NextUp Town Hall: Youth And Local Volleyball In The Wake Of COVID-19
As multiple states begin reopening, players and parents are naturally wondering when youth sports will resume. The answer is a complicated one—informed not just by government decisions, but by how comfortable people are getting back on the court.
To dig into this, we gathered a group of leading volleyball organizers to discuss what return to play looks like, and share tips and ideas for keeping clubs afloat as we travel the long road back to “normal.”
We were joined by Donna Beasley (Jacksonville Juniors VA), Anne Kordes (KIVA), Steve Sack (Michigan Elite), Andrea Sandefer (Texas Pistols), and Dr. William Briner (Hospital For Special Surgery), in a conversation moderated by Jeremy Goldberg, President of LeagueApps. As leaders in the youth volleyball and medical space, their expertise and organizational approach in the coming weeks and months will be emulated by organizers looking to deliver a safe return-to-play strategy to their parents and players.
If you’d like to access the Town Hall in its entirety please click this link. For a summary of the major highlights, continue reading below.
Contact Equal Risks, Says Former USA Volleyball Physician
According to the Hospital For Special Surgery’s Dr. William Briner, volleyball’s return in the US will likely face some unique challenges. He believes that for all youth volleyball players to stay safe, organizers will need to be as conservative as they can be in the coming weeks and months. The very nature of the sport makes social distancing impossible, given the contact that’s required on the court. For the players, the best approach right now is to practice with the family members or friends that they’re quarantining with, and focus on their overall fitness (quickness/wind sprints/jump training). Volleyball will remain a high-risk sport, in COVID-19 terms, but comprehensive testing and contact tracing could provide a blueprint for teams to return to practice, games, and tournaments in the second half of 2020.
Immediate Value Can Be Delivered Virtually (Don’t Forget the Star Power)
KIVA’s Anne Kordes has focused on a simple question during the coronavirus pandemic, “how can I bring value right now to our parents and players?” Leveraging technology has been the answer for KIVA. The volleyball organization puts on three Facebook Live workouts every week. They’ve expanded their reach by inviting top volleyball players to these virtual events, including three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh. This innovative and unique offering has generated goodwill among parents and helped them stave off mass refund requests. Jacksonville Juniors VA’s Donna Beasley has incorporated similar content into their organization’s offerings, providing bi-weekly training sessions with national coaches.
Include Parents in Your Return to Play Strategy
Steve Sack, the owner of Michigan Elite Volleyball Academy, has been dealing with parents directly for the last ten years. Managing expectations, in his opinion, is key because the virus has created an extremely difficult situation for everyone involved. “If you’re going to talk the talk, make sure you walk the walk in terms of what you said you’d do in the sanitation department,” he says. Parents understand that there’s a chance that a fellow parent, player or coach could become infected with COVID-19, but they expect thorough and well-communicated plans of action if that does in fact happen. In an ideal situation, you can incorporate parental feedback into your return to play plans, because if they’re involved from the onset they’re more likely to support the plan in the face of challenges.
Resources For Organizers
Numerous resources were mentioned throughout the 60-minute discussion and we wanted to provide them here for our audience to access at any time:
Communicating with players and parents during this time won’t always be easy. Here’s a guide to handling difficult conversations with Charlie Hauck.
Community has never been more important than it is now. Connecting with other clubs to see what they’re doing can help you design your own return to play plans. Join our NextUp Industry Slack group where you can connect with other volleyball leaders.
Many of our panelists are running virtual programming. We’ve published a toolkit for launching successful virtual programming if you’re looking for tips on how to get started.