Category Archives: Athlete tips

Advise from a Coach: Volleyball Beyond Club

volleyball beyond clubAs 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.

volleyball beyond club

Balser’s 12U team at a club tournament in 2014

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.

volleyball beyond club

Balser and one of his experienced coaches, Kevin Troup

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.


Tournaments: What You Need to Be Prepared

As the club season is beginning, parents and players are getting prepared for the all-day and sometimes all-weekend tournaments.  For those new to club volleyball, here are a few thoughts on what you might need to make it through the day.

It’s a long day, with a different set up for each tournament.  Be sure to know your tournament venue and any restrictions – for example, no outside food allowed.  Some will not let you bring food in the venue…but will allow you to set up tables outdoors (this can be chilly but may be your only option).  Here are some other thoughts:

  • Tournament nutrition is REALLY important.  Players need healthy food, not junk.  Parents should make a plan for having everyone contribute food for the team (see below for some ideas).  This will be a lot easier than having everyone try to prepare for their own player individually – and healthier than running out to McDonald’s for lunch.
Energy bites (recipe link in snack list below)

Energy bites (recipe link in snack list below)

  • Find a couple of parents willing to invest in folding tables and have them bring them to every tournament.  Sometimes tables are available, but not usually.  These can be purchased at places like Costco or Staples for $35-45.
  • Seating is unpredictable.  Bring camping chairs and seat backs in case there is bleacher seating.
  • Every team should have a first aid kit.  One thought is to have parents each contribute $5-10 and have one parent purchase supplies or a ready-made kit.
  • Players need to switch sides of the court throughout each match – having some kind of water bottle carrier will make this a lot easier.  Dick’s sells some of these, but you can also create your own by using a cleaning supply container with a handle, purchased from Walmart or Target.


  • If you have little ones in tow, make sure you’ve got a bag of “entertainment” as well as kid-friendly snacks on hand.
  • Prepare to have a headache…at some point.  As much as we enjoy watching our kids play, tournaments can wear on you.  The noise alone can often create a headache – so be prepared with Ibuprofen or whatever medicine you prefer.

Ok….so now to the food.  Based on my experience, players need to have one “substantial” meal during the day.  If you can bring a crock pot (and extension cord) to your tournament venue, you can do things like meatballs, chili, soup or even pre-cooked chicken strips that you simply re-heat in the crock pot.  We’ve also done taco meat and let our players make their own tacos.  Hot dogs are another item that can be heated in a crock pot easily.  If you don’t have crockpots, you can still do sandwiches and wraps, salads, etc.

Mostly, players need high-protein food without a lot of sugar.  Candy, chocolate and chips will not help them keep their energy level up.  Here are some of my snack ideas – click on link for attached document:  Snack Ideas for Tournaments.

I hope this information helps you to have a positive, comfortable and successful tournament.


Club Tryouts – What Parents and Players Need to Know

So your child is interested in playing club volleyball?  Great!  It will help improve her skills and provide a great experience playing tournaments throughout the winter months.  However, it can be a tough decision deciding which club is right for you and your player – especially if you live in area like ours with many clubs to choose from.

Here is some advice from the directors of three area clubs:  Set Point, Champion and Davie Dazzle.

What are the top things a player/parent should look for in determining if a club is right for their child?

Philosophy of the club  All three directors mentioned this.  Parents and players need to know:

  • Does everyone that tries out make a team or are there cuts?
  • Do they stress teaching the game or winning the game?
  • What is their philosophy about playing time?
  • Is this a club that teaches the correct way to play or simply plays for wins?

You and your daughter need to agree with the club and its philosophies, whether your daughter is the best player or the least skilled player.  And everyone plays club volleyball in order to improve their skill level – so this should be happening on whichever team you choose.

Coaching  As with any sport, it’s important to know who are the people running the club and what kind of reputation they have.  Parents should ask:



  • What is their background in volleyball?
  • Are they someone you can trust?
  • Are the coaches excited to be a part of the program?
  • Do they know the game and how to teach it?

Coaches should be supportive, give constructive criticism and teach skills.  All coaching styles will not be the same, and your player may connect with her coach one year better than the next.  However, you should still feel that the overall coaching provided by a club fits with what your daughter hopes to gain from playing volleyball.

Player/Family fit   Yes – some clubs “fit” better than others.  Questions to ask include:

  • Does your player/family look forward to practice and games?
  • Do the fees, competition and practice schedule meet your family’s commitment level?
  • Does the club add value to your family?

A club should  fit the player’s personality.  This is why attending tryouts for more than one club is great when you are trying to determine the best fit.  The player should like as much about the club as possible – including the other players, level of play, coaches, etc.   No club is perfect, but the season is long and you hope your daughter is still excited to play as the season progresses.

How much should the player’s personal goals for the sport (i.e., wanting to have fun, be competitive, prepare themselves for potentially playing in college) factor in to the club selection?

Clubs and teams within clubs often have different goals.  Some strive to be as competitive as possible, with each player fitting into that plan either as a full-time, on the court player or as a part-time substitute.   Others strive to give each player the same experience and participation.  Still others are a mix of those goals.

Whatever your personal goals are, you should enjoy playing the game – but matching your goals to the team goals is very important to your enjoyment level.  Parents should make sure they understand their child’s goals and adjust their expectations to match.  (Note:  The player’s goals should come first…not the parents.) 

Families should ask themselves:  Why are we doing this?  What do we want to get out of this year?  Since goals change every year, you must continually re-ask these questions.

What really makes one club different from another?

The three club directors we spoke with gave some great advice on comparing clubs and seeing what makes each one different, and potentially a better fit, for your player:

  • The people (see above)
  • Fee structures – this usually is a reflection of what the club believes they can offer in terms of coaching, experience, competitiveness.  Do your homework to find the right match
  • The philosophy (see above)
  • Feeder programs for local schools
  • Parent run versus full-time staff run – both have advantages and disadvantages

Most clubs are a spin off from a different club.  They think they have a better coaching philosophy, fee structure, facility, convience or generally can do it better for their specific target players.  With the number of clubs out there and growth in interest in volleyball, every club is struggling for qualified coaches.  Coaching talent is stretched, so don’t be surprised if you find the best coaches in the area spread over many different clubs.

Bottom line:  you hope that your player falls in love with the game when they are young and wants to continue playing.  Once they start to develop their own goals, you and your player should find a club that aligns with those goals.

Resources available to parents:

Thanks to Fred Wendelboe, Matt Riggs and Doug Balser for their contributions to this article.

Preparing Your Child for a Volleyball Team

So how does a child get started – and prepare for playing on teams as she grows up?  The YMCA programs are a great place to start.  As young as age 8, girls can take part in twice a week programs in the Spring and Fall to learn basic skills and the rules of the game.  The environment is fun, educational and may inspire your child to want to play the sport beyond just recreationally (as it did mine).

YMCA skills programs go from ages 8 to 15, with children placed in three different groups based on age and ability.  As your child progresses, they will receive more “playing time” in scrimmages among program participants.  This brings us to the next question:  what if my child wants to play volleyball competitively on an actual team?

After developing skills through the YMCA programs, your child may want to go on to try out for her middle school volleyball team or a club team.  Most public middle schools allow girls to begin playing the sport in 7th grade; private schools typically start at younger grades.  Girls as young as 10 or 11 can try out for club teams that play in the winter months in Saturday tournaments around the state.  Check out our club page for more details.

So learn the sport and get a great foundation through the Y programs.  The additional ball “touches” and serving opportunities they’ll get will benefit them in the off-season – and help them prep for team tryouts.

Why Choose Volleyball

Volleyball is a little different than most sports available to girls today.  There aren’t leagues that start at age 3 as with soccer.  Most girls don’t even get exposed to volleyball until the latter years of elementary school.  But that’s also what makes this a GREAT sport to get involved in – whether your child has tried another sport first or is just starting in athletics.  Reasons to try volleyball include:

  • Parents and children are looking for a fun, team sport to begin where it isn’t already super-competitive by age 10
  • A parent played volleyball in high school, college or rec leagues – and wants to pass their love of the sport on to their child
  • A child has height, athleticism or both

In volleyball, “team” is emphasized, with players giving each other positive feedback after each play – regardless if point is won or lost.  At the same time, girls develop individual skills that over time enable them to be a specific contributor to the team (setter, outside hitter, libero, etc.).  Players make connections to their teammates that create friendships that last a lifetime.  Success in this sport, as with others, also helps build confidence and self-esteem in young girls.

Volleyball is a fast growing sport for girls in the U.S., with options to play from late elementary through college.  Colleges have had indoor volleyball teams for years and are now adding outdoor teams as a an official collegiate sport.  Once your child gets involved in the sport, they have many options for playing…from school teams to clubs to even outdoor beach volleyball.

So consider volleyball!   It’s fun, exciting and may be just the sport your daughter’s been looking for!

Winston Area Volleyball Exchange (WAVE) Launches

Welcome to WAVE – Winston Area Volleyball Exchange!  We are a blog site dedicated to serving as a resource for volleyball families in the geographic area around Winston-Salem.  Our goal is to provide information about all things volleyball happening near us – from sporting events, to camps, to training programs and news.

Since this is an exchange, we want readers to contribute to the information we post.  So please let us know if you have news or photos to share, camp or clinic information to post or even want to write a volleyball topic article.  We’d love your contributions!

To grow the WAVE community, please share our URL with others involved in volleyball or thinking about getting involved.  We welcome your comments as well – so let us know how we’re doing!

Thanks!  Rob Maltzahn and Angela Levine (site admin)