Five months ago Max Miller opened a 17,400-square foot volleyball facility for the club he founded in 2006.
Courts — three of them — dominate the space, yet Mintonette Sports also allocates space for an emerging emphasis in youth volleyball: Conditioning and training. All told, about 3,000 square feet will be the home to a yet-to-be determined performance training partner to provide those services to the club and other clients.
“As we blew up on the national level, (training) has been a core,” Miller said. “(The athletes) needed to have balance and a strong core. In the 15s and 16s (age groups), they need more than we can give them.”
As the stakes increase for girls volleyball, so do the expectations of the student-athletes.
Jeff Smith said there’s one frustration he most often hears about high school players.
“College coaches complain that athletes aren’t ready, physically,” said Smith, founder of 692 Beach Volleyball Club in San Diego. “The kids just want to play tournaments all the time. I get that, but they don’t realize that 40 percent of their time is strength and conditioning in college.”
So Smith partners with a friend who runs a gym that carries a special “692 rate.” Smith encourages his athletes to train at least twice a week.
“But once is better than none,” he added.
Dave Weitl said training has become a trend in volleyball over the last decade, though many in the sport are reluctant to embrace it.
“Volleyball people, all they want do is play,” said Weitl, the founder of Washington Volleyball Academy in a suburb north of Seattle. “But kids get hurt because they go into freshman year of college and need a lot more strength and conditioning.”
Weitl pointed to football and wondered why peers can’t make the connection.
“Your high school football team is lifting weights all year,” he added. “Instead of club volleyball player, you got to be an athlete. That’s a huge thing that enough clubs are not stepping out and saying.”
In Virginia, Seng Chiu made clear how important his student-athlete’s physical conditioning has become.
“That’s our number one priority,” said Chiu, founder of Dulles Volleyball. “We go to the strength coach and say, ‘How much time do you need with our kids?’ “
During the preseason, the players see the trainer twice a week for 90 minutes. Once the tournament season starts, they drop down to once a week, spending 45 minutes on weight lifting and another 45 minutes on speed and agility. In the spring they ramp up the workouts to twice a week again.
Chiu said the payoff has been evident in his players who are provided a chance to play in college.
Miller has a unique perspective on training and volleyball. In addition to running Mintonette Sports, he also is the head volleyball coach at the University of Northern Ohio. He said most prep players are at the mercy of their high school coach.
“What does that coach know?” Miller said. “But (training) may not be their forte.”
Still, Miller said he believes players and parents are starting to look for more than just games and victories. What a club provides, in terms of physical development, could be the determining factor in choosing one club over another.
“At the top level, it’s a one-stop shop thing,” he said. “It’ll be an avenue for recruiting.”
Mintonette Sports, 692 Beach, Dulles Volleyball and Washington Volleyball Academy are all members of the Junior Volleyball Association. To learn more about the benefits of a JVA membership, click here.
About the Author
This article is written by Sean Jensen from SportsEngine, the official technology partner of the JVA. SportEngine offers special pricing and packages exclusive to JVA member clubs. More than just a website, SportsEngine can help you solve serious challenges you face with tryouts, billing and collections, team communication, tournaments, and more. For more information click here.
Sean was born in South Korea, but he was raised in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, mostly on or near military bases. Given his unique background, he’s always been drawn to storytelling, a skill he developed at Northwestern University and crafted for the last 16 years, almost exclusively covering the NFL. He’s earned distinctions from the Illinois Associated Press, Minnesota Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Pro Football Writers of America and Associated Press Sports Editors. In 2006, he received a special achievement award from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 2014, along with BroadStreet Publishing, he created The Middle School Rules children’s book series, which tells the inspirational childhood stories of famous athletes such as Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Skylar Diggins and Jamaal Charles. He is a passionate author, speaker and content creator, working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and YMCA. Sean lives in a Minneapolis suburb with his wife, two children and dog.