Published in the Nov. 10, 2016, Badger Beacon newsletter. For full issue, click here.

My name is Kim Wudi, and I am in my fourth year representing clubs and members in Northwest Wisconsin, where our geography and demographics present both challenges and opportunities. Successfully growing the game of volleyball in rural areas requires that the region
and local clubs are intentional in how the issues are addressed.

Work with multisport athletes

As has been the trend across the country, the Northwoods has seen growth in all organized sports, including club volleyball, Great Northwest leagues for basketball and volleyball, traveling softball teams, and many more. In small and mid-sized communities,
multi-sport athletes are the norm and quite frankly, they are required to keep sports from being eliminated in schools due to low participation numbers. Volleyball clubs in our area must be willing to work around conflicts with other activities, and can do so by asking parents and players to list conflicts and then scheduling practices and tournaments around troublesome dates.

Multi-sport athletes will benefit from club directors who have proactive, open communication with coaches and league administration
of other sports or activities. Coaches/clubs do not “own” the athletes or their time, and if we want multi-sport athletes to continue to participate successfully in two or three activities simultaneously, we need to cooperate rather than compete with others in our communities.

Finally, parents must teach their child to communicate with coaches regarding any conflicts that do arise, and ultimately, will need to help
their multi-sport athlete prioritize between activities if no compromise can be reached.

Ensuring quality coaching

As a college coach, I get numerous emails and calls from varsity coaches, athletic directors and club directors looking for help in identifying coaches to fill out their respective coaching staffs. The fact of the matter is, there are not enough qualified coaches to meet the needs of the youth players in our area of the state. Don’t get me wrong, there are some extremely talented and knowledgeable coaches in northwest Wisconsin. There are also wonderful moms and dads who coach their child’s team so that they have an opportunity to play. But as
a volleyball community, we need to do better to grow and train our coaching cadre.

One of the most important tenets of the IMPACT course for new USAV coaches is that we cannot continue to coach the way we were
coached. The sport has changed – for the better, and while fundamentals are still critical, the game has become both faster and more technical. Add to that all of the factors of team dynamics, motivation, parent/coach communication, etc., and it’s no wonder that many people run the other way when asked to coach! Our region has a responsibility to provide opportunities for coaches to learn how to “coach better,” through local clinics, online training, and the new coach mentorship program. Clubs and coaches have a responsibility to take advantage of those resources!

Keeping costs in check

Club sports cost money. And as expenses such as facility rental, tournament entries, coach stipends and travel costs rise, those costs
are inevitably and understandably passed on to club families. My fear is that if we are not careful, we risk pricing athletes out of opportunities to participate and subsequently creating an exclusive culture where only those with sufficient resources can participate. While this is a concern across all sports and across the entire region, I am especially concerned for rural families.

I sincerely believe most clubs do their best to keep costs reasonable, to offer fundraisers and to seek out sponsorship opportunities that either bring in additional revenue or lower operating costs.

What are some other simple ways that clubs and families can keep costs down? Carpool to practices and tournaments. Reuse jerseys
from year to year. Pack lunches for tournaments. Alternate playdates with neighboring clubs in place of a tournament or two. Tournament directors can start tournaments at 9 am instead of 8 am, potentially allowing families to eliminate a hotel expense. Flexible payment plans also go a long way toward helping families budget for the expenses of club season.

Have ideas about how to grow volleyball in rural Wisconsin? Let’s chat!

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