One of the things we find at USA Volleyball is that given the size of our nation and the number of things we do in our sport (Paralympic, Olympic, Beach, Youth, Seniors, Coaching, Officiating, Diversity Inclusion – like boys, Starlings USA and Special Olympics etc.), many leaders in our sport still do not know about key areas we are working in to grow and lead the game.
Those good coaches with a “growth mindset” know that no matter how much you know there is always more to learn, and from around the world, you are reading this blog as a part of that lifetime learning. You know we have worked for decades at USAV to share the science of the sport, to overcome the beliefs and traditions which are less effective, especially at the youth and grassroots level. Yet after 40 years of helping develop youth/minivolleyball around the world, many American coaches think we have done very little for youth – while around the world, USAV is recognized as one of the top three volleyball programs in world from the minivolley programming to Olympic and Paralympic programming…. So, by titling this blog directly to this area, and making sure you are better aware of the decades of development we have done, we hope to educate all those interested in growing the game at the youth level.
Grassroots Button Ideas and Articles
First, make sure to head over to the grassroots buttons, if you have not done so lately, on coaching, playing, officiating, posters, sport quotes, history, parents and especially best practices. Look at the videos button on the site as well for other neat ideas. This fall dozens more posters, a children’s volleyball coloring book and animated drills will be coming up online, all free of charge for we want everyone to be able to afford growing the games at all levels.
Second, download and share as often as you wish, the book MiniVolley, 10 great youth volleyball specific material and ideas from over 35 years of teaching the game to kids. The book includes equipment, minivolley rules (including the spirit of the rule section per rule), and hundreds of scoring variations, games and activities for kids ages 3-12. It has a wealth of information, such as team building ideas and warm up/cool down games which can be used with older athletes as well as in other sports. While there are lots of ways to spend money on youth volleyball, this book is full of no-cost ways to train and compete, including no or low cost training stations and devices for all ages, especially those in pre-school and kindergarten.
The book is a free PDF download, in English and in Spanish as USAV wants all nations to have a great start to volleyball, starting with our zone, NORCECA. This helps our Jr. Olympic Volleyball and Jr. Olympic Beach Volleyball programs have even better international opportunities in the world of volleyball. (email me directly at email@example.com for a copy in Spanish and I can transfer a copy – large 7mb file, or mail you a CD version). The English version is found under the coaches information section of the grassroots button, and linked directly at: http://www.teamusa.org/~/media/USA_Volleyball/Documents/Start%20a%20new%20club%20forms/1%20Minivolley%20%20ver%20100112.pdf
What else? Well the Minivolley book has a quick start chapter, and information on making fun “Balloon Volleyballs” for youth. I created a balloon ball 10 years ago when the Nike VolleyVan grassroots program finished, and the giveway youth beach volleyballs were no longer available. How to make it is in the last pages of the MiniVolley book – and Dig Pink makes hundreds of pink versions to sell for contributions at their cancer awareness events. Colleges, high schools and JOV Clubs make youth volleyballs in their program colors to create custom connection from youth to older levels of play. Molten has taken it one step better and made bladder versions with valves – known as the “First Touch” series. I prefer the 140g above all options. The 70g is good for around the house play and the 210 just is too close to a lite ball to be worth getting IMHO. These balls are listed in the equipment section of the MiniVolley book and can be reviewed at this link:
Molten also offers a more durable synthetic leather covered “Light Touch” ball 12 and under, weighing 240 gm – that is ideal for starting playing small court outdoor and beach volleyball for youth that can be purchased at special USAV pricing at this link:
Learning Volleyball Through Games Youth VB Video
Third, take time to watch the youth video “Learning Volleyball Through Games” which I produced in 1998 with Pulposores del Sport. It was given to the PE teachers of every school, elementary to high school and you might have seen the recent success of the Puerto Rico Volleyball Federation. It is streamed – only in Spanish, but a picture is worth a thousand words - on the USA Volleyball website at
Using Low Cost USAV Youth Memberships
Fourth, use USA Volleyball Regions and membership for children to create super low cost youth volleyball programs within your Jr. Olympic Volleyball Club or as an outreach to other Youth Sports Organizations. Many in volleyball overall do not realize that our USAV Regions have the option to select use of a special membership for boys and girls 11 and under. The maximum annual fee, which includes full liability and secondary sport accident insurance, is $15, and some youth volleyball focused RVAs could be charging even less – as low as $6, for a membership that starts September 1 and lasts for all USAV youth competition (not older Jr. Olympic Volleyball) programming until August 31st of the following year. Check with your RVA to see what low cost youth volleyball options they have. As you can get the Molten balls online in bulk for $10 and less, two parts of your youth programming – giving each participant their own volleyball and a membership to USAV for youth, can total under $25 per child.
Now what about the other costs....
Uniforms? We recommend simple one color tshirts with your program logo, getting various colors to form team or age groups, so that cost should be about $5 or less per child.
Coaches? Here is where, by already having all your kids part of USA Volleyball, you can simply follow the concept shared in previous blogs of “You will be a better player if you coach” and use your USAV JOV players from ages 12-18, to be the kids’ coaches and even playing teammates (best when all JOV players serve as setters). If you do what the Minivolley book explains in much more detail, dividing a regular court into 4-8 minivolley courts, and thus 8-10 two to four kid teams, your JOV team of 10 or so players can have their own team or officiate and train two teams. Kids coaching kids while you as head coach watch, listen, learn and mentor.
Gym rental? Again, take advantage of low or no cost training with several options you can pick from. First is no cost, by having your two hour practice court be turned into a 1 hour youth volleyball multicourt system, as noted above. The second option is to stage this program after school, again USAV sanctioned, by offering an after school homework hour and volleyball play n’ practice competition, or even a date-nite Friday evening league (see best practice section of USAV grassroots for this long established successful way to do youth and JOV local programming). Another variation is to bring your JOV team to a Youth Sports Organization (YSO) such as a YMCA, Boys and Girls Club or a Park and Rec program, for training first for their own team – and either coming early to train, or adapting one of their training hours into a youth session. This can be done by having your JOV older kids become monthly members of the YSO or by offering your program to train and run the YSO program in exchange for gym time. Remember, youth courts can be made from racquetball courts, or by sharing just half a regular gym, not taking control of the whole place. You should have seen this idea in the youth chapter of IMPACT.
Does it work? Well when I coached my daughter’s 13 and under USAV JOV team not that long ago, we did a variation of this idea, having two teams share the coaching of these 11 and under kids. Every other weeknite at a regular two hour practice, a team would turn their training court into four youth courts for an hour. Both teams doing this qualified for US Jr. Nationals and my daughter’s team even won a bronze medal. Yeah, that which you teach, you learn, and the JOV players as coaches for part of their training is a huge win-win for your pipeline.
Key Blog Articles for Youth Coaches
Fifth, as some of you will be wise enough to share this blog/link with area PE teachers and youth sports directors seeking guidance with developing a better volleyball program for kids, I have linked a baker’s dozen of the best Growing the Game Together blogs from the over 75 published in the last two years:
Other Grassroots Thoughts…
Here is what the FIVB had to say about all this grassroots work we have shared ….kinda cool to see and we get hundreds of international hits monthly.
This blog continues to link to valuable articles available online. This one, from the New York Times entitled “Recipe for Soccer Success- Let Young Talent Blossom,” is one of those great youth volleyball related reads. What a great line from the story….”He used the phrase “to systematize is to sterilize” in imploring coaches not to overload kids with theories, not to spoil their joy in letting imagination guide them with the ball…” and that author said it many decades ago….simply a great read…
Please let us know below your best practices in growing youth volleyball by posting your thoughts below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and best to all on the path of Citius, Altius, Fortius.
The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.
On September 27, 2010 Robert Buck wrote
JOHN KESSEL! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR GREAT WORK ON THIS BLOG AND ALL THINGS VOLLEYBALL. AFTER 35 YEARS AS A PROFESSIONAL COACH, OUR ORGANIZATION IS RE-LAUNCHING A NEW YOUTH DEVELOPMENT MODEL AND WE ARE THANKFUL FOR YOUR HELP. THANKS AGAIN FOR ALL YOUR GREAT WISDOM, ENERGY AND KINDNESS. ROBT. BUCK email@example.com
We very much welcome additional new comments, to be contributed below: