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One of my biggest motivators for launching GiveTheGameBack earlier this year was to connect with other youth sports parents to learn from them and their experiences. One sport I know very little about is club volleyball. What I’ve heard about the sport second-hand from parents whose kids are playing is that it is INTENSE AND EXPENSIVE.

Lucky for me, I met fellow writer Leslie Murrell. Leslie and her husband have a set of twins, one boy and one girl, who are both heavily involved in sports. Leslie played volleyball and basketball for West Texas A&M University and, like me, has transitioned from competing as an athlete to spectating as a parent.

I hope you enjoy her insight into club volleyball as much as I did. Enjoy!

volleyball 101

You would think, as a former collegiate volleyball athlete and club coach, that I’d be fully prepared to be a volleyball mom. Not so much, it turns out. This last year has been a year of growth and learning for this momma just as much as for my daughter, Lucy.

Volleyball is fairly unique in the world of select and club sports.

So here are my tips and explanations for club volleyball moms (and dads) out there:

Don’t get sucked into the drama.
It’s not your drama. Chances are, it’s probably not the team’s drama either. In my rookie mom year, I was completely sucked into some super bizarre dialogue, gossip, and drama. Little, if any, had anything to do with Lucy. I can’t decide if it’s the money invested, or the parents adjusting to their daughter in sports.

Volleyball is a strategic, smart sport.
Trust your daughter’s ability and emotional intelligence. Heart to heart, and mom to mom, this is a tough one. Stop telling people how smart your daughter is, and let her show you. Give her some room to learn and do.

Don’t be sexist.
We have the unique disposition of having boy/girl twins who are also athletes. So, seeing how the parents interact with my son’s team versus my daughter’s team is interesting. My observation is that parents emotionally coddle their daughters in sports way more than they would their sons in sports – which is odd, given that girls mature faster. On the flip side, volleyball continues to grow in popularity so much that your son may ask to play. Please don’t be sexist! There are boys’ teams out there too, and it’s a great opportunity.

Prepare financially and emotionally.
Club volleyball as I see it, seems to be one of the more expensive select or club sports. Do your research on the clubs in your area. Go through Heidi’s tips for select sports. Learn what each club offers. Many clubs in town offer several different levels. Look into all of your options and do what’s best for your athlete. Ask several parents why they chose that club.

Have a complete understanding of what you’re paying for.
For a travelling club volleyball team, we’re talking a STARTING RATE of $2,000. For any other purchase of that amount, you’d get an itemized bill.

Also, don’t assume the more money you drop, the more say you have as to where and how much time your daughter plays. Try to remember everyone on the team paid the same amount as you did.

If you pay that club fee and then you get hit up for a Sand Training, it’s not bogus.
Not only is training in the sand is one of the most effective ways to improve on coordination, agility, fast-twitch muscles, but beach volleyball is now offered as a scholarship sport at several universities. And it’s not just on the west coast. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a beach volleyball team.

Learn to say no or sandbag that financial preparation I just mentioned.
Be prepared to get up charged on private lessons, camps, and clinics. In talking to my other select sports moms, this seems pretty unique to volleyball. Consider your budget, your daughter’s time, and prioritize what you feel is necessary based on her goals. It’s okay to be the parent who says “no” to an additional tournament or private lessons.

We were first to speak up about a tournament we didn’t want to add on, and were soon relieved to discover there were several other parents who felt the same way…which leads me to my next point…

To travel or not to travel? You have options.
In Omaha, alone, we have more than five clubs which, on average, have three teams in each age group. We are a short trip down I-80 from one of the most successful college volleyball programs in the country, a direct consequence is a lot more competitive youth volleyball clubs. Regionally, the Midwest is oozing with clubs and competition to play.

There’s a pressure to travel so that you don’t have to play the same teams over and over again.

Here’s a fun math equation: If a collegiate volleyball player plays for four years, she’ll play the same opponents at least eight times. So, playing the same teams repetitively is not such a bad idea. There’s a learned behavior to scouting teams repetitively played, and making adjustments when you play them again.

With that said, maybe you and your volleyball athlete and team want to travel. The larger tournaments do have a plus side. When your daughter walks into a convention center filled wall-to-wall with over 200 courts, it’s kind of a big deal. That they can be part of a greater competition has significant impact on their level of competition and focus.

Leslie's daughter, Lucy, attacking at the net. Photo courtesy of Bob Safar.

Leslie’s daughter, Lucy, with an attack at the net. Photo courtesy of Bob Safar.

Understand that you don’t understand the game. Whether volleyball is new to you, or you played “a few years ago,” believe me, the game has changed a bit. For example:

“Hunny, poor Susie wore the wrong color, someone needs to tell her!” Don’t wonder out loud why one of your daughter’s teammates has a different colored jersey on. You might as well ask your kid in front of your techy boss to show you those emoji thingies on your phone again. Don’t embarrass yourself like that. Ask your daughter in private how to pronounce “libero” and that will start the conversation for you.


Did you know? The volleyball libero is a defensive specialist position in indoor volleyball. The position was added to the game in 1999 along with special rules for play in order to foster more digs and rallies. The libero remains in the game at all times and is the only player not limited by rules of rotation. She usually replaces the middle blocker position when they rotate to the back row and never rotates to the front row herself. c/o volleyball.about.com


Refrain from yelling at the ref when someone taps the net. Rules fluctuate from school to club, to different leagues, regions, and tournaments. So, this rule is frustrating. But as far as I can tell, if touching the net advanced the game, they call it against the offending net toucher. If it’s a sly touch on the net that does not hinder nor advance the game, the ball stays in play. Look, I hate this rule, too. But I also hate how carbs make my butt big. I don’t cry and whine about it every time I’m eating cake. See where I’m going with this, y’all?

It’s always rally score. You don’t need to serve to earn the point anymore. I tried to tell you – things have changed.

She’ll learn more than playing the game – Your daughter will learn to referee, line judge, keep the books, and keep score. This of course offsets costs for tournaments and games. But more importantly, and completely intentionally, your daughter is learning effective communication skills, volleyball call motions, how to make a quick judgment calls under pressure, applying the rules of the game, respect for other teams, how to keep stats, make substitutions, all while not playing, but while refereeing the game. Unfortunately, she’ll get a ridiculous lesson in idiot parents with a checkbook and loud mouths who think they know better. She’ll learn composure.

No other competitive youth sport empowers their athletes to learn the game and respect the game through refereeing the game.

So stick around. In time management of a tournament, plan on your daughter being at the very last game. Don’t try to skedaddle from a tournament early after her team has lost. The losing team referees. The whole team stays until the last game is over.

Even if you’re 100% right, and you just know it, yelling at a ref or a kid is 100% wrong.
Don’t be the idiot parent with a checkbook and a loud mouth who thinks you know better. For goodness sake, you just asked what a libero was! Before you yell at a kid making a line judge call, remember that could be your kid out there. Have as much faith in the refereeing team as you have in your daughter.

Teach your daughter about Title IX and gratitude.
Learn about Title IX. Whether you were a female athlete or you’re a dad who’s new to the female sporting world supporting your daughter, or you’ve just discovered that indeed, they’re letting the dang females play sports – you’re benefiting from Title IX. Chances are, your daughter’s coach played in college – because of Title IX. Which means she has experience, motivation, and inspiration to teach your daughter.

Learn to pepper.
Pepper is a term in volleyball when two players volley back and forth. It’s volleyball’s equivalent to “playing catch” or “shooting hoops.” Get an outdoor volleyball and learn to pepper. This has been the single best advice I was given. It’s repetition and ball control practice with your child. But mostly, it’s a humbling experience as to how hard the game really is. It’ll make you think twice before yelling something stupid at a game. When Lucy and I started out, just getting two consecutive contacts was a challenge. Lucy had to adjust, hustle, and move her feet to compensate for my lack of ball control. And she talks to me and appreciates my willingness to play with her. That, or she just feels really sorry for me and my lack of coordination. Either way, it’s a delightful bonding experience.

As you can see, there are a lot of specific club volleyball tips, and then a few replays for parenting a select or club athlete.  Whether you’re new to the sport, or just needed a reminder, I hope you take a chance to learn the game!

Written by Leslie Murrell

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Seeing as my advice post to my son about starting junior high resonated with so many readers, I asked a friend to write a counterpoint to his daughter about what it was like for him to be a preteen boy in 7th grade.

Matt from Running Off at the Mind did not disappoint.

Matt and his preteen posse. Boys will be boys.

Matt (center and sporting the suburban gangster pose) and his preteen posse. Boys will be boys.

While I got to talk about my experience being a hormone-crazed girl who thought about boys 23 hours out of any typical day, he confirmed to his daughter, me, and every other female what we always sort of suspected: Boys don’t always think as much as we do…about anything.

To quote Matt,

7th grade, huh? Wow, that’s kind of a big deal. You know what? I sucked at 7th grade. I was horrible at it. You may find this hard to believe, but I was sort of obnoxious. All my friends were desperately trying to be cool and I still wanted to ride my bike in a circle and spit out sunflower seeds (yeah, I was that kid).

Listen, sweetie, here’s the one thing you need to know about boys:

We’re idiots.

You can read the rest of Matt’s sound advice over on his blog. Read his post and give him some likes or comment love if you can relate.

I’ll be the first to admit that women are crazy, but I would agree with Matt that men are (generally) idiots.

Matt in his 7th grade glory

Matt in his 7th grade glory

Good luck, kids, as you embark on a new school year and a new chapter – however awkward – in your life.

Written by Heidi Woodard

This post was written especially for Jen Schneider over at livlaughlove.com. You can follow her on Facebook too.

Come on…you KNEW I couldn’t let this one die.

Yes, it’s four-day old news. And, yeah, I’m betting the majority of you have already seen the video(s) by now.

But if you’ve been living under a rock and don’t have a clue about what I’m referring to when I say “possessed Alabama mom pounding a cocky Oklahoma bro”…allow me to do the honors and set the scene.

The Crimson Tide faced the Oklahoma Sooners in this year’s NCAA college football Sugar Bowl on January 2. OU ended up winning that game 45-31.

I didn’t see a single play of that match-up. But I’ve watched the bleacher highlight reel more times than I can count. And, let me go on record by saying this: Don’t mess with an Alabama momma bear or her cub and then be taken aback when she tries to maul you.

At some point during the game, trash-talking between the two teams’ respective fan bases went from “our team’s better than your team” to rage-induced “I-will-kill-you-in-your-sleep” madness.

Lucky for us, the footage was all captured on camera.

Then someone released this parody:

And my personal favorite:

According to Yellowhammer, the mom shown in the video – Michelle Prichett – had this to say about the incident.

“Everyone’s making me look like such a bad guy,” she said. “What I did was probably not the thing to do. But they were taunting us. They began by going after me. But then they crossed the line and started taunting my 16-year-old son.”

She also went on record saying she was not intoxicated.

WHAT?! THIS CHICK ACTED LIKE THIS STONE COLD SOBER?!!

I’ll try keep my thoughts brief.

Was she out of control? Yes.

Did she likely do some damage to the reputation of Alabama football faithful? I’d say yes to that too.

Is her family embarrassed? I would imagine so.

But I’m going to be honest. There’s only one thing that gets my blood pumping more than a mom in bedazzled jeans barking like a ravenous dog…and that’s a bunch of drunk college boys who think it’s fun to talk trash about how awesome THEY are. And, by THEY, I am referring to the team of athletes they worship.

I do not condone her behavior. She gives all of us moms a bad rap by mere affiliation. But part of me laughs every time I see the little guy in the white shirt and faded maroon jeans duck for cover when he realizes shit’s about to get real.

I honestly hope I am never involved in an altercation like this. I love my kids deeply and I’d have a serious issue with anyone who goes after them. But they need to fight their own battles.

However, I’d like to make it perfectly clear that, if I’m ever caught on tape going completely ballistic, please overlay Welcome to the Jungle onto my fight footage.

Written by Heidi Woodard