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I see on your website that you have girls on your team who travel a pretty fair distance. Do any of them play other sports? If so, then how do you deal with their absences?
We have voluntary practices. They aren't "wink, wink, you'd better be there!" voluntary practices; but, they are actually practices where you come if you want/need. Truly.
We announce to both the players and the parents, "The only people who should attend are those who either need to come (to make up time, or to bank up time), or who just want to." Usually about half the team attends.
No Practice, No Play
Yes, on my 2011 club team, the then girls have to drive a total of 535 miles to get to practice. When they can't come to a practice, they give me 24 hours notice (unless it's an emergency).
If they are behind on their practice time going into a tournament, then they are ineligible to play one 25-point game for every hour they're behind. I have this policy for any club team I coach, not just the National or Open teams.
We Are Family
There are two reasons I do this: I want (a) the team to improve and (b) the team to stay unified.
For most coaches, a girl who's very athletic could miss 75 percent of her club practices, and still start at the next tournament. That's a formula for wrecking a team.
But, if she missed 75 percent of my practices, it's not an issue as long as she has the voluntary hours to take their place. And her teammates will be fine with that because she has practiced the same number of hours as everyone else.
I even allow my girls to attend practices of older teams within our club (or with other clubs) to bank up and/or make up hours. One requirement for attending another team's practice: It must be a more advanced team. So my girls on my 16-national team can't attend a 16-club or 16-zonal practice.
I've been doing this for over 15 years. It was the solution to all my issues regarding missing practcie. I also do the same thing when I coach a high school team.
About once every two weeks, I'll offer a voluntary on Saturday, or an extra hour after the normal Saturday practice. Voluntaries allow athletes who come to be rewarded. Girls who can't come--or don't want to come--don't get punished.
When my players live in this system for a few years, they love it. A club girl can say, "I'm going on vacation April x - y," and I can say, "If you have enough voluntary hours, no problem!" And they always do. They bank 'em up from the onset of practices.
Coach Tom Houser is director of STAR Volleyball Camps as well as author of the "I Can't Wait" Drill Collection and Ebooks. For more info on the ebook as well as upcoming camps check out www.coachhouser.comFind a Volleyball camp to take your game to the next level.