A small excerpt from KVH's blog:
"We need to make sure that we are not that mom or that dad. We can avoid getting sucked into that black hole of parenthood that is filled with terms such as “Sports Scholarships,” “Top Team,” and “Nationally Ranked (at 13 years old!).” By curbing our natural instinct of being a delusional parent and having potentially unrealistic expectations of our children’s athletic prowess, we can provide our children with a more positive sports experience and set them up to benefit from lifelong lessons they can learn from their youth sports participation."
Below are some things that can 'break' parents:
1) The concept for club sports for juniors athletes is flawed.
Club volleyball is a crucial part of a players' development. There are many high school coaches that have a background in the sport, but there are far more with minimal experience coaching, or in some cases a staff member of that school who never even played the sport! When I talk to parents/players and ask how their season is going, three out of four of them give me an answer with this equation: "It's frustrating because
The biggest issue that gets discussed is always PLAYING TIME. Every team I've coached, I've given the same speech to parents before my team steps foot on the court. "I do not promise playing time. The reality is, they won't be guaranteed playing time in high school and they certainly won't be guaranteed playing time should they decide they want to play in college. Where you will get your money's worth for club is the practices. We spend far more time at practice than we do at tournaments, and you have my word that every single athlete on this team will get my attention. If they work hard, they will get the development you're hoping to see this season. I will teach them the physical/mental aspects of the game, and I will teach them to compete. I don't worry about wins/losses, I focus on effort, and I find that when we put our best efforts forward day in and day out, the results take care of themselves".
I've stayed true to my word, and my parents have never pushed me on this. However, I don't think this is a product/philosophy that all clubs/coaches adhere to. The IMPACT certification that is needed to become a club coach is thorough with do's/don'ts with moral/ethical conduct, but the actual education the coaches get on teaching the game is minimal. I was lucky to work at a club where we shadowed our new coaches for a couple weeks of practices/tournaments until they were ready to go on their own, but constantly I see coaches at tournaments that turn in lineups and yell at their kids the entire match - even though they have them in a bizarre serve receive system and people don't know where to move in transition. When many of the coaches aren't actually teaching, why wouldn't the parents who are spending thousands of dollars voice their displeasure?
2) For many clubs, there is a difference in development between the 'star' athletes and the athletes that are just starting out.
The more successful clubs get, the more kids they get to tryout. The more kids they get to tryout, the more teams they can field. The more teams they can field, the more money they can make. The more teams they can field, the more coaches they need, and typically the weaker they get as you move down the food chain.
I had a parent from a club that's constantly winning national championships with their elite teams tell me that her daughter was a starter on their 14-1's team. They were extremely happy - lots of attention from the directors/coaching staff, good education, great treatment. Her daughter tore her ACL, and the next season she was on the 15-3's team. The difference in attention and even response times to calls/emails was night and day. Again, for a 15-year old child.
Club is a business. Parents want to go where their children will gain the most. Both Parents/Clubs get stuck on the concepts of wins/losses. Many parents will choose clubs due to this, and clubs will market their programs to boast about their success in wins/losses in order to meet this need. (I go more into detail about this in this post). I've had games where my team played so well, yet my parents were disappointed because we lost in three to a team that was physically superior to us. I've had matches where my team squeaked by a team they should have put away soundly, and my parents are content because they won. If the clubs aren't preaching development as much as results, why would we expect our parents to measure them otherwise?
3) Many Clubs and Recruiting Agencies Leverage Fear Against Families.
This is the elephant in the room that I don't think people like to talk about. Let's start with clubs.
I had the pleasure of coaching my club's Player of the Year last spring for her 18's season. She is currently at a nationally-ranked Division III program and couldn't be happier with the school and culture it's provided. She works as hard as any player I've ever coached, and her talent is undeniable. Yet, she didn't even try out for her high school her senior season and decided to train on her own. Why? Because her high school coach verbally abuses/breaks down kids that do not play for the club she is affiliated with. Multiple kids from our club and surrounding clubs have stopped playing for their high school due to this. Every time their Athletic Director is approached, they are able to find loopholes to claim otherwise and avoid punishment, but I have heard from enough people and seen her roster and where they play their club ball to know this isn't fabricated.
I have also heard time and time again from some of our top athletes that school teammates, parents, and even club coaches themselves (yes, it's illegal) come up and try to tell them they need to join their club if they want to take their game to the next level. Club becomes a youth sports turf war, where clubs are trying to get the best players to tryout, because the reality is the teams that are most successful are almost always the ones that have the most talent before they even step foot on the practice court, especially at the younger ages where the disparity between athletes is greater. I guarantee you if you look at the 'top clubs' in the area and the measurements for height/jump touch for their tryouts, you'd find that they coincidentally start with the best athletes.
The marketing is so aggressive, and it always highlights the accolades of their top teams - National Championships, Scholarships, College Placement - all the things that the majority of athletes won't experience. Then we wonder why parents set their expectations so high for what the season will bring them. We don't broadcast the team that only won a few sets all season, but was comprised of kids that had 0 volleyball experience going into it, and now have a good enough skill set to make an impact on their high school team. We don't talk about the team that lost over half their matches, but by the end of the season FINALLY caught that team that they seemed to run into every tournament and always fell short. We don't sell our clubs on the development, yet we expect our parents to put the expectations there.
Recruiting Agencies. I am extremely disappointed with the business practices we've allowed to seep into the youth volleyball world. Here's something to consider: It is illegal for a college coach to contact a sophomore to begin the recruiting process. However, one of the prominent governing bodies for juniors volleyball has a contract with one of the recruiting agencies. That recruiting agency now has the contact information for all of the young athletes that participated in the national championships for that organization, and is calling sophomores from my former club. The pitch is this: "You haven't done A, B, and C? You're WAY behind if you want to play in college! And we'll get you caught up - for a price". That price ranges from $750-$2,500.
I have no hesitation when I express my displeasure with recruiting agencies - I think they've put a premium price on a service that doesn't do the players/parents justice. They make highlight videos, put a profile together for families, and then spam emails to coaches, looking for some with common interests. It's far too expensive and isn't nearly thorough enough. Yet parents are paying for it, because they are afraid that if they don't, their child won't have the opportunity to play in college. I do think there are some families that have found a college they are pleased with through these agencies - I also think they could find these schools on their own with just a little research of their own and without the cost. I'll address this in my next entry.
Just about every governing body is now partnered with these recruiting agencies. Money talks. Juniors Volleyball has become extremely profitable, but some parts of how things work aren't made transparent to families. Yet we wonder why they get upset when expectations that we've influenced with our marketing haven't been met.
There are some parents that aren't going to change no matter what we do, but I do feel we can prevent creating a large pool of the helicopter parents with straightforward, honest information about what their experience will be when joining a program. The question is, are organizations willing to risk the financial hit they could take if families decide the culture isn't for them?