What a year. Each and every year I am able to learn new things, implement new ideas and gain insight for the next one. This year in particular, I felt I learned more than any other. Maybe I said that last year as well, but that isn't particularly important right now. For another year, the club grew AND youth beach volleyball in general continued to grow and change. This was a great year overall. As with every year, there were challenges for players, coaches and staff. We found solutions, found ways to be successful and continued to move forward. All programs, groups and teams saw improvement. The athletes continued to grow and get better as players and people. For all the hard times in practice and tournaments, we saw the benefits further down the road, trusting we would get there. It was a good year.
This year in particular we saw the benefits of the past two years of training year round. Often times people speak of the experience gap between southern California players and everyone else, "They play so much more, so much longer, so many more tournaments ect. ect.". That gap is closing, or has been closed. With the increased practice, competition and focus the year round season brings, we have closed the gap for our older players. We saw this exemplified by the huge win in the BVCA 18U by Maggie and Mollie. Our improvements are also being noticed by others, particularly college coaches. This past year we have had numerous college commitments by our athletes. (List of committed athletes, click here).
With the increased importance of playing more to stay competitive nationally, finding balance between multiple sports and rest periods is going to become a very important factor for our athletes. Being a multi sport athlete is the best thing for youth players. Period. As players enter high school, specialization and focusing on one sport becomes more acceptable. We want to continue to focus and specialize in beach volleyball while still maintaining a balance of other sports and movements to insure we are staying fresh mentally and physically. What this means for our year round beach athletes is that there will be room in the schedule to play other sports, rest, rehab, and physical training.
A change to our season calendar that we are looking at in regards to finding balance for our athletes is moving our full time, 5 month season to cover spring and summer (March-July). In the past, we've run our combo season over winter and spring (January-May). We really like this change, and how it prepares our players for the competition heavy season of summer. This will separate the winter season into a stand alone season (much like summer has been). This just makes more sense. Players and coaches will be getting a smooth transition into the summer season. For those who enjoyed the winter season and the great winter events run in socal (put me on that list, I love the winter season), it will still be there and still be an option to do it full time. We'll have a full schedule of training for the winter season. Splitting it this way will give players the option to play another sport during the winter as well, then be ready, fresh and excited to get on the beach full time in the spring and summer. Here's a quick outline of the season for a high school athlete (typically, players start doing our year round program in high school):
Fall: High school indoor full time, Sunday beach volleyball.
Winter: Soccer, basketball or other sport and part time beach volleyball OR full time beach.
Spring and Summer: Full time beach.
When looking at the experience gap, we're looking to start closing it earlier. Starting younger and introducing the game to elementary school kids is the big change to the club structure for the coming year. We're starting a new program, the Youth Development Program (YDP) for grades 2-6. We've got some new equipment and ideas to make this program a fun way to introduce players to the sport and start the developmental pipeline. This is a section of the club that is going to see a big make over and new additions.
I would like to finish this assortment of thoughts with a huge thank you to everyone involved- coaches, players, parents, families, friends. It takes everyone to get this done. Our coaching staff is amazing. I am so lucky to have such a talented group of coaches to work with. Each and everyone of our coaches are special, and bring with them their personal touch and experience to club. The knowledge being shared and created between the coaches, staff and players continually reminds me of how much talent, hard work and effort we have in the club. Truly wonderful job. Parents and families, you are the backbone and the support system for us. The best bringers of shade, water and snacks. The best fans, and sometimes critics. A huge thank you for supporting your athlete.
Fall is right around the corner and the start to another year of beach volleyball. I will be seeing everyone on the beach soon, hopefully at the End O' Season Party!