For the first time in years, we didn’t have an SA Open on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend. However, we did get a nice event in the Mt Lofty “Courier” International Skins Tournament. I’m a huge fan of tournaments, and anyone who puts the hard work into organising them and getting teams there. They’re particularly good for junior development as players get to play a lot of games in a short time. They’re fun too if they get to travel for them. An It’s also a good way for kids to get more playing time who otherwise wouldn’t: those who live in the country (and don’t get to play against kids their own age in a junior league comp); aren’t part of SIV programmes; aren’t part of state teams and elite programmes.

One thing i liked about the skins tournament, was the exclusion of State Teams from the mix. Indeed, it’s certainly problematic from the state programme point of view that these teams don’t get some essential match practice, but i think it actually increased the number of teams and players participating from previous years of the SA Open.

A lot of the players in state teams played anyway – but for their clubs and schools, and it created a lot more even teams that dragged in more people to play.

Kids love playing against players their own age. But when all the best players of a certain age are playing in one team (a state team) against the rest, the lopsided affair is not as fun. For kids, the SA Open used to be a case of either playing in a state team, or playing in a team that had no chance of beating the state teams, and playing in the tournament for “experience”. Again, optimal motivation comes when you have a 50/50 chance of winning.

In the U17 girls comp, at least some of the state players were spread out among teams from Loxton, Heathfield and Brighton. Heathfield, who lost most  of their round games ended up beating Brighton in a semi and then Loxton in the final. The second Brighton team ended up beating the first in the 3rd place playoff. It was incredibly even with the U16 and U17 state reps scattered across the teams (there was also a fantastic involvement from Brighton that I’ve never seen at a Queens Birthday weekend tournament with all SIV teachers coming out to coach their teams). If there’s an U17 comp next year, i’ll definitely be pushing to get Norwood and Willunga teams in, and I think it can be something that really grows.

Throwing in state teams, club teams, school teams etc into the same tournament can work. It works every year at Albury Wodonga. I don’t agree that state teams should be picked that young, but the gap between the state teams and the club/school teams at that age can be close. In the Girls division this year, the top 4 teams were Gold: Vic Blue (State Team); Silver: Heathfield (School); Bronze: QLD Central (Really Gladstone High kids playing in state uniforms); 4th Norwood Bears (Club). There are still some big mismatches, but at the top there are some great games, and it’s a great opportunity for development that’s open to state associations, schools and clubs. As Volleyball NSW GM Bob Konakoff said at the tech meeting, about 90% of the kids that play in the tournament stay in the sport in their high school years. It’s a nice sized tournament too that can be managed at a 6 court venue.

It’s after that that development gets a bit harder. Kids who don’t play in state teams and in SIV programmes are left at a massive disadvantage to develop. At the age of 15, not a lot of players are ready to play seniors. Junior League is only 60 minutes a week, IF you can get to a club that doesn’t outsource it’s juniors to a specific high school (in Adelaide there are only 2). If you live in the country, forget about it (unless your school plays state school’s cup and AVSC). Increasing the number of state teams and having each state take 12 teams to AJVC is not workable and crates a massive strain. There’s never enough referees, and the venue options are limited because of the size.

Why can’t we have U16 and U17 versions of Albury Wodonga that is separate to AJVC? It could be open to club teams, school teams and developmental (2nd and 3rd) state teams.  AJVC would be a much smaller event with only the top teams competing. And we could have them at smaller venues and in less expensive places.


2 Responses to “Tournaments”

  1. Paul Dalby Says:

    Thanks for your kind words about the Skins Tournament Huy. The Mt Lofty Club appreciated the support all of the Clubs who participated. We hope to see you all there again next year.


  2. Eldo Says:

    Welcome back Huy,

    This is a very important topic for volleyball.
    There is far too much reliance on State junior volleyball in Australia. It is not the silver bullet. It is almost the thing we do because it is the easiest thing to do. We even made it bigger because it is the easiest thing to do and we could charge a premium for it. The fact that we have kids including 15’s 16’s and 17’s playing their first ever tournament at a national junior event makes our sport look ridiculous. You can always hear state volleyball parents in Albury saying “Cost Mary nearly $2,000 for this event and she is in the state team having only played the game for 3 months. The parents seem to think that their marginally talented kid is a wiz BUT what they need to understand that as a sport, we have got this all wrong and that these inexperience under arming serving marginally athletic State kids are a means to the financial survival of some state associations. Picking state teams at under 15’s level is more based on maintaining the financial viability of state associations than the development of players in my view. This event should be a club event.

    It does not make sense that we do not have more club, team junior tournaments.

    HOW MANY DO WE HAVE IN AUSTRALIA? Can we list them? I am not talking school tournaments here.

    How many club based basketball tournaments are there? Thousands perhaps.

    In Australia we present school volleyball well at a national level and in Qld and Vic, at a state level . This school success comes at a huge cost to club volleyball which is unfortunate because we lose lots of kids when school volleyball stops after year 12.

    The reason being, as a kid who played state and school volleyball 20 years ago said to me.
    “School volleyball is important and fun. It is rated – Club volleyball is not.”

    As a volleyballer coach and club administrator this view is most disappointing but unfortunately mostly true. It is not a position that as a sport we can move forward with.

    At Heathfield we can find lots of junior coaches for school teams. We have people queuing up to coach and manage because they know there are quality experiences ahead.
    We struggle (and I think all clubs are the same) to get club league coaches, league reserve coaches let alone junior league coaches to coach our teams. If the truth be known, 90% of the club teams are in junior league as training for the school comps.

    That is why Norwood is ahead of the pack at the moment in junior volleyball due to the work of Dr Dan and the West boys.

    Mt Lofty was indeed unable to maintain its “Reds” team for a number of reasons which was a huge blow to me and the club and is definitely a backwards step.

    If we continue down the wrong path, the State School Cups and the National Schools Cup will only get stronger.

    In the Lofty Skins events, if you take out the Lofty teams as the hosts we only had school teams training for the national schools cup. I suspect even with the attraction of unprecedented prizes and prize money, they were not there for the prizes but for trial matches for the nationals. (Pt Augusta being the exception). Are there kids who would have liked to play in the tournament? I bet there were. Did they have coaches, adults and managers willing to make this happen, I suggest not.
    If I went to every League club in South Australia with a coach and manager for a team from the club to play in a tournament, I think I would get the players.

    We need more club tournaments and we definitely need more club junior tournaments. It would be a great step forward is we made more money in our state associations through running tournaments than slugging the kids who represent their state in tournaments.

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