Secondary School Sport SA cans U16 Volleyball Teams

The U16 Championships are underway in Canberra this week. Organised by School Sports Australia and its affiliated state bodies, it’s a favourite tournament of many athletes and coaches. Unfortunately, Secondary School Sport SA (SSSSA) has decided to stop supporting it next year and there will be no SA team from now on.

This is an issue in SA that will spark some polarizing opinion from those who have been supporters of the programme and those who don’t agree with it, so I’ll do my best to be an unbiased as I can be here.

  1. SSSSA needed to drop 2 sports to add Tennis and Swimming to its programme. Volleyball and Orienteering were the 2 sports that were dropped.
  2. This may not be permanent.
  3. The U16 state team has historically been organised by SASSSA and its teachers, without any involvement from Volleyball SA.
  4. At a meeting, Volleyball SA were asked by SSSSA manager Paula Nielsen if they were involved in the programme and if it was part of their development pathway, to which they answered no on both accounts.
  5. Volleyball SA has written a letter to SSSSA in support of the programme
  6. There is the chance to appeal the decision in September
  7. This isn’t good for volleyball.

I won’t indulge in pointing the finger at whose fault this is on our side of the net. By the looks of it SSSSA was looking for 2 sacrificial lambs and we were one of the easy ones to drop (being in the same boat as “orienterring” should tell us something).

Part of that would be the less-than-ideal relationship we have between the U16 programme and the state association. I’ve always been a supporter of the U16 programme. For the most part, this is the age that kids are most enthusiastic about playing volleyball and it’s consistently their favourite tournament. For years when guys like David Eldridge, John Tiver and Sue Dansie were coaching you had level 2 and 3 certified coaches who were the best junior coaches in town teaching kids how to play. It was a chance (albeit a small one) for non SIV kids to get some really good coaching. Players who have played state for years consistently tell me that it’s their favourite tournament.

The teachers are protective of the programme. They’ve built it up to be successful and would argue that they can run it better than the association. They do have a point: the trials (usually) seem more organised with multiple assessors with a standard set of criteria; the accommodation and transport is always good (according to the players. i’ve never been to one of these tournaments); the uniforms come out early and have the right names and numbers on them; they train for 3 hrs a week over 4 months; historically, the coaches had more experience, higher coaching qualifications and better track records. It’s a good experience that i would love a lot of my players to have.

Where the association has a valid objection is that it favours the SIV kids (although it’s worth pointing out that more than 50% of our U17, U19 & U21 teams came from Brighton and over 2/3 came from both SIV schools. They simply have a lot of the best players). This year’s trials were abysmal in this regard. As kids were required to wear their school PE top, the overwhelming SIV presence made it intimidating for kids from other schools.

Kids from different schools do not have an equal opportunity to make the team – at that age where kids aren’t training with the seniors at their clubs or making good progress at SASI, it favours the prodigiously talented, kids born in the first 4 months of the year, and kids who get to practice 3+ times a week. The U16s will also pick some kids who mature early but don’t have much more potential, over some kids who are far from maturing but have a lot of physical potential (ie tall athletes). The rosters of an U16 team and the U17 team that gets picked the year after can be very different. having completely different assessors with different (but valid) agendas doesn’t help with the continuity.

Personally, i like having an U16s and U17s that are run a bit differently. If it was all based on athletic potential a lot of terrific kids would miss out on the chance to represent their state at a stage of their lives where they are at the top of their game (some would argue that we shouldn’t waste this opportunity on those kinds of athletes and its a rational argument). If it was all based on the best players that trial on the day, we would limit our ability to develop as many elite athletes as we can.

Some sort of appeal will come about to bring volleyball back to SSSSA. VSA probably didn’t understand the full extent of the ramifications when they were asked about their involvement in the programme. Although volleyball folks might not agree on how U16s should be run they can all agree that it’s better that we have it in some shape or form than not at all. We’ll need to get them all on board and singing from the same hymn book if we want to get a win here, and that might require a bit of give and take. Otherwise, we’ll continue to be taken as seriously as “orienteering” and not the mass global participation sport we truly are.

I don’t want to be one of the easy targets next time a sporting programme gets cut.

If you have any thoughts on this, please leave your comments on the abridged OzVolley post on this.


One Response to “Secondary School Sport SA cans U16 Volleyball Teams”

  1. Secondary School Sport SA cans U16 Volleyball Teams « Says:

    […] Comments Secondary School Spo… on SA U16 State Team (Mis-)T…m. on Aussies in Czech Republictootrue on Aussies in […]

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