The short answer is simple, play club. You’ll play more, against better competition, and you’ll often get better coaching than at the middle or high school levels.
The long answer is a little more complicated. After all, most people want to get a scholarship to save money on college, but with club ball becoming more and more expensive, how much money are you actually saving by going this route?
Before I go any further, let me preface this by saying there is no substitute for club volleyball. If you really want to become a better player, and it’s a realistic option financially, there’s no better way to push yourself. I’m simply acknowledging some of the unfortunate facts about the industry today.
Depending on the area where you live, there are volleyball clubs for players down to 6 years old. In areas where the sport isn’t as popular, the teams start players out at around 12 years old.
From there, you move up the ladder. Each year, you’ll move to another age group, where it gets a little bit more competitive as more players are trying to take your spot. This is great for someone who wants to play in college as it prepares you for the intensity of playing on a college team.
The top players on the top teams in a city like Nashville will usually attend about 10 tournaments a year, where they will see the top players from other major cities. The travel expenses for these tournaments can add up fast, though.
The Junior Volleyball Association, a national organization that works with clubs throughout the country to help develop young players, estimates a year of club volleyball at the highest level will cost a family about $5,100 outside of the training and club dues.
What does that $5,100 get you? Well, if you’re playing at the highest level, then naturally, you’re going to want to play against players who are also at the highest level. These types of tournaments tend to be in major cities like Atlanta, Chicago or St. Louis. So, it’s a good opportunity to travel and sightsee with the family.
These are also the tournaments college recruiters attend. They want to see how potential recruits stack up against the best competition out there.
If playing college volleyball is your goal, then club is the best way to reach it. But you have to want it. You will get out of the club what you put into it, so you want to make sure you’re always pushing yourself to get better and not waste the thousands of dollars you put into the sport.
Jacob Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewsroom.