As club volleyball season nears its close, we thought we’d share some insights from a local club director. Doug Balser is the founder and current director of Champion Volleyball Club in Winston-Salem, NC. Here, Balser gave us his take on players looking to be a part of the sport beyond high school. In the fall, we’ll hear from him again on volleyball for younger players (and insights for their parents).
WAVE: What is your advice for players who’d like to play beyond the club or high school volleyball experience?
Balser: A lot of young players who are watching the collegiate volleyball matches on television dream of playing for Penn State, Texas or other similar programs, but that is not realistic for the majority of the players. If a player is interested in playing at the collegiate level, the best advice I could give is to do your research and get your name out there to the programs that match your ability. A lot of players and parents have the misconception that if their JO team plays at a big tournament, a college coach will walk by, see them play and sign them to a scholarship. That is just not the case. College coaches come to see the players play who they have had previous and extended contact with over a period of time.
With a player who would like to play in college, we usually start by examining schools that fit their particular athletic and academic needs. I always encourage families to look specifically at schools that have the academic major their child wishes to pursue. The majority of collegiate volleyball players will be doing something other than volleyball to make a living after college, so this is important. Once we determine a list of schools, then I have the girls begin making contact with the schools and coaches. Almost all collegiate programs have a website and a questionnaire for the player to fill out. This shows the coach that you are interested in the program, and all coaches want players who want to be at their school.
WAVE: In your opinion, what is the most necessary attribute of a volleyball player? How does what’s needed change as a player seeks a more competitive level of play (i.e., college)?
Balser: For me it has always been a player’s mental toughness that allows them to excel. Athletes at all levels make mistakes and they have to be able to learn from them and then move past them. I think the big change that occurs as players move to the next level is their ability to learn from their mistakes on their own. The competitive players understand why the previous play didn’t work and can make individual adjustments.
WAVE: Champion Volleyball Club has attracted accomplished, experienced coaches as well as provided the opportunity to mentor new coaches to the sport. What advice do you have to those for those players looking to transition to coaching?
Balser: Coaching takes a lot of time and effort to do it right. I think it is important to have a mentor who can model what it means to be an effective coach. I encourage them to find someone that they can talk to about problems and situations. We see a lot of new coaches burn out, because they don’t have someone that they can turn to for help.
I also believe in today’s environment, a coach really has to have a passion for helping the next generation of players. Our coaches today are open to a lot of criticism and in order to be successful, coaches have to know that they have the potential to make a major impact on a young person’s life. This is a very serious and important role, and I encourage all new coaches to really understand the impact they can have either positively or negatively on a young person’s life.
WAVE: In conclusion what “positives” have you seen come out of players as a result of playing volleyball?
Balser: I think playing volleyball can have a lot of positive influences on a player. Volleyball is one of the ultimate team sports, and I think a lot of the girls, sometimes for the first time, learn the importance of team. I have also seen a real growth of individual players’ self-esteem. I think both of these positives will go a long way into making these young ladies a success in all aspects of life.