U.S. Women’s Open Tryout Process Brings Added Value
Associate Director of Communications
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 10, 2011) – The recently completed U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Open Tryouts, held Feb. 25-27 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, produced a record attendance of 204 athlete participants with a variety of reasons on why they spent three days in Colorado Springs.
As a method to create access and opportunity to compete on the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball, USA Volleyball has annually held an open tryout to satisfy the requirements to serve as the sport’s National Governing Body. This open tryout session is the only avenue for athletes with remaining collegiate eligibility to access the National Team due to NCAA rules.
Copyrighted by USA Volleyball For most the athletes in attendance, the dream of representing the United States in international competition was a lure. For some at the tryouts, those dreams may start in alternative programs such as the U.S. Women’s National A2 Program or the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team with the future goal of playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Olympics. Some athletes, who may have been off the High Performance pipeline radar as juniors, may catch the eyes of the evaluators after their raw skills blossomed late in their careers with additional coaching in the collegiate ranks.
The U.S. Women’s National Team program is open to athletes who have concluded their college eligibility and who wish to train full-time. College athletes with collegiate eligibility remaining for the 2011 season and not selected to the U.S. Women’s National Team may be invited to participate in the U.S. Women’s National Senior A2 Team. This program is scheduled to take place in Dallas from May 23 through June 1. A projected 36 athletes will be invited to participate in the program, which will include training and competition in the 2010 USA Volleyball Open National Championships in the Open Division from May 28-31. USA Volleyball considers the event as the National Championship for the sport of volleyball in the United States. An announcement on U.S. Women’s National A2 Program selections will be made in mid-March.
Copyrighted by USA Volleyball A total of 65 athletes at the tryout were also eligible to be evaluated as U.S. Women’s Junior National Team prospects being they were born in 1992 or 1993. They will also be considered for the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team Program, along with current high school athletes who tryout in junior tryouts through mid-April. The U.S. Women’s Junior National Team will compete in the FIVB Women’s Junior (U-20) World Championship to be held July 21-30 in Peru.
The U.S. Women’s National Team coaching staff – including head coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) and assistant coaches Karch Kiraly (San Clemente, Calif.) and Paula Weishoff (Irvine, Calif.) – led the evaluation oversight process.
The support staff helping with the evaluations felt the tryouts were a success beyond just the National Team aspect, providing a value back to the athletes and their collegiate programs. Jill Kramer, head coach at West Virginia University and an assistant coach with the U.S. Women’s National A2 Program last season, views the U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryouts as a mix bag of opportunity. Some athletes who attend the tryouts have never experienced the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline to be identified for the various programs.
“Having been a part of the tryouts for a few years now, as well as coaching in the youth and junior pipeline, I have had the opportunity to watch players grow through the USA system,” Kramer said. “They make friends for life starting in the select age group and working their way through the Women's A2, and hopefully make it to the National Team one day. There are also players who do not get the opportunity to be a part of the USA pipeline as a prep player for many different reasons. This tryout gives them an opportunity to be a part of USA Volleyball, meet and compete with a lot of talented players, and see what it takes to make it to the next level. I chose to send two of my players from West Virginia University in the hopes that they would have the potential to be a part of the A2 Team in the summer, get to experience competing against great talent over the weekend, and bring back some things that they learned to our team. Both myself and my players are very happy with their experience.”
While the U.S. Women’s National Team and its pipeline are the reason behind the open tryouts, secondary reasons abound for the success of the tryouts. For the four players from the University of Florida who participated in the tryouts, the experience itself was something that could not be replicated within the confines of the practice courts in Gainesville, Fla.
“There is nothing college coaches can do during the year that comes close to the experience gained through the USA Volleyball Tryout,” University of Florida Head Volleyball Coach Mary Wise said. “The opportunity to compete with and against some of the best talent in the country is invaluable.”
Ben Boldt, an assistant coach at the University of Iowa and member of the tryout support staff, concurred with Wise. The tryouts benefited his players in attendance, regardless if they are selected to participate within the pipeline.
“We couldn’t have asked for more this weekend,” Boldt said. “The volleyball was played at a high level. You can’t recreate that gym environment anywhere else in the country and our players left the tryout with a greater sense of what it takes to compete at the next level.”
Copyrighted by USA Volleyball Michigan State University sent five players to the tryout. According to their head coach, the tryout will in the end benefit the whole team.
“The tryout was a great experience for our players,” Michigan State University Head Coach Cathy George said. “Whenever you can surround yourself with the best athletes in the country, you elevate your game. In the end, this opportunity not only benefits our individuals who participated in the tryouts, but the entire team, as well. I certainly look for our team to be better off as a whole because of this experience.”
Texas &M rising senior outside hitter Kelsey Black, who was selected to the 2010 U.S. Women’s National A2 Team and 2009 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, thought the tryout provides a way for the players to do their own evaluation of where they stand against the top collegiate players.
“The tryout has been a good experience,” Black said. “You get to compete with the top players across the country and gauge where you are in the overall spectrum.”
Along with sending athletes such as Black to the tryouts, college coaches use the tryouts as a way to see if athletes can reach the next level.
“We’re excited to have players of such a caliber that they could possibly play at the next level of volleyball,” University of Mississippi Head Coach Joe Getzin said in a school news release. “This is another opportunity for Allegra (Wells) and Morgan (Springer) to show their ability and play against some of the top talent in the country.”
The tryout drew participants from 81 different colleges. Some athletes came from ranked NCAA Division I schools, while others from mid-majors and non-NCAA Division I schools were there to be evaluated for the U.S. Women’s National Team and immerse themselves into the experience.
“National tryouts were amazing,” said Katie Murphy, a volleyball player from Samford University. “Being in the presence of legendary coaches, my volleyball idols, and other great volleyball players is something I will never forget. It was a great learning experience and I have a lot to take away from it.”
For Murphy, her school thought the tryout would be a beneficial experience for her and teammate Elizabeth Neisler. However, being from a small school with limited resources, the challenge was getting the pair to the tryout.
“I was so excited that we raised enough funds and through the kindness of some local donors were able to send (Katie) Murphy and (Elizabeth) Neisler out to Colorado Springs,” Samford University Head Coach Derek Schroeder said. “Both of these young ladies have another level they can take their games to, and competing for a whole weekend against some of the NCAA's best will help them see and realize those goals.”
Seton Hall University’s Alyssa Warren, a rising sophomore libero and eligible for the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, expressed her satisfaction with the tryout even if she is not selected for one of the National Team programs this summer.
“Overall, I am extremely happy that I went on that trip and tried out,” Warren said in a blog entry posted on the Seton Hall Web site (click here for full blog). “I am anxious to see the results, but if I don't make the team, I am not going to give up and I know that the experience was worth the time and effort.”
Through an unbiased perspective without an athlete participating, Air Force Academy assistant coach Louela Lovely Maxwell felt the tryouts provided a great opportunity regardless of where the athletes compete at in college.
“I thought the tryout had a really high level of competition from top to bottom,” Lovely Maxwell said. “It’s a great opportunity for all collegiate volleyball players regardless of divisions, conferences, etc. They get a chance to play alongside and compete against some of the best players in the college game and they get a firsthand visual of what it really takes to play at the next level. That experience alone is extremely valuable. Add on top of that, Hugh, Karch and Paula providing critical feedback to the players and being really ‘hands-on,’ and that makes it a phenomenal experience!”