Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mandatory No. 3

At our first tournament of the season I gathered all my players and their parents together and tried to explain to them that when dealing with the SCVA and club volleyball they have to be ready to be flexible and just go with the flow of any changes that happen at tournaments. Just as I finished my little speech one of our parents walked around the corner and announced “They just moved us from court C2 to D3.” Thereby, perfectly emphasizing my point.

Sunday we got to test our ability to relax, go with the flow and be flexible.

Mandatory 3 - 8:00 AM - Fullerton College. Or so we thought.

Since we had an 8 AM start time, and we were the number one seed in our pool, so we had to play at 8:00 we left town at 4:30 AM. This allowed us time to make a quick stop for coffee around 6 AM in Adelanto and still get to Fullerton College right around 7:30. Unfortunately none of us had ever been to Fullerton College before so we were not sure where to park. As a result the four cars we took ended up in four different parking lots. But eventually we all met together outside the gym.

Inside the gym, posted on the wall were the pool play sheets telling us who our opponents were and what court we would be playing on. Next to these sheets was a map showing the layout of the six courts that the 24 teams who were there would be playing on. There was also two gymnasiums that each looked big enough to hold 3 courts each. Standing around were a lot of coaches, a lot of players, and a lot of parents. The only things missing were: Standards, nets, officials, a facility coordinator and, lets see, one other thing…. Oh yeah, my bag of volleyballs.

While no one who was at Fullerton College had any idea where the standards, nets, officials and facility coordinator were at, I knew exactly where my bag of volleyballs was at. It was in the back of my car - in Ridgecrest.

Normally I would have been a little stressed out and embarrassed about forgetting our volleyballs. But since it didn’t look like were had courts to play on anyway I wasn’t too concerned - yet.

While several of us coaches wandered around trying to figure out what we were going to do, a lady named Rose, who I met last year when she was coaching a 16s team, and who had a 14s team this year stepped up and took charge. She started ordering all us coaches to find the standards and nets and get them set up while she started making phone calls.

After a bit we found the nets and standards for one gym. The equipment for the other gym was locked away somewhere. Unfortunately the nets and standards that we found for the one gym were not complete. We did not have a crank for winches on the standards. So I borrowed a volleyball from Rose so my players could start warming up. Then several fathers and I started trying to figure out how to get the nets set up.

Eventually, around 8:20 AM someone from the SCVA showed up and told two of the pools of players that they were supposed to report to the American Sports Center as soon as possible to play there. The rest of us were expected to be there at 1 PM that afternoon. Rose, bless her heart, immediately objected that the pool my team was in should be sent to the American Sports Center immediately because of the distance we had traveled and that she felt it was unfair that we should be kept waiting another 5 or more hours to play when we had already been going for the last 4 hours. The SCVA representative was unswayed. I added that one of the other teams in our pool was from Victorville and had traveled at lest an hour to get there also. Again he was unswayed. So eight of the teams immediately headed for the American Sports Center while the rest of us gathered together to figure out our next move. Since we now had several hours to wait to play volleyball.

Our team parents immediately all voted for breakfast. Since we were all parked in different places we decided to all meet at a Subway parking lot across the street from the College. Once there, we discovered that most of us had little idea what was available in that area. I knew that there were several restaurants on Harbor Blvd. So we loaded up the four cars and decided to head down Harbor Blvd. The lead car, when they saw a restaurant they liked, would pull in and the rest of us would follow them.

Thirty minutes later we were all sitting around tables in the sidewalk patio area of the IHop right outside of Downtown Disney. During breakfast, several of our players were talking about going shopping until our game time that afternoon. But many of the parents, who had been driving at 4:30 AM while everyone else slept were tired and had no desire to shop. While watching our players I noticed that several of them seemed nervous and edgy. So I called my cousin who lived just down the road a bit in Cypress and explained our situation. My cousin and his dear wife decided to hop on their white horses and come riding to our rescue. They invited all 20 of us to come over to their house to hang out for a while.

As we invaded my cousin’s house and back yard the players mostly settled into the game room where some of them were playing Guitar Hero. A couple of others were learning to shoot pool and the rest just sat around and kibitzed what the others were doing. Most of our parents found some space on the couch, in a lawn chair on the patio or crashed across the foot of guest bed for a quick nap.

The decision to invade my relatives castle turned out to be a good one. Our players when we left were much more relaxed and ready to deal with playing some volleyball. Sure they were a little tired, but at least they were calmer and ready to play. Unfortunately when we got to the American Sports Center we had to wait almost 90 minutes before we could get onto a court. Which was just enough time for the girls to hang around passing a volleyball in the parking long enough to get tired and impatient.

Finally we got onto a court and discovered that the one team in our pool that was from Victorville had decided to just go home instead of showing up for the matches. I guess they didn’t have relatives in Cypress who would welcome a volleyball player invasion.

The SCVA says that if we get into a 3 team pool we have to option to play three games to 25 against each team instead of the normal best 2 of 3. the other coaches and I all agreed that we had all been through a long enough day that we were good with just two - best two of three matches.

Our starlings team started off quickly but soon slowed and allowed our opponents to catch back up. We ended up losing the first match 25-27 and 24-26. They were close games that we should have taken but the grind of the day was finally catching up with our girls. Our second match was against the team that had allowed us to borrow their practice balls for our warm-ups before both matches. So I felt a little bad beating them, but not bad enough to not enjoy the victory. Our team was kind of flat for the first game and lost it 17-25. But for the second game our opponents relaxed a little, and I think that relaxing led them quickly into a crash after the long day. Meanwhile our Starlings got their second wind and started to play some volleyball. We won the second game 25-21, then carried that momentum into the third and deciding game where we ran up a quick 8-3 lead. After changing sides of the court, we also slowed down a little but managed to hold for a 15-10 victory. This gave us a second place finish for the day.

But our adventures didn’t end there. On the way home one player and a parent who were traveling in different vehicles started getting sick and had to stop several time to leave their lunch/dinner/breakfast in the California ditches.

I just want to take a moment here to brag about my player’s parents. When they could have gotten angry and started complaining they didn’t instead the helped set up nets. They kept their daughter’s upbeat and focused on why were there. They just waited for me to tell them what was going to happen. When we had to make changes they simply packed up our stuff and players and moved to wherever we had to be. I have heard a lot of coaches and directors complain about the parents they have to deal with. I am pleased to say, I have no idea what these coaches go through. I have great players who in turn have great parents.

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