Galaxy indoor season number 5 came to wraps this weekend in Spartanburg SC. As the director it’s always been the perfect tournament to end our indoor season. Competition is ALWAYS good. The players get a TON of volleyball for the price tag. Hotels are cheap. The drive is easy. Papa’s & Beer is incredible. And….like clockwork every year in NC/SC the following week – it’s hitting mid 60s+. Which for Galaxy – translates “I NEED TO BE OUTSIDE PLAYING!!”.
Galaxy had some amazing milestones this season, far as an indoor club.
Our situation, like every other club – COVID. Playing through it. Possible? Not possible? It was not easy. Add with high school overlap (which in itself was new and complex), now add in COVID high school protocol. Truth be told as a director I tried to manage everything in “2 week sprints”. Those in the software industry will get that. We made it work. We played volleyball. Galaxy indoor booked 6 tournaments for 13/14/16/17, 4 for U12. Some cancelled, some changed, SC remained open, NC shut down. Through the grace of God we played 6 and 4.
Galaxy ran 11 indoor teams. Our 5th year – no facility. Candace Ward Funderburk and Lowell Baptist Church were rock stars. We volleyball’d hardcore in that small church gym 5 nights a week. Some weeks 6. First ARP Church and Southminster as well. Without these 3 churches, we would not have played indoor volleyball this season. I cannot thank you enough. These players and coaches cannot thank you enough. Truth be told, for us crazys, volleyball is a “lifestyle”. And with nowhere to play..there is no lifestyle. You made all of that possible.
Galaxy coaches. Amazing. This indoor season I let these coaches do their thing. I did my best to leave them alone, not interfere. Year 3 and 4 I was bad about micromanaging everything. I can’t “grow” anything like that. Volleyball coaches need room to work. To plan. To experiment. So this season, whatever they needed/asked I did my best to deliver. Even if it was to simply talk/vent/share experience. And man, did this coaching staff come through. Every single one of them. 108 players/families, and not a single email complaining about a coach. For those who have had kids in competitive sports, coached at other clubs – that statement right there speaks volume about our culture.
Galaxy players and teams. Warriors. Confident. Teammates. Our culture is pretty basic – what you see is what you get. These players and teams hide nothing. It’s transparent. We all wear hearts on our sleeves.
Every tournament, we had teams in their own moments – carry this club. Every single team at one point in time did something great. That one moment, that one finish – that’s all it takes for any of us to motivate around. That’s what a true volleyball tribe does. That’s legit culture. I see a lot of individual when I watch a club volleyball. When you watch Galaxy you see the opposite.
Today in Spartanburg, a few of those “founders”, or as the players call them “OGs” (at the time 5 years ago were 11 and 12 years old), won their first 18 OPEN event. That’s the monster. Open division is where the big dogs play. That was huge for us. Me personally, a very special moment. Because that is not easy to do. And trust me when I say this – it’s not ending there.
My team. It’s pretty hard to both direct a large club, and coach a team within that club. Angela Freeze and I talked about this at Rock Hill. Should we do it? Not do it? Pros? Cons? I still love to coach. And I cannot learn as a coach – unless I am actually coaching players – just like the players themselves can’t learn the game – unless they are actually playing.
So, what did I learn as a coach from my team – I can sum it up – “let them lead”. U16 teams are 15/16 year olds, freshman/sophomores in high school. Volleyball is complicated. These tournaments turn into complete madness. Fast teams, slow teams, balls flying. Randomness. Seconds to think. 6 players on the court working together to solve problems. Problems that change constantly with every team/culture you play – you can’t stop the ball. The list goes on. Carl McGown liked to say, “It’s not rocket science. It’s much more complicated than that.”. And trust me – it is.
Every successful team needs leaders. This is not just volleyball, it’s life. When I took CAP, a few years ago, we had to sum up our coaching philosophy in 3 words. John Kessel was “Develop great leaders”. Coaching this 16s age group that philosophy really hit home. How exactly do you do that? We as coaches want to solve every problem for our teams. We talk a lot. This team I tried not to. If I found myself talking too much – I would tell myself to shut up (the mask actually helped with this ). At practice I would set up the plans/problems on the whiteboard, but let them solve. I let the players talk. I took particular notice on who would step up and talk, who would lead. And as leaders – they developed. At tournaments for example, after the time out, I would talk 5 seconds – then walk off or sit back down, and let them talk the remaining 25 seconds. I let them lead. Solve. And it worked. It was not the winning or losing. It was letting them get the actual “reps” on solving their own volleyball problems, it’s their game right? Not mine. I did my best to be consistent in that. And it worked. I learned from it. And they learned to lead.
We start outdoor volleyball this week. Our rec program, High 5 Sports (City Church *Bethlehem*), which literally anchored everything far as starting Galaxy volleyball, is running it’s “indoor” volleyball program outside on grass nets. It starts Tuesday night. Drive by those soccer pads Tuesday and Thursday nights. Something very awesome is about to go down. This club looks out for who looks out for us – that’s what volleyball tribes do.