In these current times, the hardest and most ironic unifier is simply: the unknown. We are all unsure when we will start and resume “normal” practices, training, and tournaments. We are unsure what the remainder of the 2020 junior season looks like. We anxiously await to have something to grasp so that it will calm our heightened nerves.

Many clubs have responded by ramping up virtual opportunities to keep their athletes physically and mentally sharp, along with binding their club and teams as one unit.

Here are 6 Examples of  Building Team and Club Culture in a Virtual Setting:
1. Consistent Communication

Set a weekly and daily content schedule for your club administration to communicate with your members. Also, include your coaches in that schedule so each team has a consistent number of interactions with their coach(es).

“Our admin staff is sending out content related emails every day during the week” says Rachel Morris, Director of Coaching Development and Media.  “On Mondays we send out either a TED Talk, podcast, video or article that we think is useful to help our athletes grow mentally. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we are sending out recruiting tips. On Wednesday and Fridays we send out more skill related videos. We have done video breakdown of game footage and skill specific breakdown.”

WAVE is encouraging their coaches to connect with their athletes through platforms such as FaceTime, Zoom or Google Meet, in addition to text, as often as they can. Some ideas for teams: (1) watch movies, like “Remember the Titans” and “Miracle”, (2) coaches can send highlight clips from national team athletes and international athletes for their players to watch and identify parts of the game that they have been told they need to work on, (3) coaches can have players watch game film of their own to self correct.

2. Honest Communication

An important part of club culture is trust and honesty. Be open and honest when you communicate with your members. They will appreciate you for it. Don’t try to predict what could happen in the future, focus on the now and what you can control.

“I have been sending out update letters to try to keep everyone organized and aware of the ever changing news that is impacting our club locally and nationally” shares High Performance St Louis Club Director Scott Mebruer. “I will continue to do this throughout this time as I feel it is important to inform our families as change continues to force us to adjust and adapt. Staying connected for us is the most important thing for us to do at this point.”

3. Coach Buy In and Leadership

If your club is continuing to organize virtual meetings and online training opportunities, it’s important for the coaches to support your club’s efforts. HPSTL started a video series a couple of weeks ago for the athletes and families, highlighting at home workouts, skill training, decision making, match film break down, and other items as homework for their teams. To assist in this effort the club is continuing to pay their staff and coaches during the forced shut down, and have asked the coaches to stay active with their teams. Support and leadership from the coaches is an integral piece to having buy in from the athletes and families.

“Our coaches are using tools like Zoom and Group Me, to encourage the video series, and giving out homework assignments” adds Mebruer. We are also looking into apps such as Mamba RISE for our teams, and hope to have something worked out with them this week or early next to our athletes.”

4. Build Athlete Accountability

Now that you’ve created opportunities for the athletes to stay engaged and keep up their fitness, it’s up to the athletes to follow through. Will the athletes take the reins and check in other each other? Who will step up and lead? Tennessee Performance Volleyball has been encouraging their athletes to help hold their teammates accountable.

“We want each team to make sure that everyone is doing what is needed” says TPV Director Dan Dierking. “Coaches aren’t able to chase everyone down and hold everyone’s hand to get things done. That’s not how life works. We believe that the best teams can be independent when it comes to accountability and staying physically and mentally sharp and prepared to perform whenever asked.”

5. Virtual Team Training

Although you’re not using your slotted practice time for on-court training, your teams can still meeting and use this lock of time for virtual team training. Houston Juniors Volleyball started virtual team training organized by the head and assistant coaches to engage on ZOOM with their teams two times per week.

“Our virtual practice plans will be fluid and ever changing” adds 18 Elite Head Coach Kara Pratt.

First Training Plan:

  • Current update of the COVID-19 situation
  • Expectations of our virtual meetings
  • Perspective
  • What are you doing with regards to fitness to stay in shape as well as what can you do creatively to work on your volley skill?
  • Open Forum of Q&A driven by athletes
  • Homework for Wednesday: Video & Questions to be answered for Wednesday’s Practice
6. Daily Challenges

Even though your athletes are missing out on tournament competition, you can still keep their competitive spirit alive with daily challenges on Facebook and Instagram.  Athletes can enter to win by submitting themselves completing the challenge at hand, and the club staff and coaches can select the winners. You can run club wide challenges and team challenges.

TPV Director Dierking shares details on his club’s daily challenges:

“We switch up what is asked on various days of the week. Some days it has been physical. Other days we challenge them to focus on specific skill work. Some of our contests are simply to see who can be the most creative. We recently did a cooking challenge where we asked athletes to cook a HEALTHY recipe, and then provide the recipe at the conclusion of it. Some of our athletes filmed themselves making the dish and that made the challenge even more competitive.”

We understand the importance for athletes to be able to use this time to connect with teammates, but let’s also encourage them to use this time to realize their talents, as well as who they are without volleyball. Encourage your athletes to spend more time with family and loved ones. There are plenty of daily things that they haven’t had the chance to do as they are used to the continuous and vicious daily cycle of academics, club volleyball and tournaments on the weekends.

Related Reading:

Financial Assistance for Volleyball Clubs During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Navigating the Effects of the Coronavirus

How a Volleyball Club Can Continue to Serve Its Members During the Coronavirus Crisis

Houston Juniors (Houston, TX), HPSTL (St. Louis, MO), TPV (Franklin, TN), and WAVE (Del Mar, CA) are all members of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization that is 100% committed to improving the junior volleyball experience for directors, coaches, athletes and fans.