Sunday, May 15, 2016

Grade School Ball vs Club Ball - Should the same players be doing both?

While this is a blog about keeping volleyball affordable, I wanted to divert for a second to talk about grade school volleyball and how better to integrate it with select volleyball. 

The reality is that most grade school teams, public or private, don't allow their kids to play both club ball and school ball in the same sport at the same time.

In Missouri, tryouts and the start of club practice overlap with Catholic school-based grade school leagues.  There are many fewer public schools who have middle school teams but there is some overlap with club season with some of those teams, as well.  In Illinois, the public and religious school grade school leagues don't even start until December (with games starting in January) and end in the beginning of April meaning kids, if they play for the grade school team, don't even get to start club until April.  . 

Here are some realities from my experience with grade school ball:
  • Grade school ball is bottom heavy, talent-wise at least in the St. Louis area.   That is anyone who signs up can play and gets to play a fair amount. 
  • Grade school coaching is generally not as good as club coaching
The result is that the better players or those good athletes who could benefit from more advanced training don't often get that from grade school ball.  They are generally forced to play at a lower, slower level of play, with less playing time due to bloated rosters and, if the coaching is not there, they are not improving their individual game.

All this so that they can play for their school or play with their friends.  

My solution is to start club tryouts earlier for grade school kids.   Make those tryouts in August.   I think by doing that kids in Missouri would choose club ball over their grade school team and that would help both the kids who made a club team and those who didn't as the latter would get more playing time for their grade school team and the former would get more accelerated training.  For the Illinois kids, this would allow you to play a split season.  Going from August to December and then picking back up in time for regionals and late season play.   For the Illinois kids more of them might play club if they didn't have the conflict with school ball and, eventually, might see the futility of school ball compared to club ball and just focus on club ball.

These are radical ideas but I have always been an out-of-the-box kind of guy.  But it is not like I don't have experience.   In some of the larger parishes they simply shuttle the less talented players to "B", "C" and "D" teams.  But many schools don't do that.  Either they don't have enough kids sign up to do multiple teams in an age group or their school doesn't allow they to do the "A" team, "B" team thing.  In either case the better players are not getting their money's worth from grade school ball.  So, in a sense, this is about saving money.  But it is more about putting the better players or better athletes in a situation when they can advance faster. 

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