A club volleyball team from Washington County had not won a bid to Nationals since 2012. The area had raw talent that needed some attention and exposure, and it needed to be affordable. Three past collegiate volleyball players came together to make a change.
In March 2017 Liberty Elite Volleyball Club was established in Washington County, MD to give the youth more opportunities to develop volleyball skills at a very affordable cost. Washington County and the surrounding areas in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have a per capita income of approximately $27,066, so affordability is a must.
LEVBC started as a 501(c)(3) Volleyball Academy to bring volleyball to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. 4-hour skills clinics were run from May to October for kids ages 7 to 18 years. Five of the 10 clinics were by led by college coaches. The other 5 sessions were run by LEVBC coaches.
What every clinic had and still has in common is the affordability. LEVBC offers reduced or free clinics for those who cannot afford to pay.
In July 2017, LEVBC decided to host a small number of teams for the 2018 club season. The goal was to offer a high-level club volleyball experience at an affordable rate.
LEVBC hosted four teams: one 13U developmental team and three open-level teams in the 11U, 13U, and 14U age divisions. The teams were given three practice days with small groups, as well as one-on-one instruction outside of practice, as needed. They were provided speed and agility training by a professional trainer and had 15 tournament dates.
LEVBC partnered with the Boys and Girls Club for gym time and used the local elementary school gyms for practice. In LEVBC’s first year as a club, the 11U and 13U open teams won bids to USAV nationals, and the 14U team competed in AAU Nationals. All three teams were ranked in the top 10 in the region and top 500 nationally. Three of LEVBC’s athletes were selected for High Performance teams.
Staying consistent, LEVBC did everything possible to keep club dues to a minimum. For the 2018 season all dues were less than $800. Parents were only responsible for travel costs.
In 2019, LEVBC hosted 7 teams: 11U, 12U, 13U, 14U, 15U Select, 15U Open, and 18U. Each team was offered the same opportunities as the year before, except most travel teams were given more tournament play dates, from 15 in 2018 to 19 days in 2019. Again, the only cost parents needed to pay outside of their dues were travel costs.
“Washington County does not have enough gyms to support all of the local youth sports programs in the area, so when LEVBC expanded teams, we had to rent gyms in other counties, which raised costs considerably” shares Club Director Terri Pryor. “As a result, club dues went up to $1,250 for the 13U through 18U teams“.
LEVBC still offers payment plans and scholarships for those in need.
For the 2019 season, Liberty’s 13U, 14U, 15U Select, 15U Open, and 18U teams all won an entry to AAU Nationals, and the 12U, 14U, and 15U Open teams won bids to USAV Nationals. These three teams are currently ranked in the top 205 nationally.
LEVBC mission is to not only develop volleyball skills, but also develop each participant’s character, sportsmanship, self-esteem, and leadership skill with the goal to develop all-around strong young women. Therefore, the entire club participates in local community service events:
- laying wreaths at Antietam Battlefield
- volunteering for United Way during the holiday season
- volunteering for Girls On the Run races
- supporting several Boys and Girls Club families during the holiday season
- and volunteering for other local events and charities within the county.
Liberty also conducts team-building activities several times during the season, including discussion sessions on character development, mental toughness, and self-esteem.
Liberty staff and coaches are registered with AVCA, JVA, and AoC. All coaches are encouraged to participate and engage in the education these programs offer along with coaching clinics. Coaches also receive the opportunity to work directly with the club’s guest college coaches and learn from them as they run the off-season clinics. As a new club, LEVBC leadership is working to create a coaches development program for the future.
One aspect of the club’s training that has been beneficial is to have Liberty coaches participate in other teams’ practices. allowing for fresh eyes, new techniques, and new perspectives on the athletes and teams as a whole. As a result, teams and coaches have grown tremendously. Coaches are encouraged to attend as many events as possible, e.g., assisting with other team’s camps and clinics and the High Performance tryouts.
LEVBC has secured a warehouse with plans to install three volleyball/basketball courts. The club has been able to raise 50% of the needed start-up costs thus far. LEVBC plans to open the facility in October 2019. This facility will allow coaches to host more specialty training during the season, conduct more one-on-one lessons, and run a summer camp outside of their clinics. LEVBC will also be able to host tournaments within their county, which it is currently unable to do.
LEVBC plans to use its new facility not only for the club, but also for the community. The club is installing basketball hoops on each court so local youth basketball programs can also utilize the space. “We plan on running community youth events to provide a fun, safe place for area kids to hang out and play. Washington County does not have such a recreation center, so we are hoping fill this void” adds Pryor.
Liberty Elite Volleyball Club is led by a staff and board that is very active within the community, striving to work alongside the Government and Private sectors to raise the bar in affordable youth programming. In a short period of time, this club has impacted hundreds of lives, and the JVA is proud to name Liberty Elite Volleyball Club the JVA Club of the Month.
Liberty Elite Volleyball Club is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization committed to enhancing the junior volleyball experience for club directors, coaches, players, and fans.