Youth Volleyball Strength & Conditioning. Why Include it?

Club volleyball season has once again come along in full force and clubs all across the country are deep into their try-outs trying to solidify plans before they launch into full training mode in the New Year! My question is, "will those plans include some element of strength and conditioning?" When asked the question, every coach will openly express their care and concern for their athletes' well being and success. I truly like to believe that every good coach out there has the attitude that they're in it for the athletes and not for themselves. I mean every good coach loves the thrill of competition and the euphoria of success and for many it can be this motivation that keeps them engaged in the process and preparation that fine tunes the development of their players. But, at the end of the day, we do it for the athletes. We do it so they can experience that euphoria, that feeling of accomplishment, that feeling of overcoming a challenge that they worked so very hard to achieve. Now that feeling doesn't have to be generated by one defining competition or victory or loss. That feeling can come from the process! The preparation, the training, the hard work, the perseverance, and the persistence. It's up to coaches and parents to encourage that part of the sport, reward that part of the sport, draw attention and focus to that and not to the end result. As coach Ken Bentley, long time head coach of the University of Manitoba Bison Women's Volleyball program, always instilled in his players, "do the work, and the results will take care of themselves." These are important words to remember and to live by. We ultimately can't always control the results but what we can control is the preparation and the process we lay out for ourselves. Coaches set the path their athletes will take and they control the process upon which they have the power to create a motivating, successful, accomplishing experience that every athlete can look back on and be proud of.

"Do the work, and the results will take care of themselves."

Now, having been immersed in sport at all levels for many years as a player, a coach, a biomechanist, and a strength and conditioning specialist, I can say from a lot of perspectives that adding a strength and conditioning program into your athlete's process is an asset to their motivating, successful, accomplishing experience. As a player, I was a fitness enthusiast. I worked out hard every day in the school gym but I did so in the days when the concept of working with a strength coach didn't exist and therefore, I didn't have a hot clue what I was doing. I looked strong and fit and lean and had abs and all those things a high school kid wants but how did that translate to the court? It didn't. Looking back on my process as an athlete, I was misguided, uninformed, and nowhere near what my potential actually could have been. As a coach, I've coached teams who did take part in strength and conditioning programs and with those who have not. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that those teams who did follow a program were more confident on the court, were closer teammates because they shared that experience off the court, and took a lot of pride in the process they were undertaking. As a biomechanist and as a strength and conditioning specialist I'm on the other side of things. I'm off the court doing the work with the athletes and I see athletes who are motivated and excited to train! They step up to challenges, they welcome challenges, they strive for more, and they accomplish things they never thought they could. I see where the added confidence, prowess, and pride come from. They come from accomplishment and they come from knowing that the hard work they've put in will pay off when it needs to.

So, I ask, "why wouldn't a coach add a strength and conditioning program into their process?" Is it too expensive? Is it too time consuming? Is it that not all of your athletes are necessarily looking to get to the next level or to compete at that level? All valid concerns and questions but all of which should be squashed quite easily with a few explanations. First off, cost: A good strength coach who cares as much about your athletes as you should understand financial restraints and have viable options to consider. I for example offer options anywhere from training online at $40/month to training in person as often as you want on an unlimited training package for $350/month. An athlete can follow a properly planned program and receive the expertise and guidance they need for a monthly cost that's cheaper than the team hoodie they had to pay for. Next concern, time consuming: While some clubs can successfully implement Team Training sessions where clubs schedule in times for the entire team to train together, others may not be able to set aside more time that the athletes are required to commit to. In this case, athletes can be given the opportunity to train individually or in pairs so that they can work around the convenience of their own schedule. And finally, what if some of your athletes aren't looking to go to the next level or take the sport that seriously? For these athletes, a strength and conditioning program can actually be even more important. When volleyball one day ends and they no longer participate they will need something else to fall back on, to fill the void, to maintain a healthy fit lifestyle. A new found love for working out can be the solution. I have seen many many club volleyball players finish their playing career and a few years later contact me to return to working out. Training can be more than just performance based, it can be a healthy lifestyle, an outlet, and a stress relief.

Think about what experience you want your athletes to have. What impact do you want the "process" to have on them. Good luck with all your future volleyball!

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