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Planning for volleyball season: off-season

By Sally Kus

For most high school programs, the off-season is the time between the end of the competitive or play-off season and the start of the next preseason. For colleges, it is the time after the play-offs but before the spring season. For club players, it is usually the high school season.

The off-season between the competitive season and the start of spring season is usually sacred. Many college coaches allow this period to be downtime for their players. It is usually the time during semester break. Some college coaches encourage their players to maintain a certain fitness level. This makes it easier to retain muscular strength and endurance for the spring season. Unfortunately, there are other coaches who say, “Hey, just don’t eat too many holiday cookies.”

High school players, who usually play a fall season, either play another sport or play junior club ball after the volleyball season is finished. Most high school coaches do not have the luxury of working with their players during the off-season. In many states, it is illegal for high school coaches to conduct off-season practices. Some states allow open gyms or let coaches conduct all-state games, summer team camps, clinics, and other forms of legal play. Junior club ball is legal in all states; however, not all states allow high school coaches to coach their own athletes. Some states limit the number of players from the same high school on any club team.

If a high school coach does not coach his own athletes during the off-season, it is important for that coach to confer with his players after the school season is complete. The coach can make recommendations on how an athlete can increase her movement, skills, and conditioning. He can suggest options such as playing other sports, playing on a junior club team, attending summer camps, playing in recreational leagues, and following a fitness routine. Most serious high school volleyball players play on a junior club team during the off-season.

Conversely, a junior club’s off-season is usually the high school season. Many times the club player returns to her high school team primed and ready for action. If the high school team does not have many skilled players, this can be a letdown for that returning club player. It is important for the club coach to talk with his players about attitude, effort, and expectations. The club player is often called upon to play a different position on her high school team. The club coach should encourage this because versatility is good for any player. A player’s acceptance and willingness to play a new position enhance team continuity. Occasionally, some club players return to their high school team with more knowledge than the coach or, at least, more than is needed to compete in that high school league. Humility, leadership, helpfulness, and knowing when to keep your mouth shut are important qualities to instill in club players.

College coaches give their players extensive workout programs to follow during the off-season between May and mid-August. These include any combination of the following: weight training, aerobic or endurance activities, plyometric or jump training activities, swimming pool workouts, bounding, agility, and movement training. Some coaches require the players to mail or e-mail weekly, bimonthly, or monthly results, and many coaches test the players the first day of preseason.

Strength and fitness trainers within a college’s athletic program develop workouts that focus on the objectives of coaches. These workouts should be well rounded to include all phases of fitness and should have particular emphasis on an athlete’s specific sport. Such a workout is usually scheduled for an every-other-day rotation, which allows for recuperation. Some workouts vary the activities or give the athletes choices to help maintain their interest. Any workout has to become part of a player’s daily routine, so if an athlete is from out of town, she may have to join a local fitness center to execute the workouts. Also, it is beneficial for each player to have a workout partner. Motivation and pride are the keys to following a workout regimen. Coaches should send feedback and inspirational quotes to their players after receiving workout results.

Coaches differ in their philosophies on cross-training during the off-season. Some coaches think that playing other sports is good because it keeps an athlete from burning out in one sport and helps an athlete remain active and happy. Some coaches feel that it is too risky to allow their athletes to play other sports. Their feeling is Why take the chance? Each coach has to weigh the consequences. Nonetheless, most coaches do limit other activities for their players during their own competitive season.

High school coaches often have to rely on players to come into preseason in good physical condition. Some high school coaches give players summer workout schedules, rely on captain practices, or encourage their players to cross-train or play in summer leagues. Summer camps are a great way to get ready for the season. Many high school players are able to attend a camp on a particular college campus where they are interested in attending as a student-athlete. This gives the athlete the opportunity to live on campus and be instructed by that college’s coach. Many high school community education programs conduct summer day camps that are more affordable. Some town recreation programs and YMCAs have summer programs that help promote fitness or provide wholesome activities for teenagers. Team camps, where an entire team trains together before preseason, are very popular. Some team camps are instructional, but most involve team play in a tournament format.

This is an excerpt from Coaching Volleyball Successfully.

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