Recently, PrepVolleyball.com decided that, with all of the focus on the top, open-level teams at clubs around the country, they would take some time out to focus on some of the “2s” teams around the country. They asked for some feedback from all of the coaches willing to offer feedback on their “2s” team, and they featured our own Nate Torvik, head coach of Team Indiana’s Elite 16 Molten (Riptide), and his responses as to how his team has performed this year, how parents and players should not focus on what number the team is, and what they can do differently in the future. To read the original article on prepvolleyball.com, you can click here. You can read the entire article below, with Nate’s responses featured!
We’ve seen an expansion in the number of volleyball players leaving one club, so she can be on a “better” team. This could mean receiving truly better training from a more experienced staff and teammates, but many times it could also be a façade: you made a “2-team” and want to play on a “1-team.”
Can you get tremendous coaching, develop your skills, and play with driven teammates on a “2-team?” Many of the coaches we’ve talked to say yes. And, many of them encourage athletes to not allow a number to define you.
There are plenty of clubs who have had a “2-team” qualify in the USA division in Detroit, and even one who qualified in Open. A5 18-2 John qualified in USA… and then earned an 18 Open bid in Jacksonville at the Florida National Qualifier. It is the only “2-team” to qualify in Open this season, defeating many “1-teams” along the way.
You might think, “Well, they’re ‘2-teams’… they should be competing in USA.” But, if you look the 36 teams in each age division (and 48 in 18s) who have earned USA bids, then you’ll see most of them are (still very deserving!) “1-teams.”
Below are the “2-teams” who have earned bids to Detroit in the USA division:
18 USA: Circle City 18 Black; COAST 18-2; CVC 18 Martin; EC Power 18 Diamond; EC Power 18 Sapphire; HPSTL 18 Orange; NORCO 18 Blue; Northern Lights 18-2; TAV 18 Blue
17 USA: 1st Alliance 17 Black; Asics MAVS 17-2; CoJrs 17 Bri; Elevation 17 Butcher; OT 17 S Felix H.; SG Elite 17 Elite; TAV 17 Blue; TIV 17 Sherry
16 USA: A5 16-2 Scott; OT 16 S TJ; Rockwood Thunder 16 White (one “1-team” coach mentioned them “beating the snot out of us at NLQ.”); Skyline 16 Black
15 USA: Elevation 15 Tony; Excel 15N White; Mintonette m.52; Net Results 15-2; Rockwood Thunder 15 Navy; Skyline 15 Black; TAV 15 Blue; WAVE 15 Jimmy
These teams are second in their respective clubs but in many cases no less talented than other “1-teams” across the country, and surely not lesser players. So, I feel the need to put “2-team” and “1-team” in quotes.
Let’s look at some of these “2-teams” and its players. Additionally, the coaches note the challenges they face while heading up a “2-team” and offer valuable advice to players who find themselves faced with the decision to accept a position on a “2-team.”
With personnel on “2-teams” changing even more than “1-teams” within clubs, it’s difficult for coaches to build growth and team chemistry outside of the seven months of club season. As a society and as competitors, it’s difficult to settle into being called “second,” leading to beliefs of that not being good enough… so families leave.
Team Indiana VBC- Elite 16 Molten head coach Nate Torvik said, “It’s a number, and it’s not the number 1.”
There’s a stigma that comes with being on a “2s” team and many players feel that they lack talent, motivation, athleticism, and confidence. In turn, it causes problems creating an environment to build a successful team and successful players.
TI did not qualify and chose to participate in one qualifier, MEQ, for experience and exposure. It will compete at AAUs in the 16 Premier division.
The constant effort players make to shake the stigma of being on a “2-team” has surprisingly been one of TI’s strengths. Torvik calls his team “underestimated” and a special group who will surprise people in the future.
Torvik said, “We constantly preach positivity, supporting their teammates at all costs, and leaving the court feeling like they are good enough. We focus on positive self-talk, and the players on our team have taken it to heart. It has helped them become closer as teammates, seeing that they all have struggled to change this mentality together.”
All of the players on the team have worked together to break the stigma and compete at the highest level, with leadership passing hands dependent on the match, day, and scenario.
The mentality of a “2s” player can often be difficult to overcome. For coaches, though, it’s a delicate battle to push their players enough and offer critical feedback, while also building them up.
Torvik said, “The challenge for any 2s coach comes in making their players understand that they’re valued, that they are actually really good players, and teaching/showing them that they can use that feeling to prove their doubters wrong.”
Torvik’s Advice: “Stop looking at numbers and putting an immense value on the numbers 1 and 2. The moment you look at yourself as a ‘2s’ player, you’re already on the wrong side of the coin thinking that you aren’t good enough. Find a club you want to be a part of, teammates you want to play with, coaches you want to play for, and make the best decision for you. I’ve seen countless ‘2s’ players outplay, outwork, and become more successful than their ‘1s’ counterparts. You just have to put the work in, change your mentality, and understand that if you all push in the same direction, the only person that is stopping you from being a ‘1s-team’ is yourself.”
MN Select 16-2, a team who wasn’t necessarily trying to qualify for USAV Nationals, lost its top outside hitter from a torn ACL in January and right-side a week later to a broken foot.
Still, coach Drew Rongere’s team has had an exceptional season competing against strong teams. His challenge was getting his players to buy into building the culture necessary to compete with the best teams in the country.
It wanted to finish high in the USA division and get the opportunity to show that it can compete at the 16-Open level.
Select finished 1st at SPVB President’s Day Challenge (16 Premier), 9th at the Mideast Qualifier, and 5th at Northern Lights Qualifier (16 USA), and 13th at the SPVB NJC (16 Open), to name a few.
MN Select 16-2 will compete at AAU Nationals in the 16 Premier division to make a run for gold with setter Olivia Johnson leading the offense keying in on middles Lily Emlong and Kate Neill. Defensive-duo Lizzie Holscher and Elise Brooks will lead the charge in the back-row for Select.
Rongere’s Advice: “If you show up to every practice and tournament focused on controlling the things you have control over, you will put yourself in a position to be successful. You may even upset your 1’s team (wink) and other strong 1s-teams throughout the season. Have the right attitude, drive, and commitment and college coaches will find you.”
Mizuno Northern Lights 15-2 qualified at its home qualifier in 15 USA with a second-place finish. Head coach Kari Raymond loves that her team “works hard, is committed to doing their best, driven to improve, and they get along on and off the court.”
Being a team comprised of teenagers, let alone on a “2-team” doesn’t come without challenges. Raymond notes that some of her team’s biggest challenges include staying confident in themselves and their teammates, whether they’re winning or losing.
“Another challenge,” said Raymond, “is having our ‘2s’ players leave the club to make a ‘1s’ team elsewhere.”
Raymond noted that they don’t rely on just one player to carry the load. To be successful, Lights looks to players like libero Payton Willman, setter Ryley Frye, outside Britt Carlson and, middle Anja Vinje to all play well at the same time.
Look at the big picture, like Lights emphasizes: embrace struggle, believe in yourself, and play at a consistent high level.
Raymond’s Advice: “Don’t let a number define you. Be a good teammate, work hard, and be coachable. If you were borderline between 1s and 2s, use this time to be a leader on and off the court and give to the team in such a positive way that it makes it hard for the coach not to play you. Rise up to the challenge ahead of you. Then, go out and make the 1s team next year!”
WAVE VBC 15 Jimmy agrees with Raymond’s advice. Rachel Morris, Director of Coaching Development at WAVE, said, “It isn’t about the number of the team you’re on. Do not let the number define who you are as an athlete and even more importantly, as a person.”
WAVE is in the top half of Division 1 in SCVA and finished 1st in USA at the SCVA Red Rock Qualifier led by setter Emily Tulino and middle Asia Parks. Along with outside hitters Ellie Fox and Lily Nag
Morris said, “Sometimes it is the best thing for an athlete to be on a ‘2s’ or a ‘3s’ team for their development in all areas of the game. It could put you in a position to be a stronger leader or more of an impact player on the court. It’s not always the best option to be the 13th player on a “1s” team, just to be on the first team.”
The biggest challenge for this team, such as with Lights, is self-doubt.
“When you are competing against ‘1s-teams,’ it’s really easy to think you are not good enough,” said Morris. “That isn’t the reality. This group specifically challenges that thought process and has been challenging some unbelievable teams.”
Morris’ Advice: “There is always ego involved, but doing what is best for your growth, is what is most important. Make sure that no matter what team you are on, you’re constantly improving, mentally and physically, to achieve whatever your personal goal may be. Your path is your path. Try not to compare it to your friends and those around you.”
JJVA 17N Nick head coach Nick St. Thomas sees athletes discouraged after being selected to play on a “2-team.” Feeling that it was crucial to create an identity with his team, St. Thomas said, “I felt that it was my responsibility to show them that there is nothing ‘second’ about any one of us and that we all can have a lot of success.”
So, he and his team created a system that didn’t compare with the “1-team” because his team has different strengths.
St. Thomas said, “We never pressured them to be or play like any player on the first team. Instead, we created a way for them to be successful using their abilities and athleticism. Once our team embraced this mentality we began to compete at an extremely high level.”
Setter Annelisa O’Neal, middle blocker Rayna Durden, and outside hitter Lyara Rosario took their roles seriously and JJVA qualified at Big South Qualifier by winning 17 American, a feat not many teams achieve with just one bid up for grabs.
Another way this JJVA team measures success is enabling each player to gain exposure if she wants to play collegiately. Two players so far, Heather Brown, an outside committed to Embry Riddle and libero Emily Duggan headed to USC Aiken, proved it is possible.
St. Thomas’ Advice: “Moving to another club is not always the answer. I think the negative emotional reactions, from players and parents, of not making the ‘1-team’ sometimes results in club-hopping just to be on a ‘1-team.’ Sometimes there are benefits to being on a second team. Sometimes coaches see that a player would get more court time on a second team, which means more game-like experience and exposure in terms of recruiting, which in my opinion is the goal of playing club.”
A5 15-2 JJ finished 2nd in 15 USA at the Disney Qualifier, qualifying on its first try… and then earned a National bid at Regionals. It competed in Open at NEQ and finished in the gold pools in 7th-place. At NEQ it lost a playoff set, 26-28, which would have earned them a bid in Open to be the second team in the country, and second A5 “2-team,” to do so.
Six-rotation outside hitter Mary Emily Morgan, setter Ava Pitchford, and libero Paeton Stonerhelped A5 15-2 to a season record of 71-10 up to this point. They’ll play 15 Open at AAUs and then 15 National at USAV Nationals.
Coach JJ Boyte’s Advice: “Choose your experience based on the program and the coaching reputation, not the number associated with the team. Remember that if you are on the 2-team, you probably get to scrimmage the ‘1 team.’ At a great club, that is worth a lot to be in the gym with the best kids, instead of being on a ‘1-team,’ but not having any competition in your daily practices.”