Well, an update from last year.... After all of the work during the spring (and more during the summer) our high school season started off slow with a 1-5 start in dual matches and poor showings in our first two tournaments (4-11). I thought I was running an endless uphill marathon. But before the season began, I had decided to enter our team in a tournament that traditionally invites many weak teams. It came at the right time. We finished pool play with a 6-2 record, went to the playoffs for the first time in my three seasons and won our first playoff match. We lost in the semifinals to a strong host team but battled them all the way. My players finally tasted success! We went .500 the rest of the season to finish 6-10 and had another good showing at our last tournament (including winning another playoff match). We even won on Senior Night! Our A.D. allowed us to enter our district playoffs for the first time in about seven years. I hope we are on our way. Last spring I was able to get enough elementary school players (5th & 6th graders) to put two teams in a county recreation commission league. One team was mostly 5th graders and one was mostly 6th. I was able to get parents to coach the teams but I helped out as much as I could. The 6th graders made it all the way to the championship match where they lost in three games! The rec. commission has leagues in the spring and fall so we entered another team in the fall cycle (made up of mostly 6th graders who played in the spring cycle as 5th graders), again with parents coaching. They made it to the finals and won the championship in three games! They're chomping at the bit to play this spring. My Athletic Director persuaded the school board to add volleyball as a junior high sport this spring and we will be starting practice in four weeks. We have a very competent woman coaching the team and I will assist her as much as I can. Right now we have three teams participating in a junior high rec. league. One of the teams consists of all seventh-graders, most from the team that finished in second place in last spring's elementary league. They won eight of their first nine games before running into a couple of pretty strong teams that moved them to 8-7. I'm really looking forward to our upcoming inaugural junior high season! The program is starting to take shape and I am getting competent, capable people to help with the development. I am cautiously optimistic that all of my work from last season (and into this season) is moving our program forward. It probably will still be a couple more years until we will be a solid, year-in and year-out high school team but I feel alot more confident than at this time last year.
Since you asked.... After serving as junior varsity coach for high school boys for 13 years, I took over a high school girls program last year. The program was truly at rock bottom. I had seniors that had never been instructed on performing a correct spike approach . I got through that season OK and thought this past season would be a breakthrough season. I realized half-way through the season that I still had a lot of work to do before we would be competitive. We finished 1-14 in dual matches and 4-21 at three tournaments. So I have put my shoulder to the wheel. I started a USAV club with my players. Initially I wanted to do a 17-under and 15-under team but didn't get enough response from my younger players and have only a 17-under team, made up of most of next season's projected varsity. I have a former player coaching the team (he coaches at a local DIII college and his team won their first conference championship this past season) and I am his assistant. That is to address my immediate needs. We have been practicing Sunday afternoons and one evening per week (if we can get gym time at the school). We went to our first tournament last Saturday and finished 4-4, so he must be doing something right! Our school does not have a junior high program but I have entered two junior high teams in a local league that began in January and ends at the beginning of March. I had no assistant to help, so I coached both teams myself (the teams played in different age brackets, so the league director scheduled their matches at different times so I could coach both teams). I was lucky if I could get one evening per week to coach them in between matches. Both teams finished last in their divisions and lost in the first round of playoffs - but it was good experience for them. I will run an intramural junior high program two afternoons per week during March. I am pushing my Athletic Director to add junior high volleyball as a school sport. He said we may be able to do it next year. I figured I need to get a starter program for elementary school kids also, in case we have a junior high team next year. I have run two clinics at the end of last year at one elementary school and three more at another elementary school in February. I have five more scheduled for March (two at each school and one at the junior high for another elementary school that won't allow me any gym time). I hope to be able to get enough players for two or three teams to enter a 5th-6th grade volleyball league in April. I also hope I can get some parents to coach the teams. Two Thursdays ago I left work at 3:00PM, went to an elementary school for a clinic from 3:30 to 5:00, had practice for my 17-under team from 6:00 to 7:00 (practice continued for them until 8:00), and then coached both of my junior high teams - one at 7:30 and one at 8:30. On Wednesday night my wife kissed me as we went to bed and said "Well, I guess I'll see you Friday morning"! I am working on getting more people to help me but I realize it will take some time. But I am encouraged that people are seeing how much time I am investing and have had a few offers to help when they are available. This forum has been a great resource for me in working with elementary and junior high kids. I have gotten many tips for working with the young kids. Intramurals will last only through March, our club season will be over at the end of April, and the elementary league should end at the beginning of May. I hope to be able to take a few weeks to myself before open gyms, a local summer league for high school players, and summer camps start. Then it's on to season #3! Ken