Premier Academy runs an 8-week program three times a year for three to five year olds to expose them to the game of volleyball. The program, called Peanut Premier, is designed to work on big muscles and begin hand-eye coordination efforts for young players as a starting point for all athletics.
Here are 10 tips to help your mini volleyball program provide an enjoyable experience for the kids, as well as the coaches and club administrators.
1) Hire the most energetic people you can even if it is only the lead coach. If you don’t have someone with energy and a vision for the program, it will be difficult to run and kids and parents will not be excited to attend.
“We never change coaches from week to week so the kids know exactly who to expect when they show up” shares Premier Academy Director Jodi Schramm.
2) For training, have a lot of colorful equipment and props. Kids are all about the props! It makes for a fun and welcoming atmosphere for little ones. Have the equipment out early so they can see it and have a separate area where parents can come in early and play with a ball with them before class starts. Keep water bottles on the opposite side of the gym from parents. This allows them to learn at a young age to do things as a group, rather than as an individual needing to get something from mom/dad after each activity they do.
3) For Peanuts we like a 1-4/5 ratio of instructors:participants. Anything less than this and you will have chaos for sure. We always try to have both a male and female coach because it is a coed class, and because we believe in putting same sex role models in front of kids when possible.
4) Any activity you do, keep lines to no more than 3 players. You can always have multiple lines feeding to one coach, however, 2 kids in line will simply get antsy, run off, chase squirrels, etc. 😉 Use line markers and spots for places to stand at all times. They will never stay in one place without a place marker. Cones, spots, hoops, etc. work well and are essential. Partner work is impossible at this age group, so be sure to plan all single person activities unless you use a balloon.
5) This class runs for 45 minutes which we find is perfect. Kids often come a little early too to play around. In 45 minutes the goal is to complete 4 separate activities with a drink break after each one.
“We try and end each week with something the most fun or have a reward or treat.”
6) Get used to physically being low to the ground to run activities. Ben (lead coach) had to buy kneepads to wear under his pants because you spend most of your time kneeling or low.
7) Use their first names ALL the time. This is essential when handling this age. They do not respond to “guys or girls or gang, etc.” They do excellent when you call them by their name every time you speak to them (which will be constantly).
“We used magnetic name tags for the first week or so to learn their names and stopped wearing them by week 2-3 to force us to know all their names.”
8) Positive praise for everything including lots of high fives. When they do well, they get really excited and love to see you excited for them. When teaching use short phrases such as: “try to do what I am doing,“ and “eyes looking at me.” Don’t spend any time explaining why you do something, simply show and do.
9) It is highly recommended to use beginner volleyballs, not u12 balls. This is an investment, but worth it. Balloons work well too for continuous play or fabric covered balloons.
“We use gator skin balls too, which are easy to throw and there are multiple sizes.”
10) The biggest tip of all is to remember these are 3-5 year olds, so your activities can be a mixture of volleyball focused and just athletic and fun activities. For most kids at this age, it is their first exposure to a gymnasium sport and simple motor learning activities are good. Don’t get caught up in thinking everything you do needs to be with a volleyball because they get bored quickly with the same item, and that includes a ball.
About the Author
Jodi Schramm is the Owner/Director of Premier Academy. She is also the AAU Ohio/Lake Erie District Volleyball Chair, and member of the JVA Education Committee.