• Gold Medal Squared

Lessons From the Las Vegas Invitational

This past weekend I coached my first ever 3 day Juniors Tournament in Las Vegas. I’ve spent many days recruiting this tournament, but have never stayed long enough to see the finals. This year, my club team played well enough to be in the final of the 18 Open Division.

Unfortunately, we came up short. Which was tough. As a consultation, the down official asked us to help pull up the floor tape on the court as the winning team was celebrating. On behalf of my team I less than politely declined his invitation. Timing is something most officials lack at times like those.

On my 5 hour drive back to Phoenix from Las Vegas, I had plenty of time to reflect upon a great weekend. Here’s what I now know about coaching club:

1. It’s Really, Really Hard: Credit goes to those club coaches that can successfully manage a roster over the course of 3 days. I did a horrible job of getting kids the appropriate amount of playing time. In a tournament like Las Vegas, where every point effects your seeding for the next day, it’s hard not to let your competitive nature win out.

2. Parents – Can Make or Break the Experience: The parents of the athletes on my club team are some of the best. They are passionate about the sport and their daughters. Yet, they have given all of us space to perform and coach as we see fit. Of course, there are countless stories that are the opposite. My assistant found a wonderful article that’s worth reading: http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/more-family-fun/201202/what-makes-nightmare-sports-parent

3. Transition: Even some of the best 18 Open teams in the country have a hard time with 1st ball sideout. Few are going to score a point on their first offensive attempt. Because of that, points are scored in transition. If you want to know what you need to do today in practice? You need to be able to transition.

4. You Need Outside Hitters: In the 18 Open Level, the teams that played late into the last day of the tournament had the best outside hitters. Period. Makes even more sense given how much the game is played in transition.

5. Serve/Serve Receive: I have no data to support this claim, it’s an observation. No one can dispute the fact that SportCourt (or similar surfaces) provide a playing surface that makes junior tournaments convenient for everyone – parents, college coaches and convention centers. However, they have made it tough to develop athletes that can serve and pass. There isn’t enough room to generate a decent spin serve. Nor can you go back and hit a great float serve. My athletes find they don’t have space to hit a decent jump float. Makes for a tough transition to college.

6. Rock, Paper, Scissors for the Rule Book: Is it possible to play by just one set of rules? College has a set of rules that differ from club. Internationally the rules are different from college. High School rules differ from club. Makes it tough to be an official. Especially when a college coach is coaching club and politely asking about the significance of a non-net call. In the final. At 31-30 in Game 2. With a chance to win the match in 2.

My team and I have just two week to prepare for Denver and the Colorado Crossroads Tournament. Lots’ to do.