posted by Matt W on November 16th, 2011

My daughter plays a lot of volleyball and is trying out for a travel team. It has been a good experience for her the last couple of years, getting to know all the girls and improving on her skills. It is a huge family commitment, with a lot of time and money being spent on this one sport. But in this day and age, I think unfortunately, in order to play sports as you get older, you need to commit to one particular sport year round. If she didn’t play club volleyball last spring, she probably wouldn’t have been good enough to play high school volleyball this past fall.

Her high school coach was a piece of work. He was an old curmudgeon with a pretty healthy temper. The fun part was he usually took out his anger on a player that wasn’t really part of the problem. My guess was his strategy was to have the players turn on him, while protecting each other, therefore becoming a closer team. Either that or he was an ass. One of the assistant coaches mentioned that years ago, she had him as a coach and that the girls were lucky he had mellowed in his old age, which is kind of like saying that if Hitler had started the Second World War in his 60’s, he would have taken Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland and called it a day. One of the girls wrote in a book that was given to the Coach at the end of the season “Well, I can’t say it wasn’t interesting.” After numerous disgruntled parents made trips to the athletic director’s office, he “retired” at the end of the season.

Which leads me back to the travel team. The #1 travel team has another coach with a pretty healthy temper (Mussolini-ish). My daughter’s friend almost quit volleyball after having him as a coach; he once called that team “F#$%in’ losers.” The #2 team has a coach that seems to have a pretty healthy attitude about what is appropriate for the girls. So, as a parent, what do you wish for? On one hand, there is a much higher standard of play, with the jerk or a lower level of play with someone more developmentally appropriate? I think it is interesting that kids now go from the “everyone is a winner, have some lemonade” style of coaching in youth sports, to this type of rampage. What’s weird is volleyball brings out a lot of inner madness out of coaches. My guess is that it has something to do with the shear volume of plays in a volleyball match, which means there are a lot of opportunities to screw up. While in a football game, if a lot of balls are thrown his way, a wide receiver might have 10 opportunities. In a volleyball match, each player could have hundreds of hits. Whatever it is, developmentally correct volleyball coaches are hard to come by. Coaching is becoming a lost art. And while people will throw the Bobby Knight’s of my time back in my face as examples of coaching gone too far, my response would be that Bobby coached in college, not for a team of 14-year-olds that I am paying a lot of money for.

I just wish there was a General Eisenhower to break through the “Pact of Steel” between Hitler and Mussolini and lead an allied invasion to bring all volleyball coaches a few steps closer to where they should be. Or maybe my daughter should just do theater instead.

File Under Weekend Warrior