Maylen Mitrovich loved volleyball, and she wanted better coaches and tougher tournaments than what her small, local club provided. So her mother, Monica, researched and identified a few other options. 

She just liked the vibe at Carolina Union,” Monica Mitrovich recalled, “and so we decided to stay there.”

But Maylen Mitrovich didn’t have the best experience at Carolina Union, and Monica Mitrovich, who declined to get into specifics, was inclined to switch her then 10-year-old daughter to another club.

Except something surprising happened: As that season ended, she was asked for feedback, she provided an honest assessment and club director John Brannon aggressively addressed it.

We had our ups and downs, but John was so open to our feedback and that is one of the reasons we stayed,” Monica Mitrovich said. “It’s a good life lesson for our children, in general, to work through things with people because sometimes things don’t go your way. Since then, our experience has been excellent.

Carolina UVC has quickly established itself as one of the region’s powerhouse club programs, sending over 50 players to Division I colleges in just its seventh year. Maylen Mitrovich is among them, as she’s already committed to play at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Brannon certainly is proud to help student-athletes achieve a dream, but he’s more proud of the culture he’s carefully created at Carolina UVC.

Here are three points of emphasis that have helped Carolina UVC:

1) Family first — Brannon said the coaches don’t recruit and the club rarely loses players if they don’t make a particular team. “We’re proud to help kids reach their dreams,” Brannon said. “But we’re most proud of the fact that we have had a good amount of success without sacrificing what we want to be about. We have maintained the culture of the club that we aspired to. We’ve had a good amount of success, but we want to develop individuals who are going to be better human beings and we want to develop a family culture where everyone feels at home.”

2) Customize the customer experience — Not every player wants to play in college, even if they may have the talent. One mother lamented that her teenage daughter wanted to continue to play at a high level but not fly to far away places many weekends for competitions. So Brannon developed the “Travel Lite” program, which caters to 17 and 18 year olds. Their tournaments aren’t as far, and they also practice just twice a week, though for 90 minutes each time. “It’s not as expensive and not near as much travel,” Brannon said. “It’s been a really good option for a lot of families.”

3) No elitism — Brannon is intentional about player interaction at Carolina UVC, not just with one another but with coaches. The team’s top trainers work with everyone, regardless of what level team they plan on. In addition, players sometimes practice with players in other age groups. “You may have a 13-year-old working with a 17-year-old. Then we’ll tell her (the 13-year-old), do everything she does!” Brannon said. Monica Mitrovich said it’s very evident how hard coaches and club administrators work to build relationships in the club. “I appreciate the bond they try to create between the girls,” Mitrovich said. “There’s been zero drama on the team, which is a group of teenage girls. The club really puts a focus on forming like a sisterhood, where everyone is expected to cheer from other teams in the club.

For related reading on club and team culture click HERE. Fore more education for parents click HERE. For related reading for Club Directors 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. 

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.