Club Cactus Juniors (CCJ) was formed in 1992 by Corey Morishita, making the club the second-longest running junior volleyball club in Arizona. The mission of the club was to raise the volleyball in Southern Arizona and meet the needs of a diverse volleyball community by (1) providing programs with differing levels of training and (2) competition opportunities for young players. CCJ has built a network of coaches and partners over the years to offer competitive teams, developmental programs, and the Cactus Classic Invitational to help promote the sport in the Southern Arizona community.
In addition to offering a high level of training, CCJ prides itself on working with partners to provide different programs and support to the volleyball community:
- YOUTH ACADEMY: CCJ offers the popular Youth Volleyball Academy for boys/girls from ages 8-14. The Academy offers three sessions (Fall, Winter, Spring) every year – each session is 12 practices over 7 weeks where players are trained by our National Team Coaching Staff and player mentors. The practices are fast-paced and fun while promoting correct fundamentals and systems for young players in the community.
- CACTUS CLASSIC INVITATIONAL: CCJ hosts the annual Cactus Classic Invitational every January at the Tucson Convention Center. This three-day tournament is one of the top tournaments in the Southwest and is the only club-run convention center event in Arizona. The tournament attracts teams from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas—giving athletes the chance to compete in an event and looks and feels like a National JNQ. This event helps promote high-level volleyball in the Southern Arizona volleyball community.
- STARLINGS SISTER CLUB: CCJ is a two Gold Star Sister Club, assisting the Tucson Starlings team with financial resources and gym time. The club donated $50 per CCJ team – or $800 – to Starlings VBC to help start this team. CCJ leases courts at a local volleyball/basketball facility and allows the Tucson Starlings team to use one of the courts Monday/Wednesday from 5:00-7:00 PM for practices. This allows the team to practice for free all season.In addition, CCJ Lead Coaches mentor the Starlings coaching staff when they are at the gym together by being available for questions and advice. The Starlings coach is invited to work with the CCJ teams at practices during the week to understand the systems and training philosophy.
- THE CACTUS COMMITMENT PROGRAM: CCJ believes in its process and system – so much that the club offers a Cactus Commitment Credit. This program offers any senior athlete that plays five consecutive years with CCJ a tuition credit during their senior year. The credit includes all team fees (not including travel) for their last year club volleyball! CCJ wants all players “to finish what they started” and will help the player do that. Currently, CCJ has 9 senior athletes taking part in the program – that have been in the CCJ system for at least four years and the club is waiving their club dues for the senior season.
- ARIZONA HIGH PERFORMANCE PROGRAM: CCJ has contributed to the Region’s High Performance Program by providing financial assistance as a Sponsor and airfare for Southern Arizona players.
- KICKS4KIDS SUPPORTER: Andy Morales (former CCJ parent and local youth sports reporter) organizes a shoe drive called Kicks4Kids, where he gathers donated shoes to distribute to disadvantaged and low-income children in Southern Arizona so that they can participate safely in PE classes and athletics. CCJ provides (new and used) Mizuno volleyball shoes to the program every year.
CCJ meets the original mission of the club to offer differing levels of training, CCJ has developed three levels of competition and training. These programs are very similar to most of the top clubs in the Nation.
- OPEN NATIONAL TEAMS: The Mizuno National Travel teams are designed to be highly competitive both regionally and nationally. These teams compete in at least 5 National Tournaments and play in the Open Division, allowing exposure to the top teams in the nation and college recruiters. Winning at this level is a priority, but not at the expense of the well-being of the team.
- SILVER NATIONAL TEAMS: When the club made the decision to only play at the Open Level for top teams, the club knew that this model of training might not fit everyone. Silver Level allows players to develop in the National program – giving them a national experience by competing at one JNQ within driving distance and finish the season at the JVA West Coast Cup.
- REGIONAL TEAMS: Region Teams are offered at every age level that will compete in the Arizona Region’s competition schedule. All practices are overseen by our National Team Lead Coaches providing consistency in the club. The tuition is affordable due to the lack of travel costs; however each team gets the unique opportunity to compete in a National invitational tournament at the Cactus Classic Invitational.
CULTURE AND COACHING STAFF:
CCJ has adopted the #OneClubOneFamily tagline to emphasize the gym culture the club strives to create among its staff and players. The coaching staff meets once a month to discuss any club issues and concerns. The staff also meets socially away from the gym (with spouses as well!) throughout the season to stay balanced.
- LEAD COACHES: The club has developed Lead Coaches – which are National coaches that take on more responsibilities as mentors for the new or young coaches. These coaches also lead Positional Training Sessions and help pace the group work in the Regional Team practices – providing assistance in the gym. This helps keep the training consistent and helps develop systematic continuity among all teams. All staff members are tasked with getting to know every player by name!
- MIND-SET COACH: CCJ has implemented mindset training this season in an effort to develop the mental component of the game. The Mind-Set Coach will have athletes examine and evaluate the nature of their participation in an event – when they experience a win or loss. The focus aims to give a reflective journaling experience to young athletes to guide them in a process that will develop future growth.
- OPEN PRACTICES: All teams practice three times a week. However, when players miss their team’s practice for various reasons (school activities, other sports, church, etc.) and need to make-up a practice, CCJ allows players to come into another team’s practice during the week. This allows for extra repetitions or training for the players. CCJ also promotes teams to watch and cheer on other CCJ teams while at National Tournaments.
“This is something the coaches watched other top clubs do at National events years ago and it’s been a tradition for years in our club. This helps promote the culture we want in our club” shares Club Director Bill Lang.
PLANS FOR NEW PROGRAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS:
As the club continues to develop and enhance the volleyball experience in Southern Arizona, CCJ is excited about cultivating new programs in the near future:
- COLLEGE SHOWCASE CAMP: CCJ is working to create a community where Arizona’s top-level volleyball players have an opportunity to perform in front of respected collegiate volleyball coaches. This will help the local players and give out community’s coaches the ability to network and learn from other volleyball coaches outside of the community.
- YOUTH ACADEMY TOURNAMENT: While the Youth Academy doesn’t play competitive matches in the training-only format, CCJ has been working on plans with other clubs that offer similar programing to finish each session with a modified rules for a youth scrimmage or tournament.
- JVA CHALLENGE SERIES: In an effort to bring more high-level teams into Arizona, CCJ will apply for the Cactus Classic Invitational to be a part of the JVA Challenge Series in 2021. The tournament is highly organized and creating more inter-regional competition opportunities will help promote the sport in Southern Arizona – making Tucson a destination for warm weather and great competition every January!
“We joined the JVA as a member club after attending the first JVA West Coast Cup three years ago. We were impressed with the organization and the camaraderie among the new coaches and teams that we were fortunate enough to compete with. In the short time that we’ve been a member, I’ve received more assistance with running our club and hosting the tournament from the JVA than I have from any other organization in the previous 10 years as a Director. I appreciate being involved in a community that shares information and mutually supports each other with same goals.”
Club Cactus Juniors (Tucson, Arizona) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization committed to enhancing the junior volleyball experience for club directors, coaches, players, and fans.