We believe that a focused 4 month core club season from January-April with LIMITED optional open gyms over the holidays in late November/December is a full and healthy season length. It allows plenty of time to get in the gym, work hard, improve, compete and have a great experience.  Breaks between Middle School/JV/High School and Club and then between Club and the Summer Camps, High School Open Gyms and pre-season are healthy for kids.  Having lived it with my 4 daughters and seeing it play out year in and year out... kids (and coaches) get burned out and lose focus as the club season winds into late April and beyond.  Breaks also allow kids some time for "unstructured" play without a coach in their ear or concern about winning, losing, medals etch. They can be as competitive, driven, relaxed, goofy and creative as they want. 

There is a continual creep of "expectation" among players, parents, coaches and club directors that kids should be playing close to year round.  Parents and players don't want to be left out or feel that they are "falling behind." Coaches and club directors feel pressured to extend seasons so they don't lose families to other clubs. It can become a vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophesy and angst.  This happens not only in volleyball but in youth sports across the spectrum and across the country.  FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) sets in and seemingly well-meaning decisions are made that may ultimately not be in the best interest of young athletes. 

There are a lot of variables to consider and we are by no means trying to limit players enjoyment or enthusiasm for the game. On the contrary, we want players to be mentally, emotionally and physically healthy and engaged in the sport throughout their club and high school playing days. We believe that mental and physical rest are healthy parts of that equation.  We will also be REDEFINING SUCCESS as a club this year. We have always had a primary focus on growth and development as a priority over winning.  Winning is hard at any level and we love to celebrate when it happens. However, it can be easy to shift player, coach and parent expectations away from development to too much onto the results.  So this year we are going to work hard on choosing to IGNORE THE SCORE. 

Some insightful, provocative and challenging (even to our club coaches and directors!)
 articles of interest on the topic:

Dr Andrews - Article on the Dangers of Year Round Youth Sports

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports

Obsession With Winning is Hurting Youth Sports

Are We Too Obsessed With Youth Sports

We look for events that are at a level that will provide an adequate challenge for our teams.  Our focus is not on simply finding events that we can win.  The higher the level of the team, the more challenging the events that we will enter.  Finding competition that will force our players to compete, implement the skills and strategies that we are teaching and grow as players to be successful is the goal. AAU, Regional and American Level teams will compete in events tailored to teams of similar skill level.  If we are always winning (or losing) 25-10, 25-8 then we need to find a more suitable level of competition. 

"National"  (Gold) level teams will play in Open or National level at larger multi-day events across the state and Mid-Atlantic. Typically the only events we would not play Open level would be Northeast Qualifier and AAU Nationals.  The goal for playing these events is to play tough competition that we may not be able to see otherwise.  Playing tough competition means that we are much more likely to lose some matches.  We cannot be afraid to lose! The primary goal is player development.  

Our scheduling seeks to find appropriate levels of competition, recruiting exposure (for older players on Gold level teams) with an eye toward keeping cost reasonable. (See below regarding Recruiting)   
We can always add events and unique, exciting special opportunities or expand our schedules if all families are on board. That include being on board for the financial and time commitment and with a clear understanding of what is to be gained and NOT to be gained from the experience. Being "on board" should also include a genuine enthusiasm from all families, not an event or schedule being pushed by the few and merely conceded to by the many.  It is not your responsibility or obligation to fund someone else's dream for their child just because you are on the same team!

The truth: The vast majority of college bound volleyball players (85-90% or more) residing within 1.5-2hrs of State College are going to end up playing at a level on par with the PSAC conference (DII) or a similar level or lower level of Div I, Div II or Div III. Some maybe a little higher level.  And... that is not a bad thing! It is actually a great thing that some many players have an opportunity to play. There is plenty of solid competitive volleyball played at each of those levels. The number of Power 5 and even Mid-Major DI scholarship players from Central Pa in the past 10 years is very small compared to the number of lower level DI, DII and DIII players. Most will be at or below this level competitively. The vast majority of these players will play within 3-5 hours of home. The vast majority of these schools have roster filled predominantly by players from within 3-5 hours of the school. These schools typically have tight recruiting budgets.  You do not NEED to travel to travel all across the country to be seen or recruited by these schools.  The major events that we participate in within 3-5 hours of State College provide ample opportunity for you to be seen and recruited.  Consider if we attend an event 3 hours away and that event draws schools from a 3-5 hour radius, you may still be seen by coaches by as far as 8 hours away!  Much of recruiting comes down to YOU reaching out to coaches. If you are good enough and they like you enough, they will find a way to come see you play.  We also welcome college coaches to visit practices and scrimmages. 

It would be irresponsible for Relentless to promote a tournament schedule or suggest a NEED our players to travel to many expensive, far flung locales with the notion that it is somehow required to develop as a young player or to be recruited to play in college.  What other kids are doing around the country is no foundation for building a volleyball club in Central Pa.  There are
always exceptions however, we build and schedule based on what makes financial and competitive sense for the overwhelming majority of our players. From that foundation each team can opt to participate in additional events. 

DI is better than DII or DIII???
It depends.  Power 5 and stronger Mid Major DI is as good as it gets. It is pretty strong volleyball!  However, consider two recent conversations with a DII and a DI level coach.  I had a conversation with a DII (PSAC) level coach not long after this coached attended an NCAA Championship Tournament match involving a Power 5 school vs a lower level DI CONFERENCE CHAMPION. The coach remarked that there was only 2, maybe 3 players on the lower level DI conference champion school roster that they would even take on their DII level team (a team that finished middle of the pack in their DII conference.)   
In another recent conversation with a DI coach, the coach referenced a desire to win the recruiting battle for in-State players who are otherwise going to DII schools.  
Being transfixed on DI or bust is a short sighted view for the vast majority of players. There are differences regarding scholarship availability and financial aid depending on the level. But from a volleyball standpoint, finding the best school fit considering all factors (academic, financial, competitiveness, location....) is more important than the specific Division of play. 

Going to Nationals has become all the rage (is that still a saying???) it seems. So much so that we will be devoting a whole info page to address Nationals! (full article to come!)  Full disclosure, our 15 Gold team went to AAU Nationals last year and by all accounts had a great experience. I have had 3 of 4 daughter's compete in AAU Nationals.  It can be a fun and exciting event and opportunity for girls. It can also be expensive, extend the season well into June and should in no way be considered a "make or break" event for a player's development and/or recruiting aspirations. (A small percentage of players from our area will realize any appreciable additional recruiting exposure by attending "Nationals").




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