When I talk to Club Directors and ask them “What keeps you up a night?” The #1 response I hear most often is “Parents”. I had the good fortune to meet and talk with an amazing woman, Ruth Nelson, this past December at the AVCA Convention. She has a program that may help you cope with the nightmares. It is her BYOP®, Bring Your Own Parent Program. This program can serve as a connector between your parents, players and coaches from an early age.

The BYOP Philosophy
Ruth Nelson developed BYOP® in 2000 well before Volley Tots, Volley Bees, Ice Chips, Junior Mints, Spikettes (some of the names our member clubs have for their youth programs). The program is designed for players, ages 4-12. A parent or guardian accompanies each child, boy or girl. The parents are actively involved in all aspects of the program. The program establishes a strong foundation of movement and the basic fundamental skills of volleyball for both players and parents.

Ruth instills in all the participants, from top down, a strong culture of cooperation, understanding the learning process, life lessons to be learned through sports, goal setting even at age 4, fairness and fun. Parents must be fully committed. The parents learn the different developmental stages alongside their child as they move from basic skills and movement patterns (5-7) to an introduction of recreational play (8-10).

Quality Parent/Child Time
Kate Seal has been participating in BYOP® with her daughter, Addie, now age 7 for 2 years. Kate said, “I enjoy spending time with Addie doing something we are both very interested in doing. My daughter lacked confidence early on and this program has really built up her confidence and competitive spirit. I also love that the program is about teaching the game. Too often we put our kids in sports and it is competitive from the very beginning. As a family we really appreciate that Addie is learning about the game before stepping on the court in a game setting. I look forward to this time every week. Like so many other parents, I am a working parent with more than one child. Our time is so stretched that it is great to know that this is time dedicated to just my daughter.”

Jennifer Busse has two daughters in the program, ages 5 and 7. Jennifer shared that “The BYOP® program is rewarding on and off the court. We’ve learned valuable lessons that extend beyond the sport of volleyball. My once very shy daughter has gained confidence in her athleticism as well as confidence to answer questions in the classroom. The look on my five year old when she successfully jumped rope for the first time was one that I will forever cherish. She was so proud of herself and we celebrated as if she had won an Olympic gold medal. My daughters have learned to have fun while working hard, be proud of their accomplishments and celebrate victories along the way.

Building Great Sport Parents
Coaches of all sports feel that parents are often over involved in their children’s youth programs. I asked a few of the instructors and parents if they felt that the BYOP® program was helping parents to be better sport parents. Val Armstrong, one of the BYOP® Certified Instructors said, “I feel that the program helps parents become better sport parents as they understand the game and the learning process while they are learning alongside their child.”

I asked Kate Seal the same question. Kate said, “That’s a difficult question to answer, only because I am very competitive being a former collegiate athlete. Yes, I do believe BYOP has helped me set realistic expectations on my child and what to expect from her even with a very strong competitive side to myself. Before any game (regardless of the sport) she thinks about things she wants to improve on, rather than let me make sure to score XX points. She and I both approach the game with having fun and finding ways to improve technique and skill.”

Kelly Hisel and her husband, Chuck, Jayden’s (BYOP® participating from 3 ½ to 12) parent coach both believe that the program does make better sport parents. “A lot of it has to do with the philosophy and culture built by Ruth in the program. They learn that coaches are responsible for the whole team. Not all players learn at the same time. Players need to play different roles. The players and parents all learn and believe that it is not all about winning. The kids set goals and look for personal growth.” Chuck loved the quality time with his daughter. He must be doing something right. Jayden’s goal is to play in college and in the Olympics.

Jennifer Busse agrees that BYOP® helps develop better sport parents. She says, “Coach Ruth asks lots of questions and requests that the parents let the girls answer for themselves. As a parent, this reminds me that I can’t always answer for my daughter just like I can’t practice or play for her. I have to let my child answer incorrectly as well as make mistakes. We learn how to turn these moments into positive teaching experiences.”

Future Coaches?
The BYOP® program has taught a whole generation of parents the proper fundamentals of volleyball techniques; understanding the learning process; sharing the value of life lessons learned through sport; and belief in a culture of development over competition. The parents that I spoke to felt BYOP® gave them the skills to coach and would love to do that when the time is right.

This article was written by Jenny Hahn, Executive Director of the JVA.

About Ruth N. Nelson
Ruth has a long and storied career in all aspects of our sport. Ruth attended the University of Northern Colorado (then Colorado State) with the goal of becoming a physical education teacher and coaching. While in college as a 5-sport athlete (tennis, volleyball, basketball, softball and field hockey), she decided she wanted to be on the USA National Volleyball Team or play at Wimbledon and participate in the Olympics.

Ruth met with Dr. Jim Coleman on a visit to George Williams College in 1970. He convinced her to stay at George Williams as a volunteer coach and complete her Master’s Degree. Ruth continued her playing career with the Chicago Rebels and trained as a setter under Jim Coleman. She began playing for the ASI (Advanced School Incorporated) adult USVBA team. In 1972, she was invited to tryout of the USA National Team as a setter. That year Ruth took a job with Northwestern Mutual in Houston and was invited by Mary Jo Peppler to play on the EPU (E Pluribus Unum) team in Houston. In 1973 she took her second coaching assignment at the University of Houston, coaching both tennis and volleyball on a volunteer status to keep her amateur status.

Ruth continued to play on the USA national team under Dr. Arie Selinger until 1976 and continued as Assistant Coach. She traveled with the national team for 12 years, through 1984. She learned from the best coaches in the world.

Ruth’s third coaching stop was to become Louisiana State University’s Head Coach from 1981-1985. Ruth finished her collegiate coaching career at the University of Iowa. Ruth left collegiate coaching as one of the winningest and highest paid coaches in the country.

During all of her moves and in every city, Ruth left her mark in the community. In Houston she was the first coach to aggressively recruit black athletes for volleyball. In Louisiana she established the LVC to provide grants, opportunities and mentoring programs for low-income, inner city girls to play club volleyball. Ruth raised the level of Special Olympics Volleyball by writing a guide for coaches and program leaders, helped secure an apparel sponsor. Volleyball went from a small number of teams in 1983 to needing a selection system by 1987.

Ruth shared her passion, ideas and knowledge throughout her whole career. Her resume spans over 50 years.

BYOP® is a licensed program that presently has Certified Instructors in Texas, Southern California, Illinois, New York and Minnesota. 2017 Elementary school BYOP® Instructor Certification course will be conducted in Dallas, Texas. Those coaching age 10 and under maybe be interested in the BYOP® 101 online course. For more information on how to start a program in your club, visit www.bringyourownparent.com.