The USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships is considered the crown jewel of club tournaments from a talent standpoint. Only the best of the best club teams in each age division from across the country receive a bid to compete. This year the tournament was held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Ga., from June 25 – July 4.
The talent rich tournament is too good to pass up for the majority of college coaches. We sat down with a handful of them to discuss why they came, how they recruit, and how tournaments like this help foster the volleyball community.
Jamie Holmes, Head Coach, UC Davis
This event provides college coaches a last opportunity to see their incoming freshmen compete. This is an important step for college coaches mentally as we prepare for our upcoming pre-seasons.
Amanda Ault, Head Coach, George Washington University
This tournament is where everything ends for club season. There are teams from all over the country competing that you might not have been able to see during the spring.
Jennifer Carey, Assistant Coach, UC-Berkley
We have watched the kids at various tourneys throughout the season and this allows us to make our final evaluations on their improvement and if they are a player we want in our programs.
Mike Sealy, Head Coach, UCLA
Every top player in the country is under one roof. You can't miss a recruiting opportunity like that.
Dan Meske, Assistant Volleyball Coach: Nebraska University
The ability to see players’ facial expressions and body language. These subtle movements are almost impossible to see on a video, however they can sometimes make the difference between players with similar athletic and volleyball abilities. The interaction and team aspect of the game of volleyball is something that a skills tape or video of a match will just never be able to duplicate.
Highlight reels are edited so I am not seeing the “whole player.” I want to see them when they win a point and when they lose a point. I want to see them react to certain situations. Can they raise their level of play when the team needs it? Are they the go-to player on their team and are they the emotional leader?
I would never recruit a prospective student athlete from a video clip. Video clips provide a snap shot of the player to determine if I we would like to go see them play live. Watching a player in person is a must for most coaches!
A video highlight reel shows what their capabilities could be. Many times it is not a true indicator of talent. I can send you a golf highlight reel that is impressive, but you won't see me missing easy putts, throwing clubs and spraying the ball all over the course.
What type of teammate are they both on and off the floor? How do they treat their teammates, coaches, parents, etc? If they're taken out, how do they handle it? How do they perform in pressure situations and do they want the ball in those situations?
Competitiveness, decision making, effort, execution of skills and tactical systems, ability to ball handle, team orientation, focus, do they impact their team (touch the ball a lot, involved in most plays, score and defend)? I try to determine if there is a passion in their hearts.
How a player reacts to both success and adversity. How is their attitude on the court affected by the score or the last play? You'd be surprised at how observant some college recruiters can be when it comes to evaluating recruits.
At tourneys it is a very gentlemanly feeling amongst the coaches. You don’t see major NCAA violations in volleyball because we recruit these young players in a professional fashion. The club and college coaches all intermingle. The club coaches are great sources of info since we recruit these players at such a young age and we are not allowed to speak with them unless they contact us. College coaches intermingle a ton because it’s a great way to network, share ideas, talk about what is happening in our sport and in our conferences. We all want to grow volleyball and get a more prominent position in our athletic departments and with the national media so it is good to share ideas on that.
Some of my closest friends are other coaches and I enjoy seeing them at tournaments like this one. The volleyball community is an extremely small one and it is nice to take the time to nurture those friendships.
We empathize with the lifestyle a coach has to lead and there is a definite respect and camaraderie among us.
The coaches are more often than not great friends. Even when you are recruiting against one particular school for a player, you are more prone to sit next to them and chat versus creating an awkward competitive vibe. Yes, the recruiting schedule can be daunting and stressful, but going out and seeing so many friends in one place is something I look forward to.
Originally published in September/October 2011