Q: What is your club philosophy?
A: Although our club is based in Andover, we are represented by girls from over 30 different schools throughout the area. Some governing characteristics of our club are:
|We hold practices on Saturdays instead of Sundays, for 2 1/2 hours. This allows us to practice the day before each Sunday tournament plus Easter Saturday, and gives us around 45 hours of practice time per season, as opposed to as little as 18 hours for clubs who practice Sundays for 2 hours.|
|In spite of this, our club fee is competitive with other clubs and lower than most.|
|Our coaches are highly motivated, well-respected coaches and players in the local volleyball community. They love the sport, and love sharing their knowledge with the girls.|
|We place high importance on ALL aspects of volleyball: individual skills, team building, officiating, and scorekeeping. We hold annual clinics for officiating and scorekeeping so the girls (who must work the matches at tournaments) feel more comfortable and less intimidated. At most tournaments you’ll find that the Pumas teams make great refs.|
|We require a certain level of experience/talent to join - we don't accept beginners, and we do make cuts. This keeps the quality level of our club high, which attracts the stronger players.|
|We offer tryouts for both club and the elite open levels in our 14U, 16U, and 17/18U divisions.|
|Our track record is strong:|
Q: If you don’t allow beginners, how do I get started?
A: Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to train beginners within the Pumas season. Summer camps are a great introduction to organized volleyball, as are local YMCA or in-town community programs. If you live in or near Andover, contact us about local opportunities for grades 4-8. We can also provide information on how to start up a youth volleyball program in your elementary or middle school.
Q: How do I find a good volleyball camp?
A: See our links page, and ask other players/parents what camps they liked.
Q: How do you determine the cost of the program?
A: The Andover Volleyball Club (AVC) is a non-profit organization, and the directors are volunteers. Of the membership fees paid to the club, about 50% pays for the gym space for practices and tournaments, 25% goes to uniforms and NERVA membership, and the rest goes to equipment and administrative costs. Power (travel) teams incur additional costs for additional practices and tournaments, more expensive tournament facilities (typically college gyms), and paid adult referees. (See the question on the Open League below.)
Q: What is the refund policy?
A: The tryout fee is non-refundable, even if the girl only attends one tryout. The $100 season deposit is refundable if a girl is cut or drops by notifying the club by the cutoff date. Any girl trying out for Power but only making Club will be refunded the difference in the season fee. If a girl incurs a season-ending injury before March 1, a partial pro-rated refund will be issued. After March 1, no refunds can be given. No refund will be given to a girl who pays the Power fee but whose team plays in the Club division, they are still a power team.
Q: How do you construct the teams and make cuts?
A. Many factors go into the decision of how to make teams. It starts with pre-registrations, which give us an idea of how many teams we could make and how many coaches we’ll need. At tryouts, we assemble as many coaches as feasible to evaluate player skills. We also use coaches evaluations from prior years, and of course we have to consider the positions the girls want to play and are good at. After the tryouts end, the coaches meet for many hours to discuss the player ratings and divide the teams. In the largest age divisions we create AA, A, B, and C levels so that a girl’s teammates are of similar strength. The decision to cut players is a painful one, but often necessary in the situation where there are too many players for an age group, and/or the skill level of a player is notably below the others.
Q: Can my friend(s) play on my team?
A: Our top priority is to provide the best possible experience for all players. We rate players and put them on teams based on their level of play and their position, not on their geographic location or school. We recognize that carpooling is important to many families, but our primary goal is to make the strongest team at each level. After teams are built but before they are finalized, we do look to see if there are any possible trades that could put girls from the same town together to facilitate carpooling, but only within the same level and only if it doesn't compromise either team's positional makeup. One of the benefits of club volleyball is its ability to make new friendships, and this philosophy has worked extremely well for us toward that goal.
Q: How many players do Pumas teams have?
A: Our target is 10 players per team. Some may have 9 or 11.
Q: My daughter is a great player, shouldn't she play up an age group?
A: This is a contraversial issue in club volleyball. First, many parents (understandably) have a higher regard for their daughter's skills than the coaches. Second, many parents and high school coaches believe that their daughters will improve quicker by playing on a higher level team. This is not necessarily true. The girls want and need play-time, and a girl playing over her head as the weakest player on a team will sit on the bench a lot and will likely have a lower self-image than one who plays at or even below her level. Girls who are among the strongest on their team can also excel in leadership slills. The ideal team is one which has no weakest nor strongest player, but where every girl has a role to play and feels important. That's what we strive for at Pumas.
Q: Are the coaches trained?
A. Every Andover Pumas coach is required to take a coaches training course called IMPACT - Increased Mastery and Professional Application of Coaching Theory. Some of our coaches have additional certification as well, such as CAP - Coaching Accreditation Program, or USAV referee’s certification. Most have high school and/or college coaching or playing experience.
Q: Who determines where and when the tournaments take place?
A: On any tournament date, there are over 30 tournaments happening at sites all over New England, with about 300 teams participating. Each tournament is confined to one age division, and could have anywhere from one to five courts, with typically four teams per court. In a season, each club is required to host the same number of tournament courts as they have teams. For example, a club with 10 teams might host two courts on each of five tournament dates. The NERVA coordinator uses many factors to schedule the tournaments. Obviously, the team’s rank is a primary factor, as most teams want to play against other teams of similar strength. The coordinator first decides what age tournament will be at each site, making sure that the host club has at least one team in that tournament. Teams are then assigned to that site based on ranking and geography. This can be a difficult balance, because some clubs are less willing to travel than others, even if it means playing against teams of very different strength. Suffice it to say, the coordinator’s job is not an easy one.
Q: Why don’t we know tournament locations sooner?
A: Because each tournament is designed to contain teams of similar strength, assignments can’t be made until the previous tournament’s results have been gathered and rankings computed. The coordinator must then go through the difficult process of scheduling each tournament site in the presence of multiple constraints. This is usually completed about a week after the previous tournament.
Q: How far away are the tournaments?
A: NERVA includes teams from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. In a large division with 80+ teams, it’s easier to schedule tournaments among equal strength teams that are fairly local to each team. But in a smaller division (such as 12U) there are fewer options. Being in Massachusetts, we’ve found that most tournaments are within one hour’s drive, with two hours being the furthest, and sometimes they’re at our home gym!
Q: How does a tournament schedule work?
A: Tournaments last from 4-7 hours, depending on the success of your team. About half of that time is spent actually playing. A typical arrival time is 8:30AM. Most tournaments have two phases – a period of pool play followed by playoffs. The most common two-court tournament has four teams assigned to each court (pool). Each of these four teams play two games against each of the other three teams, for a total of six games. After this, the teams are ranked 1-4 based on won/loss record. The top two teams in each pool then move on to the playoff phase. Sometimes tiebreakers must be used based on points, and occasionally an extra game must be played between teams tied for 2nd, because a team can never be eliminated from playoffs based on points alone. In playoffs, the teams play a semifinal match across pools, and the winners meet in the finals.
Tournaments with more or fewer pools are run slightly differently, but all eventually declare 1st and 2nd place finishers.
Q: Are there trophies?
A: At each tournament, each girl on 1st and 2nd place finishing teams receives a medal.
Q: What happens if a team doesn’t have enough players at a tournament?
A: A team must have six players on the court. If a team is short-handed, the coach may ask to borrow a player from the work team. Pool-play games won with borrowed players still count, but a team cannot enter playoffs without at least six regular team members.
Q: Who are the referees?
A: In general, the coaches referee the 12U division, and the girls referee the older divisions. In the power league, there is a trained professional head ref, and the girls do the rest. There are two primary reasons why the girls do the refereeing. The first is monetary. The cost of paying for adult referees at each tournament would increase every club's fee. In addition it is believed that properly trained girls do an equivalently good job, and they gain valuable experience in the process. Sometimes this exposes the girls to criticism, and we have two opinions about this. To the parents, we ask you to be aware that the purpose of Junior Olympic Volleyball is to build self-esteem in all participants, and not to tear it down. Loud, obnoxious behavior will not be tolerated and you may be asked by the Tournament Director to leave the gym. To the girls, we say that the best way to keep the fans and coaches from complaining is to be prepared and pay attention. A mistaken call is soon forgotten, but a girl who doesn’t know the rules or is habitually distracted while working is asking for trouble. The AVC holds clinics for refereeing and scorekeeping, and we expect the girls to attend and learn.
Q: What are the work team’s responsibilities?
A: Each team is usually assigned one or two work (referee) assignments during tournament pool play. After pool play, a team not making playoffs may be asked to work the first playoff round. Similarly, a team losing a playoff round may be asked to work the next round.
The work team is composed of a head referee (R1), and second referee (R2), two line judges (L1, L2), and two or three scorekeepers (S1, S2, S3). The referees have whistles, the line judges either have flags or use hand signals, and the scorekeepers sit at the desk with pencils, scorecards, and the scoreboard. R1 is the head ref, and usually stands up on a platform. She begins and ends play, makes ball-handling calls that she sees, and oversees the rest of the work team. R2 stands on the floor at the opposite end of the net, and focuses on net and centerline violations. She also controls player substitutions and timeouts. L1 and L2 each control two lines. They look for serving foot-faults, balls landing in or out with respect to their lines, and balls touched by blockers that the referees may have trouble seeing. S1 keeps a paper copy of the scorecard, making notations for each point scored and keeping track of player substitutions and any illegal substitutions or rotations. S2 maintains the visible scoreboard and assists S1 with the busy task of keeping everything in order on paper. There is a Libero Tracking Sheet that also must be maintained, either by S2 or S3.
Q: How are team rankings determined?
A: The process changes from year to year, but generally a team’s ranking is based on how that team fares at each tournament, taking into account the level of the tournament. At the beginning of the season, the AVC staff will pre-rank each team AA, A, B, or C depending on its apparent strength. Each team will then play its first tournament against teams of similar strength. After that, a points system is maintained based on the position each team finishes in the tournament (considering the tournament level), and the team’s ranking is a reflection of their point total. The better a team performs, the higher their rank and the tougher the competition is likely to be at the next tournament (for age divisions with multiple-tournaments). Sometimes point totals are published on the NERVA website, and sometimes only the team’s rankings are posted.
Q: What is the Open League?
A: The open league was established to give the elite players from each club the opportunity to compete at the highest possible level. However, it’s not really a different league, it’s simply the top ranked teams in each of the 14U, 16U, 17U, and 18U divisions at any given time. In theory, any team could get into the open league if their ranking becomes high enough. Before the first open league tournament, the teams who want to be in the open league compete in a qualifying tournament to pre-rank which teams will comprise the open league for the first tournament date. On each tournament date, the top ranked teams (depending on the number of courts available at the site) compete at the same site, usually a college gym, with professional NERVA refs. For this privilege, each attending club pays an additional site and referee fee. Some teams jump in and out of the open league tournaments as their rankings change. If a team doesn’t get into the open league on a given date, it plays in the next highest rated tournament for that age division. Presumably, that is still against teams close to their ability level.
Pumas has power teams whose goal is to compete in the open league. Power teams (aka “travel teams”), because of their elite status, almost always practice more than once per week. Pumas power league teams usually have one additional mid-week evening practice and enter additional tournaments besides the standard five. This requires a higher fee from the team members than club teams. If a Pumas power team doesn't play well enough to make or remain in the NERVA open league, they will continue to be a power team and attempt to win enough throughout the season to enter the open league.
Q: Wouldn’t the 12s teams win more if they just passed the ball over the net on the first hit?
A: The short answer is yes, they might, and you may see some teams doing this. However, this is not the path to better volleyball and our coaches discourage this behavior. Volleyball is the ultimate team sport, and improvement and enjoyment come from playing together as a team. It requires much more skill to accurately pass the ball to your teammates than to pass it over the net, and over time developing this skill will lead to more victories.
Q: What are the rule differences between High School and NERVA volleyball?
A: There are three primary sets of rules governing indoor volleyball in the USA:
|USAV, governing club volleyball including NERVA|
|NCAA, governing college and Massachusetts High School volleyball|
|NFSHSA, (“Federation”) governing most high school volleyball outside of MA|
The differences between these three are too numerous to list, but the most common differences are as follows. In NERVA (USAV)…..
|Matches are usually 2 out of 3 games, played to 21 points instead of 3 out of 5 played to 25.|
|The Libero cannot be court captain.|
|Players cannot completely go over the centerline, even if there was no interference.|
|It is allowed to touch the lower part of the net, but not the white tape at the top.|
|Timeouts last just 30 seconds, not 60 seconds.|
|There is a maximum of 12 substitutions per game instead of 15.|
Q: Are there special rules for the younger teams?
A: The 12U division plays with a lighter ball (Tachikara Volley-Lite), a lower net (7’0”), and has special serving rules. If the player misses a serve from the normal line, she is allowed a second serve from five feet closer to the net. 12U players are generally not asked to referee unless they are comfortable doing so, and the scorekeeping is greatly simplified. All other age groups follow the standard rules.
Q: Why do 21-point games start at 4?
A: Great question! In order to keep the duration of each tournament to a reasonable time, NERVA plays 21-point games instead of 25-point games. However, because the official USAV rules stipulate 25 as the game-ending score, it was thought better to play the 21 points from 4 to 25 rather than 0 to 21. In this way, a player or coach used to 25-point games could still view 25 as the game-ending score for strategic purposes, and wouldn’t be caught by surprise.
Q: What are the rules about the ball hitting the ceiling or other obstructions?
A: Different gyms have different rules, and these are reviewed at the coaches meeting before each tournament begins. In most gyms a ball that hits the ceiling but stays on the same side is playable, while a ball that hits the ceiling while crossing the net is out-of-bounds. Balls that hit other obstructions such as basketball backboards are usually a judgment by the referee. If the ball might have been played had the backboard not been there, the referee can signal a play-over.
Q: How many timeouts does a team get?
A: Officially, each team gets two 30-second timeouts per game. However, if the scheduled gym time is running short, the Tournament Director may change this rule.
Q: Why is there a player with a different colored shirt?
A: That player is called the Libero. It’s a defensive specialist position that must only play back-row, and is not allowed to set, or attack the ball above the net. She may substitute for any back-row player without registering with the referees, running on and off the court as needed between points, except that when she rotates out of the back row, she must sit for one rally before re-entering the game.
Q: My daughter wants a volleyball. What kind should I get?
A: With volleyballs, you generally get what you pay for. For regulation volleyballs, the best balls are made of leather, and these are generally the easiest on the arms. They cost $40-50. Next best is composite leather, which costs $25-35. They are a little harder on the arms but not too bad. We use composite balls for practices and leather balls for games. Most balls you get in backyard volleyball sets or at department stores are either rubber or some amazingly painful material, and will usually discourage the player.
For younger or beginner players, a lighter ball is recommended. The lighter weight makes bumping, setting, and serving easier. We use the white Mikasa Trainer balls or the red, white, and blue Tachikara Volley Lite. They are in the $25-35 range.
Q: Where can I buy balls, kneepads, etc?
A: See our links page.