Article written by Ruth N. Nelson, former player and coach at the collegiate, national and professional levels
After coaching at the collegiate level for over 16 years (Houston; LSU; Iowa), Ruth N. Nelson decided to re-unite with Special Olympics Volleyball as well as focus on training youth 10 and under. She also felt it was important to provide young children and athletes that have intellectual disabilities with the opportunity to learn from someone with her expertise. Finding experienced coaches who wanted to help was nearly impossible since most coaches at this level really didn’t want to take the time to train the “little ones.”
Nelson soon embarked on a journey to find the best approach in training youth at this developmental stage. She also knew that, at this age, a lower coach/player ratio was needed. Her first task was to find a few players whose parents saw the benefit of having their daughters trained by someone was 5 years old. They were the first athletes she trained on a regular basis, which consisted of 45 minutes of training 2-3 times a month. However, for the last month prior to their demonstration at the 2003 AVCA National Convention in Dallas, they trained an additional 5 hours. At this point, Ebony and Julia were now 8 and 9 years old, respectively.
In the process of working with Ebony and Julia, Nelson began to get their parents more actively involved in tossing, serving and assisting in drills. In addition, she asked them to spend time at home or in the gym training with their daughters. When 2007 rolled around, she realized that the “future coaches of volleyball” would come from those who had the most invested and were interested in their kids ... parents. By this time, Nelson had found 4 sets of parents and decided to name the program “BringYourOwnParent” (BYOP), a name which truly reflected the importance of the relationship between parent and child and the program.
This brings us to June of 2010, when Nelson began training a 5 year old in 30-minute private sessions, 2-3 times a month, for 1 year. In addition, 6 new families signed up their daughters and themselves for the BYOP program, which offered training 1 hour every week for 4 months. She also maintained her weekly private lessons with the 5 year old to ensure her maximum development.While the program is still in its infancy, there are 6 families that have been involved over the past 11 months. The results are positive and amazing! What paved the way for its success is Nelson being the visionary, teacher, trainer, innovator and motivator that she is.
An overview of the BYOP program includes:• Fundamental volleyball skills training (skills, analysis, and correction)
- Direct parental involvement and training in the sessions
- Jump rope/elastic jumping and agility circuits
- Use of a variety of training equipment such as tennis balls, footballs and smaller balls
- Actual training of skills through drills while developing life lessons
Working with athletes of this age certainly reminded Nelson about why she selected coaching as her career. She was in it NOT for the money, but for the love and passion of the sport ... and to help players become the best athletes that they could be. Parents and athletes at this stage of development are very receptive and absorb information like sponges when they realize they can gain knowledge and help their daughters improve in a sport both technically and tactically. At this age, the most important aspect of training (for parents) is their ability to want to learn, to have enthusiasm and energy and to enjoy their daughters and their improvement without setting limitations. The future of volleyball - the athletes and the coaches - is right here and right now with these young athletes and their parents.
Jumping rope is a warm-up used for coordination and endurance. It is fun because different routines can be used and it is a great warm-up - and a good activity for home training. Routines include jump- ing in place, learning front doors and back doors, crossovers and moving on the vol- leyball court while jumping rope.
Teaching parents the key words for each of the techniques helps all parents reinforce positive attitudes and effective efforts and assists in training all players. At this point, Nelson is conveying the key words to elicit or cue the correct body positions. “Spike the ball,” “pass the ball” and “set the ball” are followed by athletes demonstrating the correct skills and body positions. Last, but certainly not least, is the team cheer and reinforcement of what they learned during that hour of practice.