The Shakopee Volleyball Association (SVA) was formed by a small group of volunteer parents in 2004 who wanted to give their daughters a chance to train and play volleyball in a competitive environment outside of the regular school season. Shakopee is a small southwestern suburb of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro. Starting off with just a handful of girls, the SVA now serves over 240 players each year, making the SVA one of the largest community run volleyball programs in the state of Minnesota.
In partnership with the Shakopee School District, the SVA utilizes local school gyms for practices and tournaments. The high school facility alone gives the club access to 61,200 square feet of gymnasium space and 12 courts! In addition, the SVA has access to another 12 courts in Shakopee Elementary and Middle Schools. Each school provides the net systems, as well as officiating stands for hosted tournaments.
Giving back to the community is incredibly important to the SVA. Each season the club hosts an event called the Serve-a-thon, that “serves” an individual in need or a charitable organization.
“To give ownership to our players we ask them to submit nominations, which are reviewed by the SVA Board of Directors to determine the recipient of the funds we raise during this event” explains SVA Director Kristina Newell. “Each nomination must have a connection with Shakopee Volleyball Community in some way.“
The players collect monetary pledges and/or donations to include in the silent auction and raffle. All proceeds are donated directly to the recipient each year. This season the players nominated a former SVA coach whose newborn son was admitted into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and diagnosed with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), which has required him to use both intravenous nutrition and a feed tube to support his growth.
Due to COVID-19 SVA was unable to host the typical in person event, so they moved to an online auction. Despite this minor setback, SVA still raised over $3,300 for the Johnson family.
In addition, individual teams participate in their own community service projects throughout the season. For example, the 16-1s team worked with The Sandwich Man Project to help feed the homeless in the Minneapolis area. The team purchased the sandwich fixings, made the sandwiches, and delivered them to The Sandwich Man Project who in turns gives them to the homeless.
Regional Juniors Teams: The SVA supports the multi-sport athlete and works with other local sports associations to help accommodate players that are involved in other programs during the Juniors season. For the 2019-2020 season, the SVA supported ten teams from the 12s to 17s age divisions. The teams participate in multi-day regional tournaments including the Mizuno Midwest JVA Challenge, Twin Cities Big City Luau, and the Northstar Volleyball United President’s Day Challenge, all part of the JVA Challenge Series. In addition, the regional teams compete in the Northern Lights Power League and the Molten Series. Regional teams conclude playing in early May, which also allows players to participate in spring school sports.
Junior Prep Teams: The SVA Junior Prep program introduces beginner volleyball players in the 4th – 8th grade to the club team experience. This past season SVA supported 4 juniors prep teams. These teams play in a “short” season from February to April and compete in local tournaments.
Junior Skills Clinics: SVA clinics are designed for a particular age group and skill level, and typically depend on outside resources to facilitate. This season SVA utilized former Shakopee High School and University of Minnesota players Ashley Wittman and Jess Menden to help train the players and coaches. This is a wonderful opportunity for the SVA in that Ashley and Jess both played under the Shakopee High School coach, went on to play D1 volleyball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and both have coached at the Juniors and/or High School level.
Fall League: The SVA supports 5 to 6 fall teams for volleyball players in the 5th – 8th grade that participate in the Northern Lights Fall League. This program is coached by SVA Juniors coaches, giving players exposure, excellent training and preparation for those interested in participating in the Juniors season.
The Shakopee December Dig takes place in early December and is designed as a pre-season tournament for 11s – 14s teams. It gives teams the opportunity to play in a casual, but competitive environment to work out kinks and get comfortable with officiating duties before the regular season starts. SVA introduced this tournament in 2015 with 12 local teams participating, and has since grown to 32 teams from all over the state of Minnesota.
Twin Cities Big City Luau: SVA is a proud host site for the Twin Cities Big City Luau. Since 2019, the SVA has partnered with Kokoro Volleyball to offer up to 14 courts for 56 teams to play in this large multi-day event.
Shakopee Daylight Dig: New in 2020, the SVA hosted its first tournament for 15s – 18s teams. The tournament took place on the start Daylight Savings in March, thus the unique name! The tournament filled up almost immediately with the SVA hosting 32 teams in the Shakopee High School Facilities.
Shakopee Spring Dig: We continue to host our original tournament in April with the goal in mind to offer a competitive play for beginner teams in the 10s – 12s age divisions! This tournament too has grown in popularity where we now offer a higher level of competition for the more seasoned Juniors teams.
Team Bonding: Not only does the SVA encourage strong team work on the court, but the club also emphasizes off-court team bonding experiences for the players. The SVA has a high retention of players and find it important for these young women to form strong bonds with each other at an early start! Each season, the SVA gives a stipend to the head coaches to be used toward team bonding activities. This year the teams participated in a variety of off court fun including bowling parties, Holiday cookie making and gift exchanges, Whirlyball, among others!
Boys Volleyball: Boys volleyball is gaining popularity in Minnesota. The SVA does offer some of the skills clinics and camps for boys, but the club does not offer a competitive program yet. The SVA is in the exploratory phase of expanding its offerings to boys interested in playing volleyball.
For the 2019-2020 season, the SVA staffed 25 paid coaches to support its programs. The SVA works with the Shakopee High School Coaching Staff to offer training on important coaching concepts, player expectations and skill development.
“In addition, our experienced coaches collaborate with our newer coaches to them offer support and training throughout the season” adds Newell. “Depending on the skill level of the players not all tournaments are appropriate for all our teams. Therefore, the SVA does not dictate which tournaments each team plays in during the season. Instead, we offer tremendous flexibility, with minimum requirements, to our coaches to create their own tournament schedule with their individual teams. It’s a huge bonus to those coaches that actually have lives outside of volleyball!”
At the end of the season, the SVA Board of Directors hosts an event celebrating the coaches and recognizing coaches old and new for their season successes.
SVA’s immediate plan for the upcoming season is to adjust its programs to ensure the players and coaches are working in a safe environment since the COVID-19 outbreak. The first hurdle is to work through what summer camp and clinic offerings will look like. The club has again teamed up with the Shakopee High School coaching staff and other local clubs to potentially offer outdoor training.
“It continues to be a work in progress! The JVA has been a tremendous resource for us as we work through these challenges. The SVA also plans on focusing more on coach development for the upcoming season to include more in-person clinics, coach to coach training with other clubs, and virtual training through the JVA”.
Shakopee Volleyball Association (Shakopee, MN) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization committed to enhancing the junior volleyball experience for club directors, coaches, players, and fans.