If you figure that your son or daughter's club team will practice 4 hours a week starting in December and go to the middle of April (ending with regionals) you will put in about 80 hours of practice. If their team plays 10 local tournaments your child will likely play close to 80 games, given that they might sit out a game here or there and occasionally they might play 10 games in a tournament. At 30 minutes a game that totals another 40 hours.
So, your child will get approximately 120 hours of instruction and play. Given that most volleyball clubs in the St. Louis area cost between $700 and $2500, this means that you are paying between $5 and $20 an hour. That is incredibly cheap considering what it costs to get individual instruction.
Most individual instruction runs between $20 and $50 an hour.
Then why would anyone want to pay for individual instruction rather than being in a team environment? Here are some reasons:
1. Individual attention. With a 10 person team how much of those 120 hours is your son or daughter getting individual attention? Figure 1/10, roughly. So now you are REALLY paying $50 to $200 an hour for the amount of individual instruction you are getting. Now does it seem a little more cost effective to get individual instruction.
2. Quality of coaching. Hey, I commend all youth coaches for putting in the effort to teach the sport I love. But do the math. There are close to 700 club teams in the Gateway Region. How many of those coaches are really quality coaches? Clubs are struggling for coaches all the time. Contrast that to someone whose sole job is to train individuals in volleyball. It is their livelihood to do a good job one-on-one. They are likely, also, to be good technique coaches.
3. Touches on the ball. Mirroring the 120 hour argument above, individual instruction gives many more touches on the ball, and more focused touches, than your average club team...at least per dollar.
4. Flexibility in schedule. You are constrained in a club environment to whenever the practices and tournaments are. While you might not have much more flexibility in picking a coach who trains just your daughter, it has to be more flexibility than playing on a club team.
It is pretty obvious that getting individual lessons doesn't train your child in everything they need to be a successful volleyball player. Besides match play and learning offensive and defensive systems, there is the interpersonal relationship and teamwork components of a team sport that can't be learned in individual instruction. Plus, individual instruction is more like work than play and we do have be aware we don't want to burn kids out in a sport.
However, getting individual lessons does likely improve your child, individually, more than being on a club team, if they go to enough lessons. For some parents, that may be the most important thing: getting their child the instruction they need. An example of this is something I have touched on before: getting your child work at the skills for the position that will maximize their skill set. You can't always do that in club as some kids will have to be put in positions to help the team rather than being trained in positions that maximize that child's potential in the sport.
My suggestion is to try individual instruction with a good instructor from a big club. I might wait until after the club season, go a couple of times and see what you think. One parent last year told me that their daughter learned more in one individual session than they learned in the whole season from a coach in a low level club.
Next time we will tackle the idea of going to summer camps.