33Depending on your region of the country, club volleyball may offer the most competition for your daughter. Whether it’s the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Volleyball, the Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) or, at the top of the heap, the USA Volleyball Association, competition can be fierce when your daughter attends a tryout or makes a team within a club with affiliation to one (or more) of these organizations.
Club teams are generally limited to the winter/spring seasons so there are no practices or games during the school
volleyball season, which is traditionally held in the fall. Club season begins in January and runs through June depending on regional and national competitions. Teams are based on age ranging from 12 to 18 years old.
Costs: Cost for club volleyball is the single-most deciding factor for parents – not players – to participate. Fees can range from $500-$8000+ depending on factors such as:
- Region of the country; cost-of-living
- When the club was established; the size of the club
- Experience of club director and coaches
- Practice facilities – do they own or lease; how many courts are available; does the club rent courts/gyms from local schools or recreational centers
- Travel and/or hotel expenses included
- Open team (higher level or “elite” teams) vs. regular club team*
- Are the teams “short-season” or does the club offer a “practice only” option
Uniforms: Full uniforms are generally included in the fee for most club teams which will include jerseys, spandex, practice tees and warm-up apparel – players may need to supply their own knee pads and athletic shoes, but some clubs provide those items as well for a more consistent look.
Tryouts: The tryout process for club teams is the most rigorous process for both parents and players. Below is a general outline of the process.
- Parents/Players identify teams to try out for; most clubs post information on their websites about the procedure and schedule for tryouts by September or October.
- If the club is recognized by an organization like USA Volleyball, your daughter may need to become a member or temporary member of the organization to participate in tryout.
- Both parents and players will need to complete applications, injury waivers, etc. before coming to the tryout; there are also fees for the actual tryout ($25-$60 on average).
- Tryouts are based on age – although some girls can petition to “play up” to the next age. The age definition is set by the governing organization the club is affiliated with.
Most clubs within a town/city, area or region must hold tryouts around the same time for the same ages. So for example, your 13 year old may try out for 2-3 teams in the same weekend. Organizations such as USA Volleyball restrict the timeframe on when clubs can hold tryouts. One weekend, a club may hold tryouts for 12s, 13s and 14s; the next weekend, 15s, 16s, 17s and 18s.
Practices: Club teams practice 2-3 times per week depending on age or if it’s an open- or club-level team. Higher level (open) teams practice 3-4 times a week, while club-level teams generally practice 2-3 times. These teams may practice in their own facilities or they may rent courts/gyms from recreational centers or local schools for regular practice. Teams may or may not practice in the same facility all of the time.
Games: Club teams play in single-day tournaments, multi-day tournaments, qualifiers and so on. These are all day events that may span 1-3 days. These are LONG days for players, coaches, parents and anyone supporting the team.
In most instances, teams will start off playing in any number of sets to determine who moves on to playoffs then ultimately, the championship. Once teams make the playoff rounds, they play until they lose and then are eliminated. The number of overall matches won, combined with the scores of each set, will determine a team’s placement in the playoff rounds.
Teams can travel to local, regional or national tournaments and qualifiers depending on their record, ranking within their region and established level of ability (open vs. club-level play*). As mentioned before, sometimes the cost of the travel and hotel accommodations are included in the club fees and sometimes it isn’t, so make sure to factor this in when accepting an offer from a club.
Working teams: One significant difference between recreational and school volleyball versus club is working teams. Since most tournaments involved a significant number of teams playing at one time on many courts, most hosting teams and governing organizations require the teams to serve as referees and scorekeepers during matches at tournaments. Team members will serve as down (and sometimes up) referees, line judges and will work as scorekeepers. Sanctioning bodies like USA Volleyball will require referees and scorekeepers to be certified and all members of the team may be required to take classes (generally online) to learn the rules of the sport.
*Travel and Club: Some people use the terms club or travel as one in the same, but technically the terms are different. “Club” teams tend to travel to local and regional tournaments; “travel” teams tend to play at a higher level and those teams can attend tournaments locally, regionally and nationally.