How A Volleyball Powerhouse Was Built
LeagueApps is at the center of youth sports, connecting players, parents, coaches and organizations coast-to-coast. We’re proud to provide our audience with insightful Q&A sessions with leading minds in the youth sports space.
This week, we sat down with Chris Hames of K2 Volleyball. This Tennessee powerhouse was founded in 2009 and has quickly established itself as one of the premier volleyball club programs in the country. K2 has created a pipeline to top Division-1 programs, the USA Girls’ Youth National Team, and the US Olympic team. Learn how this club was built from the ground up.
Could you walk us through K2’s history and the scope of your programs today?
We were established in Knoxville, Tennessee back in 2009. I’m originally from Australia and my husband is from Ft. Lauderdale. We moved to Knoxville in 2001. We had both been involved in volleyball for most of our lives. I played for the Australian national team, both beach and indoors. When we first moved over here I actually coached Division III and my husband was involved with UT. Over time, we got involved with club volleyball. As club directors, we went around the country participating in tournaments. We really wanted to see what the difference was between the really good clubs and the clubs that weren’t that great. We kinda went out on a limb in 2009 and opened a facility hoping people would come. Now we’re at a current facility that we own with four courts and we’ve grown significantly. We had 230 club kids last year. We offer camps in the summer and we have an in-house program. We have about 200 kids that come through the program and we do a middle school beach program and some rec programs, so that’s where we are right now. We also run about eight tournaments a year on the club side. We partner with some really good clubs around the country. That’s how we got here and ended up doing what we’re doing.
The lifeblood of a successful program is the coaching staff. How do you attract, train and retain top talent?
I think for us, a lot of our coaches are actually friends of ours that we’ve met through the coaching world either through college coaching or high school coaching. As for our practices, we are very structured in regards to running practices. J (Jason Hames) and I utilize the master coaching model so we actually run a lot…we run almost everything, everything is unified. Another aspect of our success is that we actually pay our coaches well, we make it worth their while. We really help run everything, so the coaches can come in there and focus on making the best out of the team they have. We handle the logistics for them in regards to organizing practices and stuff like that, so I think that helps us retain coaching talent and then obviously retaining the kids that are playing at the highest level.
Almost every kid that has gone on to play in college for the last three or four years can attribute that success to the training we do and the time they spend in the gym. The technical side of it we’ve really got that down to a science on how to train and how to get the most out of the kids. So our best kids who go on to play in college and at the highest level, they draw in other kids. Kids see that success, and since we are a small market, there are not a ton of other clubs around – not really anyone that competes at the highest level like we do, it translates to a win-win for us. We get the best coaches and then we end up getting the best kids.
Being so close to the University of Tennessee, what kind of benefits do you see from that proximity?
In terms of our relationship to Tennessee, we have a senior that will go to UT next year. So obviously, we have built a relationship in which our kids are good enough to play at the level at UT. There is a coach that J and I actually know personally which is cool. She has recruited my oldest daughter, so her coming in and knowing her personally and having three or four of the UT girls coach for us is awesome. That definitely helps our program having that name out there and helps us gain kids because they see that relationship. We have a lot of K2 alums now that are coming back and recommending us and I think what we found is that our kids are so well prepared when they’re going into the college system that reflects well on us. It goes both ways, that preparation ultimately helps our club kids, because college coaches see how well-prepared they are. From our training methods, to what we’re doing in the weight room, our kids are coming in at a really high level. Once they get to a program like UT, a lot of our alumni come back and train with us or work out at our facility. It’s a cycle that helps with referrals and reflects well on our program.
— K2 Volleyball (@K2Volleyball) November 9, 2017
How has your use of technology changed from 2009 to the present in terms of how you leverage your website, to social media to using software like LeagueApps?
How we view technology has significantly changed. When we first started we didn’t really have a set plan, in terms of how we promoted, or what our website needed to be to facilitate sign-ups. We really were very raw when we first started. Our goal was to get to the point where we could manage sign-ups for over 200 kids. I think the biggest thing for us, because we do run four tournaments in a row at the beginning of the season, was to have the technology work for us. And that’s the one of the things I love about LeagueApps. It’s so user-friendly and so easy for us to get information and put it in spreadsheets or use google.
That’s what we really love, the easy sign-ups, the ease in people being able to create an account. This is the first season we’ve used LeagueApps, but it’s going to be such a benefit for us for this year. I think we’ve gotten so big and there are so many programs that the ease and the streamlining of signing up and managing has been a blessing for us.
How have you utilized technology to facilitate positive relationships with parents?
We learned early on that the more information you give the parents the better off you’ll be. We wanted to really structure everything in regards to schedules. If the kids and parents know their practice and tournament schedules, there’s fewer misunderstandings.
Congrats K2 18 Andre won the 18 Division at JVA Summer Fest pic.twitter.com/iPzpd6QsuL
— K2 Volleyball (@K2Volleyball) June 4, 2018
What is next for K2? Are you hoping to refine and perfect what you’re already doing or roll out new offerings?
I think a little bit is refining and perfecting. I think we do have people that say “hey are you ever gonna do satellite clubs?” We’d obviously would love to grow our camps and our summer camp program. In regards to tournaments, the key, in my mind, is that we have to keep partnering with good clubs and being apart of their tournaments and running good quality tournaments. There is a limit to what we can handle, in terms of growing in numbers. Is it even possible, managing the time and using every bit of the facility to impact kids. These are things we’re always thinking about. But it comes back to quality and making sure we’re partnering with the best clubs and running a top-flight program.