Absolute Zero Volleyball Club started out as a girls program that arose from the need to provide training for fundamentals and mechanics in a fun environment. The club is based on the “Science of Volleyball” or “Volleyballogy (study of volleyball)” principles utilizing a transformational club ideology rather than being a transactional one. This transformational platform merged with “ridiculous fun” provided the base for the club’s success.
As a few years went on, Dr. Billanna (Billie) Hwang, Director of Absolute Zero Volleyball Club, noticed a HUGE hole in Northwest youth volleyball…..boys volleyball. She decided to take a leap of faith to start a boys program.
“This was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my coaching career. The first boy to play in my club just graduated after 8+ years and is committed to playing at Wentworth,” shares Hwang.
The role of developing leaders and being a mentor is one that Hwang takes seriously especially in this day and age where the emphasis with social media propagates superficiality, lack of depth, and inconsistencies. Absolute Zero Volleyball Academy focuses on:
- Bringing back the “cool” idea that there are activities with no drama and you can be comfortable in your own skin around your peers.
- Leadership through mentorship. Having the older players interact with the younger ones helps build this and it is an absolutely amazing sight to see the smiles and laughter as they interact with each other – priceless.
- As a coach, Hwang has an open and accessible style of communication that does not intuitively feel like a hierarchical relationship.
- Hwang takes the time to assist the athletes through tough times, giving advice, and even providing opportunities to intern at her research lab.
Club players at Absolute Zero come back year after year with 93% of the kids staying to play their entire club career spanning up to 8 years.
However, early on, Hwang faced the challenge of developing a strategy for the boys program that focused on sustained growth. She incorporated factors that are unique to the Northwest landscape (eg. other established sports, no high school volleyball, etc). With a more detailed understanding of the major factors, she developed a strategic approach focusing on a multi-regional concept that included the creation and execution of a new boys only Power League series, providing new clubs with startup scholarship funds, and positive, free flowing exchange of ideas to help build programs.
New pilot programs were developed and executed without constraints and restrictions, which also contributed to the quick growth of boys volleyball. The series of events that cascaded catapulted NW boys volleyball, and within the 5 years of starting the boys volleyball development strategy, Hwang and her supporting clubs have 1) formed a boys only series of tournaments called the Western Boys Power League, 2) driven the exponential growth in the number of participating boys and clubs, 3) increased the number of college recruits, and 4) received national level recognition for programs.
Hwang credits the success of the league over the past five years to addressing the unique challenges specific to the region and then developing solutions.
“One thing I am most proud of as the “unofficial governor of NW boys volleyball,” is leading these efforts in a truly collaborative fashion.…something that parallels a multi-center clinical trial. We have been able to facilitate and propagate strong relationships with the clubs and coaches in 4 states and work independently of any volleyball governing body, all while being solely motivated for the love of the sport. In addition, we have been able to provide opportunities for our northern BC neighbors to come participate in these events and provide insight on how to continue to grow the sport in the NW.”
Today, the Western Boys Power League includes clubs from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Hwang’s vision for Absolute Zero Volleyball Club is to continue the growth over the next 3-5 years including the start of high school boys volleyball in Washington.
“We are currently trying to accrue data and support from the schools to start a pilot program. In the meantime, we will continue to expand the high school boys volleyball league currently heading into season three! We will also continue to provide more and more opportunities for college recruiting and programs for the younger age groups.”
Hwang encourages any club trying to start a boys program to be tenacious! “Everything starts small and can go from 6 players your first year to 24 the second. Great leadership is key to sustainability and growth.”
Absolute Zero Volleyball Academy (Seattle, WA) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization that is 100% focused on improving the junior volleyball experience for the athletes, coaches, directors and fans.
Hwang would also like to thank all of the current/past families and players, and guest coaches at Absolute Zero. “Without their endless support for my club model that does not jive with the traditional and the vision for boys volleyball, we would not be seeing this much success. To Brendan Ledwith, thank you for being there in the beginning to help us pave the way. To Roland Madany, thank you for the last 5 years (and more!) for being my counterpart on this journey. To Mike Griffin, I will always respect your coaching, dedication to the sport, and being the “OG” of NW boys volleyball when it wasn’t a thing. And lastly, I want to thank everyone in the NW boys volleyball arena….the coaches….the clubs….the directors…the parentals…the players….and the volleyball community. It is their unconditional support, confidence, and kind words that have helped us get to where we are today. The trust that everyone has in my ability to lead this group is overwhelming and humbling and I cannot wait to see what the next 5 years have for us! NW boys volleyball…..”we be making moves!”