It's extremely rewarding for the players, parents and coaches to see the advancement of skills, and this tournament is the perfect culmination to compete for many teams.
At The Academy Volleyball Club, we have talked a lot about the ideal training versus competition cycle for the younger ages throughout the club season. In our gym, we have noticed that when we focus on doing blocked training, or less game-like training, our players tend to lack a desire to play every ball. After blocked training, they seemed to disengage in a 6v6 wash drill,thinking the person next to them will play the ball.
We find that the most important part of youth training is keeping younger players engaged. Not every player has a competitive nature that will show itself when you put them on the court with five other players.
A lot of youth development research has led us to explore training our youth in more random or game-like situations. By doing this, they have become accustomed to developing a sense of purpose to go after the ball. Our coaches focus on building the players' desires to play with effort early on in the season. However, it can be challenging if young players are thrown into a 6v6 drill before they are ready.
Here is a simple progression that has been effective for us to keep youth players engaged especially when they are just beginning, and to improve their effort in 6v6 play throughout the course of their season.
What percentage of practice should be game-like and competitive vs blocked training?
At the beginning of the club season, we feel that a typical youth team practice should include about 60% competitive, game-like drills versus about 40% blocked training. As the season progresses, we will continue to tip the scales in favor of competitive, game-like training. Around the end of February, which is about a third of the way through our season, practices will include about 70% game-like training and 30% blocked skill training. We will increase game-like training towards 80% the final third of the season with less time dedicated to blocked training.
The progression of game-like drills resembles the season development as a whole. Teams start out early in the year working every week to get better and improve their skills. They attend tournaments and learn from every match, every set, and every point. Once April rolls around, it's incredible to see the growth and improvement. This is one of the many reasons we started The Academy Youth Jamboree, a large tournament in mid-April to celebrate personal and team growth. It's extremely rewarding for the players, parents, and coaches to see the advancement of skills, and this tournament is the perfect culmination to compete for many teams.