit to a team.

·         Make sure the coaches style matches what you are looking for.  Don’t focus just on the coach’s resume and list of certifications.  Speak to girls and parents that have played for that coach.   Do former players like the coach.  Is the coach a screamer or nurturing?

·         Which club does your high school coach work for?  There is a clear advantage to making a high school team when you play for the same club as the coach.  While it is illegal for a high school coach to insist that you play for their club, it certainly helps a coach get to know the players when they are playing at the same club, or playing on the coach’s club team.  Some high school coaches insist that their club is the best while others appreciate a player learning from another coach.

·         You can view the results from last year to understand how well a club team performed last year on AES.  We are in the Keystone Region (KE). Since clubs have multiple teams at each age group, that may not be super-helpful, but if you see that club has multiple teams at the top or bottom of the list, it may give you an idea of how competitive they are.

·         Get to know the club director.  Is he/she transparent?  Open and honest?  Do they care about developing players or winning tournaments?  Will they be attentive if you have an issue?  Will they help you get recruited?  Will they help you create a video resume?  Is he/she approachable if you have a concern, or are they shielded from the parents?  Do they know your name?  Daughter's name?  The culture of the club is a direct result of the club director.  Make sure you choose a good culture fit for your player and family.  There is no one size fits all.

·         Browse the club website.  The website is a good indication of how organized the club directors are.  If the website seems dis-jointed or vague, the communication from the club leadership may be the same.  If the club does not have a website, then they are not serious about communication.  If the website brags about all of the medals the club has won, then they are clearly interested in winning.  

·         Browse the club's Social Media.  Photos and Posts from previous seasons will give you an idea of the vibe of the club.  Are they fun?  Do they engage the players?  Are they serious about having players continue into college?  Between the website and Social media, you can get a great idea of what is important to the club. 

·         Practice times.  Some days may not work for you for practice.  Know when your team will practice.

·         Location.  Where does the club practice?  How is the commute during practice time?  Consider traffic as part of the equation.  Is the facility clean?  Well lit?  Ample parking?

·         Review last season’s club rosters for the team you are tryout out for.  Do the majority of the girls come from good volleyball schools?  Do the majority of the girls all go to the same school?  Does the head coach also coach that school team?

·         Go to the open gyms!  Clubs are permitted to run open gyms so girls can learn about the club.  They are FREE.  Many times, the open gym is run the same as a practice.  Your daughter will be able to tell if he practice is something that she will like.  Does she like the girls at the open gym?  Was it fun?  Was it all drills, or did they play games?  Did she like the coach?  Does she like the club director?  You will be able to understand the feel of the club just by going to the open gym.  Coaches will also get to know the girls at the open gyms to help them evaluate the talent expected at tryouts.  Even if you don’t think you can make a club, still go to their open gyms.

·         Ask around.  Past players/parents are a very good resource to tell you about a club.

·         Will you know anyone else on the team?  Having a friend can help the nerves, and help with communing.

How to get ready for tryouts?

·         Purchase a KRVA tryout membership if trying out for a KRVA affiliated club.   Every girl needs a $15 KRVA tryout membership.  If they accept a bid, the membership needs to be upgraded.  If your club is AAU, you will need an AAU membership.

·         Attend Open gyms!  Open gyms are free, and provide the girls a chance to get to know the coaches, and provide the coaches a chance to get to know the girls.  Bids cannot be extended at open gyms.  Understand that on tryout day there could be between 50-100+ girls trying out for a club.  Even if you are not sure about being able to commit to club volleyball, GO TO THE OPEN GYMS.  Clubs say that Open gyms are not mandatory, but if you are new to the club volleyball scene, you MUST go to the open gyms, and you MUST leave an impression on the coaches and staff.  Introducing yourself is a great way to leave an impression, as is working hard!

·         Attend a tryout prep clinic.  Some local coaches will offer sessions aimed at preparing the girls for tryout day to teach them what coaches are looking for at the tryout.  These sessions also give the coaches a preview of the players.  Going to a prep clinic for the club you hope to make shows your interest and allows coaches to know who you are on tryout day.  Some clubs offer their own tryout prep clinics for an additional fee.  If you really want to make that club, you should seriously consider paying the club for the prep clinics.  They are the equivalent of a non-free open gym.

·         Sign up online in advance.  In addition to being cheaper, signing up online prior to the tryout gets your name in the club’s registration system.  Club directors will print off a list of the girls registered prior to the tryout.  These are the lists that the coaches use to evaluate players.  If a girl signs up in person, they may be handwritten on the bottom of the list.  Many clubs print the list and send it to the coaches a few days early to help them prepare.  Register at least a week in advance to get on that list.  Sometimes, that even saves you a few bucks.

How do tryouts work?

Be prepared for the most stressful days of your girl’s life! #NotKidding.

Tryouts for an age group are typically all held on the same day, many at the same times.  KRVA specifies the first day for tryouts, and all KRVA clubs hold tryouts that weekend some time between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm.  AAU clubs are not bound by the same restrictions and can vary their tryout dates.

Girls should arrive 30-60 minutes early to check in and get adjusted.  It will be a mad rush to sign-in and get your Tshirt or number.  Figure out which court you will be using as many tryouts have multiple age groups all at once.  Find some friends.  Have mom or dad find a good location to watch if they are staying.  Parents, Think Dance Moms.  Many clubs do not permit the parents in the gym, and have a waiting room for them.  Parents are probably just as nervous as the players as nobody wants to experience the rejection of not getting a bid. 

Parents need to be the calming influence because the girls will be very nervous. 

Tryouts will be controlled drills that focus on specific skills that the coaches will evaluate.  Coaches will all be walking around with clipboard taking notes.  In addition to drills, there will be scrimmage play to show how a girl performs in a game environment.  Hopefully the coaches are taking accurate notes on the players, but not always.

During the tryouts, some parents may be called over by coaches in the middle of the tryout.  Some clubs have a coach talk directly to a parent, while other clubs insist on calling a parent on the cell phone to avoid the uncomfortable situation of trying to find the parent in the crowd.  Some clubs will present their offer before you leave the gym.  Some clubs make offers directly to the girls in the middle of tryouts.  Really.  Some clubs do not make offers until all tryouts are over. 

This is the one chance parents have to ask direct questions to the coach (more about that later).  Understand what is being offered!  KRVA gives you 96 hours to make your decision once you get the email offer.  All KRVA clubs must follow this protocol.  You are NOT required to accept the bid on the spot.  If that is how it is presented to you, question the ethics of the club.  Refuse to allow yourself to get bullied into accepting an offer on the spot.  Take your time as this is a large investment.

There will be girls coming and going during the tryouts as other clubs will have their tryouts at the same time.  Girls should not be penalized for leaving early or coming late, but all clubs want to feel like they are your first choice.  It is possible that a bid will not be extended to a talented player if the club feels would rather play elsewhere.  Some clubs may not let you play for their top team if you leave early or arrive late. Never tell a club that they are your backup option.  Never, Never, Never.

Many clubs offer call-back tryouts sessions during the week.  Be sure to understand if the club offers a call-back and whether the call-back is by invitation only, or if all girls are welcome to attend.  The call-back could be the difference between getting a bid and not getting a bid.  When in doubt, go to the call-back, even if not invited specifically.  Many times, clubs will know if girls are choosing to play for another club by the time they have their call-back.  Spots may even open up during the call-back.  If you really want to make that team, go to the callback session, even if you are not specifically told to attend.  Treat the call-back session as a clean slate and don't worry about any previous tryouts.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one club’s basket.  As annoying as it may be on tryout day, go to multiple club tryouts to increase your chances of getting an offer, even if a club coach promised you a spot (clear violation).

New for 2018-2019  USA Volleyball (KRVA) has modified the rules to allow a club to offer bids prior to the tryouts.  Clubs are free to decide whether or not to extend early bids.  What does this mean to you?  Understand how many sports are available on the team you are tryoug out for.  Some clubs only have 1-2 spots left on tryout day.

First - You need to understand if a club has extended offers already and how many.  You do not want to pay a tryout fee if the team is only looking for a Middle, and your player is a libero.

Second - If the club has extended early offers, keep in mind that many of their top team positions may be filled.  If you were hoping to get a fair chance to make the "A" team and they extend bids early, chances are the "A" team may already be full.

Why are tryouts all on the same day/weekend? 

KRVA specifies the first day a club can hold tryouts.  Clubs are all competing for the same girls, so they will all hold a tryout on the first day in order to field the strongest team and lock up the top players.  Some clubs start at 8:00 am, while others start at 5pm.  Plan on attending multiple tryouts.  Without fail, there will be overlap among clubs that you are trying out for. 

AAU clubs are not bound by the same dates, and can offer tryouts on other dates.

How many girls tryout?  How many spots are there?  This varies by club, but be prepared for far more girls trying out than there are available spots.  Keep in mind that some girls are at the tryout as a backup plan for their preferred club, and some are there as a reach or just to gain the experience. 

Manage tryout conflicts

Many clubs have overlapping tryouts.  The beginning part of the tryout is more important than the end of the tryout.  Some clubs try to extend all of their bids before the end of the tryout.  If you are trying out for multiple clubs, and know of a conflict, communicate with the club director so your daughter is not overlooked.  Showing up for the second hour of the tryout, unannounced, is a guaranteed way to get overlooked.

Clubs will also offer call-backs.  Understand if callbacks are by invitation only, or if they are for all girls still looking for a team.  Callbacks will have far fewer players, and can be the difference between receiving a bid and not receiving a bid.  Girls that are accepting bids at other clubs may have declined a bid prior to the callback session.  Be sure to talk to someone at the club to find out if they have call-backs, and if your daughter is able to attend the call-back.

What are coaches looking for during tryouts?

Each club/coach may have a different value system.  Here are a few items that they notice:

·         Height.  Face it, you can’t teach tall.  Taller players will naturally stand out, and be noticed as soon as they enter the gym.

·         Versatility.  Coaches love a player that is able (and willing) to play multiple positions.  Girls are usually asked to specify which positions they are looking to play as part of the tryout registration.  Multiple positions will help your chances of making a team.  When a coach asks what position you play, answering “Whatever you need” goes a long way.

·         Specific skills.  A coach may have a very good idea of who will be offered a bid for their team, and could be looking for a specific position in tryouts.  The 2 most popular positions going into a tryout are Outside Hitter (OH) and Libero.  Middle Blocker (MB) and Opposite Hitter (OPP) are positions that tend to have far fewer girls.  Indicating that your daughter could play either of these positions could place you in a position to get noticed quicker.  Left-handed hitters that play OPP are always in short demand, and will certainly be noticed.  Setters are extremely important and may get longer looks from coaches.

·         Willingness to compromise.  A girl may be convinced that she wants to play OH, but may only get a bid if she is willing to play as an OPP.  Telling a coach that you won't play a position limits your chances, and could leave a negative impression on the coach.

·         Potential.  Coaches will rarely notice that a girl gets every serve in-bounds during the tryout, but will notice a girl with an exceptionally hard jump serve for example.  Girls should not 'play it safe' during the tryout.  A hard spike out of bounds is much more memorable than a soft hit to the middle of the court.  Nobody is keeping score, so let 'er rip!

·         Hustle.  A girl that is hustling on the court may get noticed.  A girl that hustles to and from water breaks, back into line, picking up balls, etc, will get noticed.  Be the first girl back from break and the first girl in line.  Make sure the coach notices that you are first in line.

·         Past experience with a player.  A coach may give a longer look to a player that they have coached before, or a player that comes recommended from another coach.  Siblings of past club players will get noticed.  Use the open gyms to build a relationship with the coaches.  Trust me, it helps.

·         Coaches may only have 1 hour of the tryout to choose their desired roster because their club’s policy is to extend all bids by the end of tryouts.  Much of the knowledge they gather will be from open gyms and past experience.  It is very important to make contact with the coach/club prior to the tryout date. 

How to dress for tryouts and open gyms?

Open Gym

Wear something that helps a coach identify and place you.  A coach will usually ask a girl her name, and where she goes to school.  Wearing a school shirt and/or a name will help the coach remember you.  Do you have a shirt with your name on the back?  Wear it.  Do you have neon spandex?  Wear them too.  If you attend multiple open gyms for the same club, consider wearing the same outfit to all of the open gyms and tryouts (after washing it, although not washing may get you noticed... for the wrong reasons). 


Wear something besides a T-shirt that makes you stand out.  You will probably be given a numbered Tshirt when you arrive, so consider wearing a sparkly headband, neon spandex, colored shoelaces, different colored socks, etc to stand out. If they let you draw a rainbow or a unicorn on your tryout shirt, Do it!

The girl wearing the club tryout shirt, black spandex, and her hair in a ponytail may blend in with the rest of the girls.  Wearing the club colors in non-matching you get it.

Know who the head coach is for the age group you are trying out for.  Have your daughter introduce herself to the coach at some point during the tryout if they have not already met at an open gym.  Tell the coach where you have played before, and which coaches you have played for.  Make a connection.  A coach needs to place a name with a face.  

Remember, there may be 75-100 girls all trying out for the age group. 

How are teams chosen?

Clubs are in a race to fill their rosters on tryout day.  If a club likes you, they may make you an offer on the spot during tryouts in an attempt to get you to commit to their club immediately.  By rules of KRVA, you have 96 hours to accept their bid.  Remember, clubs are trying to field the best team possible.  Standout players will receive bids from multiple clubs.  Girls may only play for 1 club, so many bids extended at the tryout go unclaimed.  If a club tells you that you won't get an offer if you don't say YES on the spot than 1) say Yes on the spot knowing that the offer is not official until you accept the email offer and 2) Ask yourself if you want to join a club that operates this way.

·         Each club makes offers slightly different.  Some offer on the spot, and others make calls at night.

·         Club Teams will first try to fill a starting lineup and will search by position:  Setter, Middle Blocker, Outside Hitter, Libero, Defensive Specialist, Opposite Hitter.   Try out for multiple positions to increase your chances of getting a bid.  Libero tends to be the most competitive position on tryout day.  Opposite tends to be the position with the fewest players, but some clubs may use an OH as the OPP.  Presenting the ability to play setter is a big advantage.

·         Some clubs allow the coaches to pick the team, while other clubs will have more involvement from the club director.  Try to get to know the coach and the club director.

·         Coaches will have an idea which girls they are targeting prior to the tryout, but will also be looking for girls that stand out during the tryout.  Girls that do not attend open gyms are at a clear disadvantage on tryout day.

·         When a girl declines a bid to accept a bid from another club, the declining club will act fast to fill that vacancy.  Final team rosters are not finalized until at least a week (or two) after the first tryout.  Club directors and coaches will be carrying their ranked list with them at all times, and will immediately call the next girl on their list if they receive a decline.

Questions to ask when presented with a bid.

This is the only time the leverage is with the player.  After the initial elation of being offered a bid, be sure to understand exactly what is being offered.  All bids are not equal.

·         Which team is the bid for?  They will tell you an age, and a specific team.  Many clubs have multiple teams at the same age group, and have a distinct A team and B team.  Teams may be color coded, but there is a clear #1 team.  When presented with a bid, be sure to understand which team it is for.

·         Is it possible to be moved up to the A team?  Some girls really want to play on the A team, but are offered a position on the B team.  If she wants to play for the A team, make that known to the coach.  With all of the roster movement that takes place over the week, it is very possible that she can be moved up to the A team.  Consider that a girl moving up to the A team may now be girl #11 on the A team instead of girl #1 on the B team.

·         What position do you see my daughter playing?  Coaches know, and some will not change their mind all year long.

·         How many players will be on the team?  It is not difficult to rotate in 8 girls during a game.  Some coaches use a 9 girl rotation.  A 10 girl rotation is possible, but not something that a coach will do when expecting to win tournaments.  Above 10 girls on a team will have girls riding the bench.  Understand how many girls are on the team, and where your daughter sits when evaluating the bid.

·         Playing time.  Do you foresee my daughter being in the starting lineup or getting significant playing time?    While a coach may change the lineup as the season progresses, they should be able to tell you if they expect your daughter to play a significant role on the team, or if she is projected as a reserve player.  If you receive a bid to be girl #10 on the A team, consider asking to be placed on the B team instead.  Sometimes playing time is part of the club culture, and other times it is at the sole discretion of the coach.

·         How much playing time is guaranteed?  Many clubs carry 10-11 girls on the team, but only play 8-9 girls in an individual match.  If you are girl #10 or #11, you are likely to have an issue with lack of playing time once the season starts.  Almost all issues during the club season are centered around playing time, especially considering the club fees.  If the club is focused on winning, they will rarely play girls 9, 10, & 11.  Playing Time is the #1 reason for discontent with a club/team.

·         Where is the practice?  What days/times? 

·         What is the time commitment that is expected?  Some clubs require attendance at practice, conditioning, and positional practice, which could require 5+ days per week. 

·         How many tournaments?  Are any overnight?  Do they require flights?  Days off school?  Vacation days from work?

·         What is the philosophy for missing practice time?  If you have a multi-sport player, or a girl that is involved in other activities, understand the consequence of missing time.  Some clubs are more understanding than others. 

·         How well do you see your team playing?  Are there good setters?  Are there good passers?  Tall girls?

·         Will your team be playing in Open level tournaments or Club level tournaments?  Remember, Open level tournaments are far more competitive.  Any AAU tournaments?  AAU tournaments may represent a chance for the team to win a tournament.

·         Understand the coach’s philosophy.  Does the coach plan on developing all players, or do they seem focused on winning medals?  Ask the open ended question and see how the coach responds.  Is the coach open to changing his starting lineup after the season starts?  The top teams in the club are expected to win, while the second team may be considered developmental.  What are you looking for?

How to choose the best fit:

·         Does your daughter want to be on the best team, or want the most playing time? 

·         Are the coaches good?  Fun? 

·         Where else do the coaches coach? 

·         Do you like what you see/hear of the club? 

·         Is your daughter involved in more activities than just volleyball, and what is the club’s philosophy on multi-sport players?

·         Does she know and like anyone else on the team?

·         What have you heard about the club?  Are girls returning?

Ask around to hear what past players have to say about the club (Don’t believe everything you hear).  Some clubs cater to college recruiting.  Some clubs like to be viewed as a family.  Others brag about how many times they win tournaments.  Some are far more serious than others.  Each club will have a different feel. 

Take your time when evaluating a bid.  Don’t feel the need to jump at an offer because it was first.  The bid is good for 96 hours.  The formal bid comes in an email, and must be accepted via email.  Verbal bids are not binding.  If a club pressures you hard to accept a bid before you leave, insist that they email the offer to you.  The process is in place to protect the players.

What if we do not immediately receive a bid?

Don’t abandon all hope if you leave the tryout without receiving a bid.  Not receiving a call on tryout day does not mean that you will not make a team.  Remember, some girls receive multiple bids and cannot accept them all.  They have 96 hours to decide, so be patient.  Spots will open up on teams as players commit to other clubs.

Do not take it personally!  Your daughter’s best friend may receive an offer while your daughter does not.  Sometimes the girl that receives an offer is a lesser player than your daughter.  It happens.  It is not fair.  It stinks.  However, do not allow yourself or your daughter to make it personally.  Wait it out, and pick the club that is the best fit, even if they ‘did not want you’ the first time though.  Remember, it is a long season, and once you start playing, you will forget how stressful the offer process can be (until next year).  Don’t make your daughter play for a lesser team because you are mad at a club for not receiving a first round offer.

Check your ego at the door!  Try not to get caught up in the team number that your daughter makes.  For example 14-1 vs 14-2 vs 14-3.  Far too often a parent thinks that the best thing for their child is to make the top team, and if they don't make the top team, the club is doing them wrong.  Most times, a girl that is the top player on the 14-2 team will have a far better season than if they would have been the 11th player on the 14-1 team.  Understand that making the top team is not why you are playing volleyball.  Also understand that the top team in Club X may not be as strong as the 4th team in Club Y.  Don't let the team number be the deciding factor when choosing a team.

Be prepared for a stressful week.
  Some girls do not receive a bid until the second or third wave of bids.  Some girls do not receive bids at all. 

Go to the call-backs.  The call-backs are a great way for the coaches to get a good look at girls that they overlooked at the first tryout.  With 60+ girls at the first tryout, it is easy for a girl to go unnoticed, especially if the coaches do not already know them.  If you do not receive an initial offer, and do not attend the call-back, it may be assumed that you are not interested.  Call-backs are also a way for girls that accepted bids to meet their coach and team.  Be sure to ASK the club director about call-backs before you leave the gym.  When are they, and are they by invitation only?  If nothing is posted about call-backs being invitation only, GO!

Tell the coach/club director that you are still looking for a bid.  Crazy as this sounds, sometimes a coach will not offer a bid to a player because they assume that player is not interested.  If you do not attend the call-back, and do not tell someone that you are still interested, chances are, you will not receive the bid.  Communication with the club director and coach is key during this stressful time.

Don't sabotage your child's chances for an offer.  Club directors and coaches take the offer process very seriously.  Sometimes it takes time.  More time than you would like.  Calling the club director or sending an email to reiterate your interest in the club and describe why your child would be a great fit is acceptable.  However, calling the coach or club director to tell them why they are wrong to rate your child below another child will potentially cost you an offer.  If you are forced to choose between 2 players that are rated very close to each other, which one would you choose:

Child 1:
Dear Club director, I wanted to thank you for giving Little Susie the opportunity to try out for your club.  We were very impressed with the coaches and the organization and would very much love the opportunity to be a part of your club.  Susie would be willing to play any position necessary to earn a spot on your team and would work very hard to improve as a player if she was fortunate enough to be selected.
Humble Parent

Child 2:
I don't understand!  Little Susie was clearly the best player in the gym and has not received a phone call yet.  Other parents around me were all saying how she was clearly better than Little Brianna, but she got an offer???  Little Susie is a star athlete, captain of her middle school gym class volleyball team, and a straight A student!!!  You would be luck to have her on your team.  Please return one of the 13 voice mails that I left you between 6:00am and 7:15am this morning.  This is not fair to Little Susie.  She deserves to be the starting setter on the A team and is better than everyone else you selected. 
Angry Parent
P.S. If you do take her, I promise to constantly question why she is not playing full 6 rotation, and whey she doesn't get to serve in every rotation.

Which child would you take?

Sometimes a club will determine that they have the players, space, and coaches to offer another team AFTER the first tryout date.  Look for additional tryouts offered after the first tryout day. 

What to do if you reject the bid?

Unless you are signing a lifetime contract with a club, always follow the process for rejecting a bid.  Most clubs will have an email system where you click Accept or Reject.  Just because you choose a club that you feel is better for your and your child, it doesn't mean that you should simply ignore the other clubs that presented you with offers.  They obviously see something they like in your child.  Give them the respect of formally declining their offer.  For extra bonus points, a short Thank You email to the coach and club director goes a long way.  Ignoring the club once you have selected another club is a sure way to get your child ignored in the future.  Trust me, clubs remember everything!

Please understand.  There are girls waiting anxiously for an offer.  If you are luck enough to have received multiple offers, please consider those that have not received an offer and decline the ones you don't want in a timely manner.  

What to expect from the season?

Do not expect that your club fee buys you playing time at a tournament.  Most clubs have a published guideline for playing time, but no club guarantees equal playing time for all girls.

Many teams will have multiple team bonding events.  Your daughter will most likely become very close with the girls on the team.

Expect tournaments to take all day, and expect tournaments to take up a majority of February & March.  Plan on having a tournament on Grandma’s birthday or some other traditional family event that you have not missed in 15 years (Such as Easter Sunday).  Holiday weekends are usually tournament weekends!

Understand the philosophy of the head coach with regards to playing time and practice time.  Every team will have girls that don’t play much.  If that does not sit well with you, be sure to understand what you are accepting.

Plan on getting to know the other parents on the team very well.  Just as the girls will bond with their teammates, parents will also bond during the season.  Sometimes parents can have fun with each other, and other times parents can cause extra drama.  Be ready for both.

When does the season start?

KRVA Clubs are permitted to start practice on December 1.  One of the last tournaments is Memorial Day weekend in Penn State.  Most clubs end their season by April.  Nationally ranked club teams will play well into June.  Some clubs do not start practice until January 1.  AAU teams does not have the same restrictions, but generally follow the same guidelines.

What if I don’t receive any bids?

Unfortunately, not all girls receive bids.  One option is for the girl to be a Practice Player.

Clubs will offer girls a chance to be a ‘practice player’.  This position comes at a discounted rate, but may come with the stipulation that the girl will not be able to play in tournaments.  The player will still get the coaching and conditioning as the full team members.  Practice players may choose to play a role on the team and attend tournaments.  If you get this offer, be sure to ask what your daughter will receive in terms of training, coaching, uniform, etc.  If your daughter chooses to be the practice player, encourage her to take on a bench role (team manager, statistician, etc) and get involved with the team during tournaments.

Are there any ways to play volleyball without joining a club?

Club volleyball is not the only way to play volleyball in the winter months.

Local clinics – There are still clinics offered by coaches in the area, and by clubs.    Check club websites for schedules.  TNT Volleyball runs clinics all year long.



In Summary

·         Register online for open gyms and tryouts ahead of time

·         Attend Open Gyms even if not sure about playing club volleyball – Need to sign up for $15 KRVA tryout membership if club is KRVA

·         Attend Call-backs

·         Understand the complete offer and club philosophy on playing time etc before accepting a bid

·         Prepare for a stressful week of waiting, and don’t give up hope

·         There are plenty of other places to play if you don’t play club volleyball (or want extra court time)

·         Contact Author Chuck Dougherty –  [email protected] with any questions.

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