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Volleyball Clubs Emphasizing Off-Court Training

By Sean Jensen, 02/13/18, 2:00PM CST


Strength and conditioning becoming a priority at youth, high school levels

What a club provides, in terms of physical development, could be the determining factor in choosing one club over another.

Max Miller

Five months ago Max Miller opened a 17,400-square foot volleyball facility for the club he founded in 2006.

Courts — three of them — dominate the space, yet Mintonette Sports also allocates space for an emerging emphasis in youth volleyball: Conditioning and training. All told, about 3,000 square feet will be the home to a yet-to-be determined training partner to provide those services to the club and other clients.

“As we blew up on the national level, (training) has been a core,” Miller said. “(The athletes) needed to have balance and a strong core. In the 15s and 16s (age groups), they need more than we can give them.”

As the stakes increase for girls volleyball, so do the expectations of the student-athletes.

Jeff Smith said there’s one frustration he most often hears about high school players.

Jeff Smith

“College coaches complain that athletes aren’t ready, physically,” said Smith, founder of 692 Beach Volleyball Club in San Diego. “The kids just want to play tournaments all the time. I get that, but they don’t realize that 40 percent of their time is strength and conditioning in college.”

So Smith partners with a friend who runs a gym that carries a special “692 rate.” Smith encourages his athletes to train at least twice a week.

“But once is better than none,” he added.

Dave Weitl said training has become a trend in volleyball over the last decade, though many in the sport are reluctant to embrace it.

“Volleyball people, all they want do is play,” said Weitl, the founder of Washington Volleyball Academy in a suburb north of Seattle. “But kids get hurt because they go into freshman year of college and need a lot more strength and conditioning.”

Dave Weitl

Weitl pointed to football and wondered why peers can’t make the connection.

“Your high school football team is lifting weights all year,” he added. “Instead of club volleyball player, you got to be an athlete. That’s a huge thing that enough clubs are not stepping out and saying.”

In Virginia, Seng Chiu made clear how important his student-athlete’s physical conditioning has become.

“That’s our number one priority,” said Chiu, founder of Dulles Volleyball. “We go to the strength coach and say, ‘How much time do you need with our kids?’ ”

During the preseason, the players see the trainer twice a week for 90 minutes. Once the tournament season starts, they drop down to once a week, spending 45 minutes on weight lifting and another 45 minutes on speed and agility. In the spring they ramp up the workouts to twice a week again.

Chiu said the payoff has been evident in his players who are provided a chance to play in college.

Miller has a unique perspective on training and volleyball. In addition to running Mintonette Sports, he also is the head volleyball coach at the University of Northern Ohio. He said most prep players are at the mercy of their high school coach.

“What does that coach know?” Miller said. “But (training) may not be their forte.”

Still, Miller said he believes players and parents are starting to look for more than just games and victories. What a club provides, in terms of physical development, could be the determining factor in choosing one club over another.

“At the top level, it’s a one-stop-shop thing,” he said. “It’ll be an avenue for recruiting.”

About Sean Jensen

Sean Jensen was born in South Korea, but he was raised in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, mostly on or near military bases. Given his unique background, he's always been drawn to storytelling, a skill he developed at Northwestern University and crafted for the last 16 years, almost exclusively covering the NFL. Sean lives in a Minneapolis suburb with his wife, two children and dog. Read more

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