Division1 VBC was founded in 2007 by Andrea and Shane Davis. At the time, Shane was the Head Coach at Loyola University Chicago (currently the Northwestern Women’s Coach) and his now wife Andrea had spent years in various customer service roles. D1 was designed around the strengths of its original owners, built on the “Three Pillars” that the club continues to operate by to this day: Elite Training, Professional Communication, and a Family Atmosphere.
In 2016, after two years working full-time for D1, Derek Jensen purchased the club from the Davis family. He is now joined by three other full-time staff members, including Vice President Kris Berzins, and 35+ part time trainers. Since its inception, D1 has grown to 27 Girls and 18 Boys full season club teams, dozens of clinics and unique short training seasons, 150+ private lessons per year, and much more – equaling over 1,000 athletes served in 2019.
Over the last several years, the club’s focus has been on refining and enhancing the practices believed to contribute the most to the members’ development.
Below are a few pieces of Division1’s programming that the club’s leadership have focused on recently:
- Coach to Player Ratio and Court Space: With the overall team numbers growing, D1 didn’t want to lose its “small club” feel. Though the player numbers have almost doubled in 3 years, player to coach ratio is actually smaller than ever. D1 has added lead trainers and assistant coaches to every gym and have been fortunate to find new space locally to maintain an average of just over one team per court across the club.
- Mental Performance: Over the last several years, D1 has invested significantly into developing an effective and sustainable Mental Skills program. This season, the club officially became an externship site for the Adler School of Professional Psychology and are implementing a comprehensive curriculum for the athletes, coaches, and even parents in the club program. D1 currently has two externs working weekly with the athletes in the practice gym, spending time observing practices as well as running 30-minute sessions once a week. “Over the next month, we will be providing our players the option to schedule free one-on-one meetings with our Adler externs to discuss their personal goals and struggles. In addition, our parents took part in a season kick-off seminar, while our coaches received new information during our beginning of the year meeting. We look forward to all that this new program will bring to our club in 2020!” shares Division1 Club Director Derek Jensen.
- Boys Middle School Programs: D1 has been very excited to see the growth in the younger boys ages. This Winter alone, the club will have nearly 100 Middle School Boys in the club program. In order to address the unique needs of Middle School boys and encourage them to try volleyball, D1 offers two Elite and three Regional seasons at that age (Fall Elite/Regional, Winter Regional, Spring Elite/Regional). “As boys’ volleyball continues to grow, we are thrilled to offer our athletes a more competitive tournament schedule and are amazed at how the culture in our area has changed in just a few short years.”
- Communications Management: In addition to the typical roles of Director, Master Coach, Owner, etc, D1 has brought on a full-time Marketing and Communications Manager. Ben Jacobson, now with the club for three years, is focused on delivering clean, exciting, and informative content to all members of D1. As a club that preaches communication, D1 leadership felt it was necessary to commit resources to the one of the most important aspects of our organization.
- Community Involvement: This past season, Division1 partnered with a local HS and community center to offer free clinics to underserved athletes in the area. In addition, the club has also started to roll out a scholarship package that includes participants working with the Youth Program and using hours supporting coaches in the gym to off-set their season fees. The plan over the next year is to build a sustainable “community outreach” program that includes activation in parades, school PTA donations, free clinics for the local schools, and hopefully much more.
Coach Development and Education
“Though there are many pieces of club volleyball that occur behind the scenes, we know that none of that matters if we don’t have excellent, caring coaches in our gyms.”
Recruiting new coaches is a year-round effort, and D1 combines a mix of on-the-job training with club meetings to keep their coaches informed and developing as professionals.
- Mandatory Meetings: D1 kicks off each season with a full club coaches meeting. During this event, the focus is mainly on the non-training parts of volleyball. Most of the technical training will occur in the gym or through conversation, this meeting hits on club identity and club culture. “We truly believe that the top club coaches are incredible people and leaders first, trainers second.”
- Master and Gym Coaches: There are often as many as 2-3 “bonus coaches” in the gym at each practice (for a 4-5 team gym). These individuals help manage the flow of practice so head coaches can focus on their team. They also provide feedback and act as a sounding board, so the coaches are constantly receiving new info and growing together.
- AVCA Convention: Many of D1’s full-time staff will attend the AVCA convention each year. Connecting with other clubs, colleges, and being a part of that community is an amazing way to improve as professionals.
- Access to JVA and AOC Sites: A huge perk to being a JVA member is access to JVA education and receiving an Art of Coaching Volleyball Premium membership.
- Gym Email Threads: All coaches communicate weekly regarding tourney results, training focus, and how the club can be more effective with the time in the practice gym.
- Weekly Owner/Director Updates: The lead trainers are always connecting with Head Coaches to offer insight into tricky situations, encourage positive training, and support all aspects of managing a club roster.
- Social Activities: D1 uses coaches’ nights out at travel tournaments as a way to connect, and also plan as many local get-togethers as possible to maintain contact with coaches in a non-gym environment (axe throwing, group dinner after tryouts, shuffle board, lake house retreats, free adult volleyball tournament entries). “We try to maintain a close-knit group of coaches that care for each other in and out of the gym.”
D1 leadership has many goals for the club, but the guiding principle is to use volleyball as a vehicle to develop mature, responsible, and confident young adults.
The hope is to stay at a similar team number but grow the offerings and opportunities provided for Division1 VBC’s athletes in-season. Starting younger with the youth program, developing new camps, implementing short seasons throughout the year, hosting unique volleyball seminars, creating a standardized scholarship program for athletes with financial needs, are some of the projects currently in the works.
“We love the community of athletes and families we have, and look forward to creating an even better, all-encompassing, developmental experience for all that step in the door!”
Division1 Volleyball Club (Chicago, IL) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization committed to enhancing the junior volleyball experience for club directors, coaches, players, and fans.