Monday, 22 Apr 2024

The Path to Becoming a Pro Volleyball Player

In the dynamic world of professional volleyball, the journey to success is filled with challenges and opportunities. With over 50 years of experience in the sport, I have witnessed the rise and fall of numerous pro leagues. From my own professional career in Italy to the evolving landscape of American indoor leagues, one thing remains constant – the pursuit of excellence.

A Changing Landscape

In the past, international players faced restrictions in team composition, with only one foreign player allowed per team. However, times have changed, and the European Union now permits multiple nationalities to compete together. This shift has opened doors for American players, who now have the chance to play not only in Europe but also in South America and Asia. As a proud parent, I recently witnessed my son win the German Bundesliga, a testament to the global opportunities available to aspiring athletes.

The American Scene

In the United States, three organizations offer substantial rewards for volleyball players – AVP, Athletes Unlimited (AU), and collegiate volleyball. AVP and AU provide financial compensation to their athletes, while college volleyball offers comprehensive support, including room, board, coaching, training, travel, and tuition. With a staggering number of players on scholarship, the U.S. collegiate system stands as a global hub of high-level volleyball.

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The Rise of Athletes Unlimited

A recent development that excites me is the emergence of Athletes Unlimited. This league provides a platform for top women athletes to compete at home against international-level competition. With an athlete-centric approach and innovative competition formats, Athletes Unlimited represents a significant step forward for domestic professional opportunities.

Navigating the Odds

The path to becoming a professional athlete is challenging. We must acknowledge the statistics: only a select few individuals, less than two percent of all NCAA athletes, make the transition to the professional or Olympic level. However, that should not deter aspiring athletes, as success in other areas is also worth celebrating. Graduation rates among NCAA athletes are impressive, ranging from 71% to 87% across divisions.

Strategies for Success

To increase the chances of your child realizing their dream of becoming a pro volleyball player, consider the following strategies:

Let them explore multiple sports

While genetics do play a role, genuine passion for a sport is essential. Encourage your child to experience various sports during their formative years. My own children played ten different sports before ultimately choosing volleyball.

Start with doubles in volleyball

Reading and anticipation are crucial skills in rebound sports. Starting with doubles volleyball allows young athletes to develop these technical skills at an accelerated pace. The smaller-sided games provide more opportunities for learning and competition.

Emphasize all-around development

Rather than specializing early, encourage your child to become a well-rounded player. The versatility gained from playing multiple positions can be invaluable in the long run.

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Face older and more skilled opponents

While age group competitions offer a comfortable environment for success, it is essential to challenge young athletes by exposing them to older and more skilled players. The experience of learning and reading the game against superior opponents can hasten their development.

Know your role as a parent

As a parent, your role is to support and encourage your child’s journey. Let the coaches handle the coaching aspects unless you are a coach yourself. Playing doubles with your child can be an enjoyable way to watch them play, but remember to focus on providing love and support rather than excessive coaching.

Timing is everything

Biology does not adhere to calendars, and growth can occur at different stages. Consider the advice of my late mentor – sometimes, taking a gap year or delaying participation can allow athletes to catch up physically and mentally. This approach has been embraced in Europe and can provide invaluable personal growth opportunities.

I hope these insights and strategies will help you navigate the path to becoming a professional volleyball player. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] if you have any questions or seek further guidance. Remember, the journey may be challenging, but with passion, dedication, and the right support, your child can aim high in the world of volleyball.