The most common questions I get as a former Nebraska volleyball player all have to do with the same topic – club volleyball. Parents often ask me if they should sign their daughters up for club volleyball. If so, which club? At what age?
My answer to the first question is simple: yes. Definitely sign your daughter up for club volleyball. Especially if she has hopes of pursuing the sport at the college level.
Club volleyball is how most coaches find recruits. In the offesason, between January and July, coaches travel almost every other weekend to club tournaments throughout the United States. It is, without a doubt, the best way for players to be seen by college coaches.
The more difficult questions to answer involve choosing the right club and when to start. I’m going to share my experience as a starting point. Both of my parents were accomplished volleyball players. My dad’s first exposure to the sport was as a beach player and high school coach. My mom was an All-American at San Diego State, so the sport runs deep in my family and I think that experience put me on the best path to achieving my dream of playing Division I volleyball.
While I was exposed to the sport from a very young age, I didn’t start playing competitive club volleyball until I was 14-years-old. I played on some YMCA and other (not so competitive) teams before that, but it wasn’t until 14 that I started to play volleyball at a serious level.
I can’t stress this point enough: There is more risk in starting your daughter early in volleyball than in starting her late. Good players with a passion for the game will get noticed by college coaches, even if they’re relatively new to the sport. Players who start early at a high-level club run a greater risk of burning out on the sport and injury if their bodies aren’t developed enough to handle the intense training that comes with it. I also think it’s important for young players to continue playing multiple sports, and Coach John Cook would say the same. I participated in club volleyball while playing basketball in the winter and running track in the spring. Volleyball was a part of who I was as a young athlete, not all of who I was.
Once you’ve decided on the right age to start playing, the right club is the next big decision. There are a few things to look for among the many options.
A club that has a track record and some recognition is important. I played for Nebraska Juniors, which has produced some Nebraska greats like Jordan Larson and Gina Mancuso. If college coaches are familiar with the club, especially if it has already produced some college players, they are more likely to give that club a look when they’re trying to see as many players as they can during a weekend tournament.
Take a close look at the club’s travel schedule. Ideally you want your daughter on a team that will play in local tournaments as well as national tournaments. My club played in plenty of local tournaments but also made trips to Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, Miami and Indianapolis among others, which provided valuable exposure to coaches outside of our region.
The most important consideration, however, might be what kind of coaches will be doing the coaching. Look for a club team with coaches who have volleyball backgrounds and who are passionate about the sport. You don’t want a group of coaches who are simply there to make a little extra cash on the weekends. Do your research on where these people have been previously. I was blessed to be coached at the club level by people like former Husker and current director of volleyball operations Lindsay Peterson, former Husker and current Doane head coach Gwen Egbert and legendary Lincoln Piux X coach Jake Moore.
No matter what the sport, there’s really no substitute for top-level coaching and we’re lucky to have a lot of options for that when it comes to volleyball in the state of Nebraska.
Want more of The Lo-Down? Read all of Lauren's previous columns here.
Lauren joined Hail Varsity in 2017 as a contributing writer covering Nebraska Volleyball. Lauren played volleyball at UCLA in 2009 and then finished her collegiate volleyball career at the University of Nebraska from 2010-2012. After college, she played professional volleyball in Switzerland and Puerto Rico before making her way back to Lincoln. Lauren considers herself a wine connoisseur and a major “foodie” and she also loves to travel the world. Lauren and her husband, Jason, married in 2018.