How to Motivate Your Players This Offseason

(AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)

Coach Houser:
My girls just ignore so much of my offseason program. In my state, I can't make any offseason activity mandatory. Yet, I want the girls to improve, and when the offseason starts I want to reward them. But, for those who blow it off, I'd like to have something objective that says, "No, you did only x percent of what I offered." Do you have any suggestions?

I was in the same bind that you're in. I was a coach who wanted my program to improve, but couldn't make the players do anything. So, I decided that instead of pressure and coercion, I would try rewarding the active ones.

I used to have goals for my kids during the summer and I gave them awards for meeting them. For example, I expected 150 "points" from every player, and I gave them a list of things they could do to earn points.

Now, because of the high school rules in Virginia, I couldn't punish a girl if she only got 75 points, and couldn't guarantee her spot on the team is she earned 450 points. But that's OK, because when the first day of tryouts started, all those points were forgotten.

Sure, I secretly hoped that the 450-girl would make the team and even start, and I secretly hoped that the 75 would get cut or at least not be a big star.

But I chose to follow the intent of the Virginia High School rules and stated at the first day of tryouts, "Your offseason points were so you could improve. Today you are all at zero and those points will have no impact on who makes the team, who plays, or who starts. None."

I think all my players were OK with that. I never heard them fuss because they knew it was going to be that way from the end of the previous season.

When the offseason was over, a girl who got 250 points was known as a "Gym Princess", 350 was a "Gym Queen", 450 was a "Gym Empress," etc. I had a plaque in my classroom for each level of achievement.

The 150 girl got a Tshirt, the 250 got the T and something else (often a $100 gift certificate), the 350 got the T, the gift certif. and something else (one year I got Oakleys!). The 450 got all those plus a personal plaque.

In just the 2nd year, this became a big deal among the team. I was "forced" to keep a running total of points outside my classroom.

Yeah, our team was ready for the next season.

I'm sure you're wondering, "How do they earn points?"

A List Of Offseason Points:

  • 10 for an outdoor doubles tournament. 1 bonus point for each playoff game won in B, 2 for BB, 3 for A, 4 for AA and 5 for open.
  • 6 for a junior tournament. 1 bonus point for each playoff game won.
  • 1 pt for a junior volleyball practice.
  • 1 pt for each 2 hours of open gym.
  • 15 points per month for playing another sport at the school.
  • 7.5 points per month for playing non-volleyball travel sport.
  • 5 points per day for a volleyball "spend the night away from home" camp (half that if it was an at-home camp)
  • 1 point per day for another sport "spend the night away from home" camp (half that if it was a site camp)
  • 1 point for each hour in the weight room (teammate or coach is required)
  • 30 points per semester for a voluntary PE/wt. training class at school.
  • 1 point for other conditioning WITH A TEAMMATE or coach.

Here are some examples:

  • 5 miles running
  • 30 football bleachers. We called them "stadiums"
  • 1000 crunches
  • 15 miles biking
  • 10 miles roller skating/blading

I can't remember them all. I'm sure there were more. The points started the day after our season ended and ended the day before our season began.

I'm sure you noticed that I gave more reward for playing volleyball. I know some coaches who tried a similar offseason points format, but gave their players no reward for other sports. Hey, I want my girls to play other sports and I will reward them for participating in other sports, but I'm going to give my players more points for what they do that specifically helps their volleyball game.

Also, you may be saying, "It will take FOREVER to be a Gym Empress." Yes, becoming a GE was a huge challenge! But a girl who just got 1 point per day for 5 months would meet our 150 point goal. And to be a Gym Empress, she'd have to get 12 points per week for the entire offseason! In the 7 years I kept up with offseason points, we had 9 Gym Empresses. One girl made it three consecutive years! It was awesome!

Finally. Most of us do better when we have goals, rather than when we're threatened. And if one of my girls was getting way behind in her points, I'd give her a call and say, "What can I offer that you'd like to do? I want you to be active, and we're having a lot of fun! Join us whenever you feel like it."

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 check out

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