My 18 year old daughter just ended her last Club Volleyball season yesterday with a win, playing one of her best games. I am so proud of her! I was reflecting on the last 3 years with our club team and thought “I have a lot of advice for anyone who is just getting into this whole Club scene”. So here are some things that I wish I had known when my daughter wanted to join a Club Volleyball team:

  1. Yes, the cost is exorbitant. And totally worth it. I resisted the idea of club volleyball for my daughter because it just seemed like a ridiculous amount of money to spend. It was her school coach who finally talked me into letting her try out her sophomore year and fortunately for us, a brand new club was forming right in our home town and since it was brand new, it was going to be a little less expensive than some other well-known clubs in the larger city nearby. I let her try out, she made the team, and the sudden change in her attitude was worth all the cheddar in the world. She went from a sullen, sulky, hermit to a happy, funny 15-year-old in the blink of an eye.  And her skill level skyrocketed after a few practices with coaches who loved volleyball and were invested in really teaching the girls useful skills (as opposed to the Baseball coach at her high school who reluctantly also became the volleyball coach because no one else would do it). Along with her rising skill level, we also saw her confidence rise, and a confident teenage girl is a beauty to behold. So, do whatever you have to do to and pay the dough so she can play. (Edited to add: if money is really an issue but your daughter still wants to play, check and see if there are scholarship opportunities available. Our club raised enough money to provide a few scholarships to girls who had the talent but not the funds to play.) 
  2. Start a savings account NOW because see item #1 above. If you are affluent and money is no object because it flows from your 24k gold water faucet, then you may ignore this whole section, but if you are like most people, you are going to want to plan ahead and have some cash set aside for the incidentals of tournament travel. Trust me, if you will start setting aside some cash now, it will hurt less later. Expect to pay anywhere from $1000 to $2500 (could be more in your area) for club fees, which in our case paid for 2 jerseys and a duffel bag (and maybe a t-shirt or two) plus the cost of entering the tournaments and paying for refs, etc. Keep in mind though, that in addition to the initial fees that you pay directly to the club, there will also be travelling expenses that you will be expected to cover. Expect to shell out about $500 for each tournament trip, which will consist of a hotel stay, meals, snacks, and gas to and from the tournament. There are ways to cut some of those costs, but it helps if you have a nice amount set aside for this. Of course you can use a credit card to cover these expenses, but do you really want to go into debt for this? I put our first year’s expenses on a card and I’m STILL paying it off 3 years later. Don’t be me. Just suck it up and pay cash if it’s at all possible.
  3. Enroll for hotel rewards. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP AFTER ITEM #2. You are going to be staying in a lot of hotels and if your daughter plans on playing for several years, then trust me when I say enroll now so you can earn as many rewards/points as you can. I did not do this until the end of last season and so it did not benefit me a great deal, but I did get a few perks here and there. If I had enrolled in various hotel rewards programs that first year, I probably could have had enough points to earn a few nights’ stays this year. Again, don’t be me – enroll asap.
  4. Food – there will be a lot of it. You can most likely expect at least one team dinner per tournament – I know, nothing says awkward like having dinner with a bunch of people you hardly know, but go anyway. It never hurts to sharpen your social skills and it will only be for a couple of hours at the most. As for all other meals, this is where you can be frugal. For the first couple of years, we had a team food table set up at the venue (some venues allow a table, some don’t, you’ll have to check beforehand) because playing 3 or 4 games in one day can make a girl hungry so they’ll need a lot of nourishment. For the food table, we did it a couple of different ways: one year, each family donated $5 or $10 and someone went and bought food for everyone, rotating turns among the families; another year, instead of collecting money from everyone, each family took a turn and was solely responsible for buying food and setting up the table. This year, we just decided NOT to have a food table and instead each family was responsible for bringing their own snacks for their player. We put their snacks in a gallon ziplock bag and gave it to each girl to put in her duffel, so she could eat whenever she felt like she needed it. Some of the snacks we included were slider sandwiches, fruit, pretzels, crackers, nuts, string cheese, carrots w/ individual ranch cups…things that could be eaten quickly and easily but would also provide them with enough energy to get them through several games. As for the parents, you could buy food from the venue’s concession stand, but the nutritional value can be hit or miss at those places and often it’s a little pricey, or you could sneak out for some quick fast food, but if you are able, bringing your own snacks is a better option all around.
  5. Take some time for yourself. Look, we all love to watch our kid play the sport they love, but do you know how many matches you’re going to be watching for the next few years??? A LOT. You will have the opportunity to watch hours and hours and hours of volleyball over your daughter’s career, so if you need to take the morning off and stay behind at the hotel and take a nice hot bath and just relax then by all means DO IT. If you want to be supportive and happy for your athlete, you have to give yourself some grace and take care of yourself when the need arises. Your kid does not want your cranky, tired self glaring at her from the bleachers so tag-team with your spouse and let them take her to the tournament or if you are single, there will be plenty of other parents who will gladly and willingly watch over your daughter while you get some R&R for a few hours. Don’t feel guilty and don’t be ashamed – chances are, you’ll be setting an example for other frazzled parents who also really need a break.

We were very fortunate that our club has some really great coaches and administrators and it was positive experience for all of us. My daughter and I both made some great friends, her skill level and confidence rose significantly, and I realized that some things really are worth the time and money spent. I am so glad that we did this for our daughter so she could have this experience.