Curtis Jackson | Former D1 indoor player and beach pro, certified strength trainer
I train a lot of volleyball players at Jackson Strength in Solana Beach, California. Around this time every year, we get the same phone calls, emails and texts from worried parents who feel their young athletes “don’t have time to work out” because high school girls’ volleyball training has begun.
It’s a valid concern, for sure. But it’s also misguided. You see, there are these things called scholarships, and every parent wants one. Shoot, every kid wants one.
Along with injury prevention and improved athletic performance, scholarships are one of the main reasons families trust us with their children and their hard-earned money. Yet, when it comes time to buckle down and persevere through the high school season, we start to see athletes falling off.
My main point here: All volleyball players should be doing strength training and injury prevention work through their high school season and year-around. Here are 3 reasons why:
- You are doing what others refuse to do. Look, girls’ volleyball is hyper-competitive, especially in Southern California. If you have dreams of playing in college or just want to maximize your potential, then start doing things that the average person won’t. The average person looks at a busy schedule and says, “I don’t have time to work out.” The overachiever looks at a busy schedule and says, “I can fit in my workouts by cutting out X, Y and Z, which aren’t as important.”
It's a mindset shift that will make all the difference in helping you achieve not only your volleyball dreams but your other dreams in life. This is a mindset we preach at Jackson Strength.
Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 girls who absolutely refused to use the too-busy-to-work-out excuse. They worked out 5 times a week during their high school seasons, including the dreaded junior year!
It’s no shocker that 2 of them are currently playing volleyball at University of California, Berkeley, and one is playing at the University of Washington.
Numbers don’t lie. There’s a direct correlation between how many workouts an athlete averages per year and the quality of program they end up playing for in college. There’s also a huge correlation to lack of injuries. Athletes who figure out how to manage their time might get nicked up here and there, but they otherwise stay very healthy.
- Strength is never a weakness. Here’s a scenario for you: It’s late in the season, your team is fighting through the playoffs, you enter the 5th set of an absolute battle and you look across the net and see a team that is fading. You think to yourself how much stronger you are. You think to yourself how much weaker they are. You last had a workout 3 days ago. They last had a workout 3 months ago.
At this time, your confidence swells. You know you put in the work for this moment, and you absolutely smash your opponent.
While this isn’t an everyday situation and, admittedly, I have a flare for the dramatic, it makes a valid point. Isn’t this what we train for? Isn’t this where champions thrive?
No one is putting in extra work to play well in the easy matches. Anyone can do that. Putting in the extra work is for people who want to go to the next level!
You’ll never look back on your career and be proud of matches when everything was easy and you walked out of the gym in 30 minutes with a smashing under your belt. You’re going to look back on the wars, and you’re either going to look back on them with pride because you trained for that moment or regret because you didn’t.
As a former D1 collegiate athlete and professional beach volleyball player, I can tell you that the regret is brutal. And it doesn’t seem to fade with time.
- Injury prevention. While much less glamorous than the thrill of pulling out a 5-set match, the fact remains that athletes who stay strong and mobile also stay healthy. Here’s another scenario for you: A prominent coach from the Pac-12 has one scholarship left and is deciding between two athletes. Both athletes play the same position and are, by all accounts, equal – except for one glaring factor. One athlete started lifting weights and training off the court when she was in 8th grade, and, outside of the occasional vacation, she has never stopped. She is strong, mobile and has never missed a game or practice due to injury in four years.
The other athlete has done some lifting here and there and has shown some commitment to becoming more athletic. However, she has also had an ACL tear and has missed games this year due to shoulder and low-back pain.
Which athlete do you think that scholarship is going to? It’s a no-brainer, right?
I had 2 knee surgeries and hundreds of hours in physical therapy clinics. Injuries ruined my love for the game of volleyball, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. So I implore all of you to find a qualified strength coach who understands the demands of volleyball players and knows how to train them at different points of the year. The key to making it all work is an experienced coach.
Once you are set up with a coach, become one of those athletes who finds ways to fit training into their busy schedules vs. an athlete who makes excuses for why they can’t.
It’ll pay big dividends in the long run, both on and off the court.
Curtis Jackson, head strength and performance coach for Jackson Strength, played indoor volleyball at Long Beach State and pro beach volleyball on the AVP Tour.