Rogers Corner

Sisters? by: BOB MCGUIRE - Friday, November 13, 2015

As many of you know who have been involved with volleyball for any length of time, if big sister plays, little sister is going to play. Over the past almost 30 years of watching Ridley high school volleyball I have had the pleasure of watching 3 particular sets of sisters not just excel at the game, but become friends and colleagues. The journey to becoming volleyball sisters started in 1988 when Deana Maguire left the Ridley Junior HS team as a ninth grader to play for the Ridley Senior HS varsity. Three years later her younger sister Kristen arrived on the varsity as a freshman and became one of two starting freshmen setters. Two years later Kristen helped lead Ridley to its first Central League championship which they duplicated the following year. Both sisters would play for Elizabethtown College and were the starting setters for 6 years in a row.
After college both girls took coaching jobs, Deana as an assistant at Eastern, and Kristen as an assistant at Ridley. In 2002 Kristen became head coach at Ridley and Deana took the head coaching job at Neumann College in 2004. This is when Rachael Sokolovich came on the scene. First as a player for Kristen where she led Ridley HS to its first ever PIAA playoffs, and then as a player for Deana where she led Neumann to the PAC championship over Eastern College in 2007. Rachael has two younger sisters who followed her in volleyball, but not at Ridley. Sophia and Nicole had great careers at Penncrest HS. After graduating college Rachael became an assistant to Deana at Neumann but her sister Sophia enrolled to play at Cabrini. Rachael eventually became assistant at Cabrini and the youngest Sokolovich, Nicole, is now playing and starring for the Cavaliers. Meanwhile, Sophia has graduated and is coaching at Rowan University as the assistant to Deana Maguire-Jespersen who is in her second year as head coach after leaving Neumann. Back at Ridley another set of sisters came along and made names for themselves. Julia Malseed was an All Central league performer at Ridley for Kristen Maguire-Schaffer before leaving for Neumann College and playing for, yep, you guessed it, Deana Maguire. Now Julia's younger sister Melanie, who is arguably the best all around player in the Central League, is closing out her career at Ridley. How does she affect this sisterhood? Neumann, where she would play for another Ridley graduate (Alicia MacGlaughlin), Cabrini, with Rachael and Nicole, or Rowan, with Deana and Sophia. It should continue to be fun to watch these sisters in their volleyball journey.

Freshman - Friday, November 13, 2015


This is a cheer that many fans of the home team raise when a player makes an extra good effort either attacking or defending warning the crowd that she is here for a lot more years.. It is meant to intimidate the opponent suggesting that you’re dealing with someone special


     All the players chosen to be highlighted in this article have been suggested by their coach or a parent but with the coach supporting the inclusion of their names.  These days with so many young women playing volleyball it is not common for the varsity to have a freshman in a key spot.  Each of these young women is in a key spot.  They learned basic skills from CYO or middle schools added more instruction from club participation and a plethora of camps. But each of them has much more to learn about their positions and the ability to play the game under challenging conditions. They are in one way just advance beginners but they are advanced.

     Advanced but entering a new world of volleyball where the players on the other side of the net are not all your age but include  many who have been playing longer, faced more competition and are physically mature women. This means that the speed of the game rises and the power of the hitters is greater and the strategies are more sophisticated  searching for weaknesses which often targets the newcomer to see how she measures up to this attention. You have become a target it is pressure that you have not faced and it requires a cool mental state with no loss of focus. This is the mental game that no one has ever prepared you for. Now it is all you.

     Most of them have proclaimed that they want to play in college hopefully for a D 1 school.. That is reaching even for those D1’s that are not recognized as having a strong volleyball history. Private lessons, club ball and high school practices are probably not enough to prepare you for the collegiate competitive scene. You must dedicate some personal, private time to be able to attract the attention of the recruiters for schools that you wish to attend. Remember only you can provide the dedication  to reach the  necessary level of skill.

    In the interest of full disclosure I have coached or contributed to their instruction three of the young women included here: Tori Wright, Emma Nelson and Katherine Chodaczek. I was not party to their inclusion in this article.

     Each one has arrived through many of the same channels but there are always some differences. Camps, Clubs and private lessons may have been included but some have learned from parents or friends or even big sisters or brothers.  Some mothers coached them in CYO or assisted in the club experience.  With this broad variety of instruction their acquisition of classical mechanics may be a source of difficulty when they enter into more experienced instruction. Each of these young women has desires to be better than average in their skill package and consequently need to develop a sound self-directed program to reach their goals.

     Achievement of great skill comes from within. Data crunchers tell us that 10,000 hours seems to be the amount of time dedicated to learning before emerging as very talented. Perfect practice is unending.

Anson Dorrance the outstanding soccer coach at the University of North Carolina indicates that,

 “What you’re doing when nobodies watching” indicates the level of your dedication.

The poet tells us that “… your reach should exceed your grasp…”


                         WATCH THESE REACHERS


     Tori is the only player that I know who spent three years playing on a team of 12’s. She began at age 9 playing club and CYO and any other venue that was volleyball.  Even at this tender age she had been exposed to the game as an older sister played and her mom coached. Those hours near the court convinced her that volleyball would be HER sport. Basketball, soccer and lacrosse entertained her for short periods of time but volleyball was the paramount interest and now commands all her time.

  Upper Merion High School is the beneficiary of their strong middle school program combined with the excellence of the volleyball program at MDP that was and continues to be a strong CYO competitor. Many girls play for the middle school and CYO in the same season getting a great deal of playing time. Tori thrived in this environment so there is no surprise that she is the only starting freshmen for the varsity team in 2015.

   In her earlier days she played many positions but in her last year in CYO she was placed on the outside and has remained there both in club and now on the varsity. This is a tough spot for a freshmen facing the variety of attacks that outsides maybe called upon to execute but also facing blocking skills that have never been strong in CYO or middleSchool.  In addition the outside is frequently required to play a role in serve/receive and face the advanced serving skills that are common place in varsity competition.

    She admits that there are times that she cannot wipe out the errors and mistakes made and keep her focus.” I get unsettled when I make errors and try as I might not to allow them to impact my next effort it is not automatic. I am getting better and still have to become stronger and I will.”


     She began playing basketball and softball and continues to play basketball but says that “Volleyball is the best sport!” When asked why this is the “best” sport her reply was that it takes 6 players on every ball coming over the net working together to get a good result. Basketball can be dominated by just a few players and in  softball it is you only when batting but volleyball is competitive and continuous and it is fun! Thus spoke Aly.

     In just three years under strong influence from her CYO coach and then her TCA coaches she has earned a place as a starter in 6 rotations for Downingtown West. Her first two years she played as a middle  because she was taller than most of the other players but she was challenged to play outside and now loves being there either right or left but prefers left, ”I love to hit the ball” and she does with  well-defined mechanical perfection. She struggled at first getting all the arms and footwork in synch but when it came it was just smooth and effective.

     As a 6 rotation player which is relatively new for her she has had to concentrate on receiving serve as this is a skill she had not heretofore had to employ. Progress is slow but improving as she learns to watch the serve with care and reading the serve early helps being in the right location. This is not unlike digging attacks where she watches the hands of the hitter carefully understanding that what she does as a hitter signals what this hitter is attempting. She has a jump float hoping that the ball action will disrupt the opponent’s offensive possibilities.

    As part of her weekly routine she works out trying to improve her physical condition some emphasis on getting greater elevation for her attack run. Although not a strict diet person she with mom’s help does carefully chose the right combinations of the elements but then there is the plain pizza that, well hits the spot regularly.

     Although a good student with strong grades she is not fond of science and math. History and English are preferred for the exposure to writing and the variety of things to read while learning about the world’s many cultures: sci-fi is her pleasure reading choice. She hopes that she can develop the skills that will allow her to play in college knowing that it is not a slam dunk.


          Emma is different. She goes to bed early in the evening unlike the pattern that seems prevalent in today’s high school population. Her mother indicates that this is a habit she began at an early age and now with all the activities it serves her well to be thoroughly rested. She has in her short athletic career swum, spring time lacrosse and now hopes to play basketball if it can be accommodated with club volleyball.

     Standing 5’ 11” tall and appearing very light in weight she is typical of many outsides who just like to hit the ball. She has learned to run a classical attack pattern along with the controlled arm movements and  the hop before takeoff:  Left arm extended and her right in an attack position  frequently projecting an almost ballet image.  As a result of this preparation and with the strong arm that she brings the attacks are strong, hard and forceful occasionally going well beyond the court dimensions. She explains that learning the footwork for the attack run and the timing of the run to the setter’s set was very difficult and continues to be a problem when the setter is forced to make sets from errant passes. She has practiced hitting to many spots on the court so that she is not easily blocked.  She explains that her teammates often give her clues as to where to hit increasing the odds to score. .

     Focus is hard for her after making an error. It is a problem that she faces and has not yet found the right solution to this distraction realizing all the time that it is without purpose to allow an error to contaminate the next contact.  Both parents were college athletes so they have been able to help finding a solution.

     The best and most exciting match she participated in this year was their confrontation with Bishop Shanahan. Now this is one of the top teams in the region and perhaps the top team but she felt challenged to play against them and see how she could do against a persistent defensive opponent. “We lost but the energy and excitement of the match was wonderful.”

     Emma wants to play in college in any position that she can earn. She has set and played all around in her career to date and knows she must be very competent in all the court skills to receive attention from the recruiters.  She is ready to earn a spot.


     Red –headed, bursting with energy and quick to respond made our interview a speedy informative event.  Katherine began her volleyball career at the age of 9 in the CYO program at St. Katharine’s in Wayne, Pa. continuing for the next five years in CYO, Valley Forge club for 2 years followed by 2 years at Synergy and this past year at EC Power. In addition she managed to play soccer at the same but now is committed to volleyball. In each of those four club years she played a different position preparing her to be able to handle six rotations.

     At Conestoga she is a setter in a dual strategy sharing the task with an upper classman. While a Synergy she attended regularly the setting clinics complimenting her skill package by attending a setting camp in the summer.  Despite performing well in that role in her first high school varsity exposure she now wants to expand her skills as a defensive player or libero. At EC Power this past year she had the opportunity to play only in the back row and found great satisfaction in that position. “It was more fun and I felt comfortable doing that rather than setting.” This gratification despite her acknowledgement that receiving serve has been the most difficult skill she has faced. “I am improving and intend to seek more instruction so that I can challenge for that role.”

    As do many of the young players they all wish to play in college and Division1 is their choice for the level to seek.  She wants to attend a large college and understands that many hours of practice learning to “read” the ball is required to reach this goal. You can be sure she will make the commitment.



     Maeve is in her 5th year of playing volleyball and during the first four of those years in CYO and club she played every position except middle. Her most recent club, Brandywine, stabilized her position wanderings by using her only as a defensive player.  For O’Hara she is the varsity libero, a critical position and very challenging for a freshman. Maeve as a result of these many positions has a strong understanding of the defensive strategy giving her insights into what can and often does happen before it happens. This is Volleyball IQ in its purest form.  She described in detail her place on the floor under a variety of situations and surprisingly was able to detail the attackers hand positions and how that gave a clue as to the direction of the attack: that is rather sophisticated for a freshmen.

    She feels comfortable in serve/receive understanding the object of the serve and her determination to keep the ball in system by concentrating on the pass to the setter target. This understanding  of the service objective has encouraged her  to learn how  to place her jump serve into a specific position as directed by her coach. It has been the most challenging skill to acquire realizing that the tiniest change in ball contact impacts the directions and sought for response.

   Freckle faced with long hair spiced with red she is deliberate in her conversation often pausing to perhaps seek a better phrase or just to organize her answers to the many questions posed. Walking out of Starbucks I recognized  the confident posture and stride of a young female athlete.


     Mika makes a strong first meeting exhibiting very grounded   opinions that she defends vigorously but diplomatically. It is an attitude welcomed by coaches so that the player becomes self-dependent on correcting their errors. The player with high volleyball IQ becomes a role model for her teammates. 

Mika did not begin to play volleyball until the 7th grade where she filled every possible position for the middle school team. When she began at DVA Villanova she started as an outside and played all around. At Lower Merion she plays just outside and leaves the rotation after serving.

As freshmen on a team made up with upper classmen it was intimidating at first but when she demonstrated her abilities to help the team such intimidation immediately disappeared and she was welcomed by her teammates.  Her strong attack profile is supported by excellent understanding of what she must do to prepare and how to observe the defense of the opponent and hope to take advantage of weaknesses demonstrated.  Easier said than done but believes it is the way to maximize her skills.

Focus after error is a mental problem that she deals with. We discussed a variety of things others have done to refocus and she listened intently but I suspect she will arrange her own method of getting back to the focused player that she can be.

We had a lively discussion on the place the attacker should hit the ball relative to the net and the distance in from the sideline.  She had firm well defended argument for her case and welcomed an alternative opinion but will study the problem and reach her own conclusion.


I had my first encounter with Michaela in the midst of a crowd of Shanahan pupils scurrying from a Pep rally to another athletic event to be held soon after school. I was lost and Michaela saw me and took charge finding the coach and then the room for our interview.

This action maybe central to her personality: knowing what to do and when to do it which would be a strong trait for one who is a center of maybe the top team in the region.  At 13 and only playing volleyball for four years indicates how quickly she learned to play and earn a starting spot on varsity. At 6 feet 1 inch tall and still growing her presence on the team commands respect from the opponents determined to bury an attack.  Although her primary responsibility is blocking she is often called on to run slides, 1’s and 31’s. Playing only in the front row for three rotations limits her opportunities to score although in a recent 3 set match she contributed 10 kills, 4 blocks and 6 digs: coach liked that performance.

She began her athletic career playing basketball adding in time some lacrosse and one year of softball. Basketball was the primary sport until she was introduced to volleyball and that became her first and only sport. She feels greater satisfaction making a good block or putting an attack down on the floor than she felt scoring in basketball.

Her emotional high for the year to date was playing against Hempfield in their gym with a crowd cheering on the local team.        “The crowd energy energized me and I felt excited and determined to play hard. We won and that was a special feeling”.

I asked if she had a careful eating habits and she responded saying “Anything with Sugar and lots of Mac and cheese”(Coach ignore this). When not playing volleyball or studying she loves to curl up with a good murder mystery.

Her goal at this moment in time is contribute to Bishop Shanahan winning the State Championship in 2015. As for the longer term any goals are ‘wait and see.’


DID YOU KNOW THAT - Monday, August 10, 2015

74% of girls who stopped playing on sport teams because of not having fun or want to focus on other things. 38%of that 74% leave because they are not having fun and 36% leave  desiring to focus on other things.  Between the ages of 14 and 15 26% of the total number of girls playing on an organized athletic activity leave that activity.

These statistics arise from professional research programs studying youth sports and are part of an article recently in ESPN magazine. Other surveys taken by the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Sports and Fitness Industry Foundation also are quoted in this article confirming the numbers of girls playing in sports and their subsequent participation as they age.

 Basketball is the most popular girls sport with volleyball coming in second. But interestingly according to the Women’s Sports Foundation survey 45% of those that started in a sport has quit. Please note that many returned to the sport at a later age but why did they quit when many had started as early as age 6?

There are many reasons some financial, some the many hours required (note here that this study reported youngsters spent 7.5 hours daily staring at a screen be it the tv  or some other electronic device) that are demanded of them,  the inability to compete for positions on high school teams, illness, studies, other  non-athletic interests and so on. The chart showing participation at specific age’s shows that volleyball has the greatest change beginning at 14 and then going down steadily continuing until 17 when surveys stopped.

Dropping out because it was not fun and dropping out because the competition is too strong may be related reasons.( Two Interesting  stats are ((1)) 22% drop out because they don’t like the coach and  ((2)) 85%  of the coaches who  are Dads are coaching their own kids. Talk about a problem!!).  High school tryouts for the freshman, Junior Varsity and Varsity teams are competitive so that those young women who do not play in competitive situations before the 9th grade may not have developed the skills to compete with those who have had such experience. So no more “fun” might be translated to read “not fun to get cut” or “not fun to be the last chosen” or “not fun to be the least competent player on the court”. Certainly the time that club volleyball requires of a player must create some challenging decisions for youngsters whose interests may be for subjects and activities other than sports: as such they are faced with maybe the first childhood dilemma.

Is there another alternative to club for those not wishing to commit the time and money charged? Is there a place for a shorter season?  Can an enthusiastic youngster find competent instruction, reduced hours weekly, some playing activity and be able to compete for high school positions?

 The answer is yes as some clubs have begun programs that establish such conditions. They have proven their ability to deliver the competence of their coaches and the costs and time commitments sought.

So what is the problem? Is it social? My friend Kelsey plays for “MOST WINNING CLUB” and I want to be on that team!  Perhaps the greatest misconception is the availability of scholarships for female volleyball players. In rounded numbers there are about 600,000 female high schools volleyball players. Now the recruiting ages have dropped down to one I saw recently was for an 8th grader so the entire vb population must be considered eligible for scholarships. That means given the number of total scholarships suspected to be available that the odds of getting one are about 2.8%. Now that is the population  of the USA high school female volleyball participation. Please note that many schools  recruit from other countries so that the total number of potential applicants is larger(Note the PSU recently recruited two players from other countries)One of the things most players at the recruiting age continue to misunderstand is their determination to play only on a D1 college team. Now D2 and D3 present some exceptionally good volleyball and in many cases are superior to some of the D1 teams. It is not unusual for these smaller D2 and D3 schools to have superior academic programs than some of the D1 schools: play competitive volley ball and end up with a strong academic background sounds like the best of all worlds.

So the dilemma continues:  THIS OR THAT?


Saturday, August 08, 2015

THE GAME TEACHES THE GAME! - Friday, July 17, 2015

 The first time I heard this statement during a CAP TWO class I thought that was a clever piece of nothing. You do not learn the mechanical skills playing. BUT  that was not the point!

The point is that you must learn the mechanical techniques but then you must learn how and when to use them in competition. Volleyball is a flow of the game sport where each change in movement by the ball requires a change in location for every player. At the highest levels of competition the percentage of “out of system” activity may reach 50 %.( Out of system revers to things not happening as planned),. You maybe the greatest “digger” for serve/return in the country when the ball is coming right to you  but if you never learned to read the delivery then you will not move to be in position to make a good return or maybe not be able to make any return at all.

There are no drills that can teach you to read a ball coming over the net at a fast speed. It is like the center fielder in baseball knowing almost at the time bat meets ball where he must be to make the catch. You simply must face the varying event in real time and often (1000 or more times) to develop that sense of where to be when you’re called upon to perform.  Skilled players tell me that they know shortly after the ball has been struck for a serve that they move to the locale where they believe interception will occur.

Perfect form and mechanical perfection are fine for a robot performing a manufacturing operation but there events never vary.    

This article was prompted by a recent article by John Kessel in USA Volleyball news. Since then I have interacted with some other coaches and we talked about choices and how new players need to get to know the game playing and not drilling endlessly. Learning the mechanics is the goal of a drill. Becoming competent on the court comes from playing.

 What Kessel emphasizes is the need for players to play and spend time in real action and not spend time in the gym doing one drill after another that simply cannot replicate the reality of the live game. If a youngster is going to get better or wants to get better than play, play, play and learn to be self-critical and self-confident. That only comes from meeting the competitive threat and living and learning from the experience. Is this a reason for the “T” shirt message: “Learn from your miztaks”?

So when parents ask me about their daughter joining a club and wanting to know my opinion of their choice, I first ask who the coach is. The coach is critical as that person is making evaluations and seeking insights into the personality and character of the player to maximize the Instructional impact. Then I want to know if she will get to play a lot or sit a lot. If she is not going to get a meaningful amount of playing time then no coach in the world is going to make up for that deficit. I know a local girl who became a very outstanding college player who told me that she learned a lot observing good players but she said she never learned how to know where to be from just observing. You’ve gotta be there.

 The choice of balance should be weighed in favor of playing time.

Saturday, July 11, 2015.


July 1, 2015 is a red letter day for THE INQUIRER AND VOLLEYBALL! And making it sweeter is the appearance of pictures showing players playing: WOW.

The subject of volleyball is an article about the Pottstown Rumble an outdoor event that according to the article drew 3500 players and 10,000 spectators to the mudded grass grounds of a local park.

This event was begun some 24 years ago and for years was an event known to but a few very enthusiastic volleyball players. It is a grass event and as such can be held away from the beaches and sand where such events have historically been held. Our congratulations to Mr. Kass and his son for creating and managing this now nationally recognized event. It appears that players from all over the USA come to play in this 4 day tournament covering a variety of age groups. Plans are apparently in the works to expand the  tournament  going to other locations close by.

Grass and Beach volleyball are played with a limited number of players on the court and rules are somewhat different for this version of the sport as compared to the indoor game. There are financial rewards for winning your division and there is a commercial vendor interest supporting the overall cost of the operation. It is however a nonprofit venture.

The beach game has been part of the Olympics for several years and recently many of the colleges in the USA have started varsity teams.  It is a happening on the beach and grass being a social event outdoors and enjoying the offerings of vendors during the day.  There are some events that are shown on television. It is a version of volleyball that attracts many players since it is usually you and me on the court against her and her. I believe there are also divisions with 4 players on the court which can be coed.

Now the INQUIRER chose to write about this event and have I missed the article that they wrote about the major volleyball event occurring at the end of March for 3 days and early April for 3 days?  It was called the NEQ and features players from the age of 12 to 18 except for the 13’s and 14’s. It is managed by a York, Pa. company that has run it and other events for numerous years but only recently moving it to Philadelphia from Baltimore when the Convention Center became less expensive to rent. In the future all age groups could be included.

This event attracted about 700 teams with each team having a roster of 9 or more but not including the number of coaches, parents and others who attended. A guestimate indicated that each team had a following of 20 people or more As a three day event this means that those distant to Philadelphia used the local motels and hotels while here. All who showed used the restaurants and other city facilities.

Does this event bring money to the city? Does the City Department of Tourism care about this event?

Does the INQUIRER?

MY 50 PLUS DAYS - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I play volleyball. I play volleyball all the time. I am 15, a girl in high school and love volleyball. I Learned in New Orleans from a coach there that there are over 430,000 high school girls that play volleyball in the USA. I play club and love club. Wonder how many of the high school girls play club ball? I am not on the best club team for my age group. But I was asked to be part of a team that went to the JO’s this past year. They had some regulars who could not go and I was asked: I was thrilled.

I have a few more than 50 days between the end of the trip to New Orleans and the start of my high school practices. Last year I was involved with my volleyball passion for 311 days and if I continue I will spend another 311 days from August 17th or 18th of 2015 until the end of JO’s next July 2016 if I go again.

Now I have got to figure how to use those 50 plus days between the end of one season and the beginning of another. Mom says the family is going to the shore for 7 days and I must be with them (School holiday I had a tournament and the family was planning on travelling but I could not go.                                            They left me with Grandpa which was cool but Mom was chilly about me staying home for volleyball)).I guess I might find a beach clinic or competition that I could join. Yeah, beach volleyball has a lot of clinics, camps and instructional activity this year. Wonder if Dad will pay that charge as New Orleans was a little expensive?  And now my sister is playing lacrosse all the time so, share and share!

 Okay but I was hoping to go to a camp that would help me move from the  lower  talented club team to the better talented club team as I want to get a scholarship for college but  that will be tough unless I play up in club. In high school I am going to make varsity I know because the school lost a lot of players last year and I am one of the better club players that will be in attendance so I think I have got that covered, But high school ball will not bring me a college scholarship. That speaker in New Orleans said that only about 3% of high school athletes play collegiate sports.

So Beach? Or camp skills?  I am going to check out the web sites for clubs and see where I might find the best experience. I have a hitch habit in my attack arm that I cannot seem to break and it causes me to not be as effective a hitter as I need to be. I was hoping that a clinic or private lessons would get me out of that habit.  Oh, I forgot that the high school coach is running a camp just for our school so I must attend that or there will be no varsity for me.

WOW, between all the clubs and some college  camps I can go to camp or attend a clinic nearly every one of those 50 plus (oh, yeah 7 days with family and 5 days for the coach’s camp) so it is now only about 38 plus days.

I know that Dad will not pay for my doing volleyball for all those days. Now what?

CLUB VOLLEYBALL LITE? - Thursday, June 11, 2015

MYSTIQUE VOLLEYBALL CLUB has a significantly different approach to club volleyball than most of the other clubs in the Greater Philadelphia area. Their season lasts just 4 months and they play a schedule that is only 5 or 6 tournaments a year unless the teams decide to seek more competition.  They may compete in the multi day tournaments but I was not able to view the tournament schedule on their web site. This past season they had just 6 teams ranging from 12’s to a 17/18’s team. Many of their coaches are current college coaches. I do not l know what they charge players to be team members.

They approach the program with the goal of teaching young women the mechanics of the game and the multiple lessons to be learned playing a sport as part of a team. What I suspect is that the total cost for the families is substantially lower than clubs with more extensive competitive schedules. How are they doing? I think the answer to that is what is your goal and are they reaching their goal. And are the two goals the same?

I do not know a player on any of the rosters shown for this past season. I do not know a parent who has had a daughter in their program. They seem to have a lot of players’ year in and year out that find the program to their liking. I note from the rosters that many of the girls come from schools that have a history of good volleyball teams.

Is there a place for more programs similar if not identical to Mystique? Now the traditional club teams are noting the number of college financial assistance awards that have come to their team players. (Checking with many of the girls in the past who have received awards there are awards and then there are “awards”). You need to discover if the player is scheduled to receive assistance financially or is a “walk on” which allows the player to receive all the benefits of the others on the team but does NOT receive any financial aid. Every school has a limited number who receive financial aid and most scholarships are NOT guaranteed for 4 years.

 Is this the reason your daughter is playing volleyball? What are the odds given that the press says there is one scholarship (?) for every 300 players?  Or would she be better served learning the game allowing her to compete for the high school team and perhaps for a college club team should she chose not to go for broader competitive situations?

SUPER CRUNCHERS is a book I am listening to currently. It is the review of the impact that all the data collections which have undergone extensive testing to determine experience based results have on personal and policy decisions.  One of their studies evaluates personal opinions and discovers that humans tend to be overly optimistic in their expectations and tend to discount the data established evaluation (Global warming?). Coaches see this every day from parents. We all believe our children are special and they are but not always on the volleyball court.

Could volleyball LITE be for your daughter? Please understand that LITE refers to time commitments and costs with   experienced coaching instruction.  MYSTIQUE has 5 college coaches, a high school head coach of many years and 3 other coaches who had extensive high school and college playing experience.  That is a lot of coaching experience to manage just 6 teams. A number of years ago I had a player who received an invitation to attend a USA summer camp program which was an honor given that it was limited to a few players nationwide and expensive. I asked Russ Rose if he thought it was worth while spending the money for that. He replied that if the coaching is not strong and experienced then “NO” stay home.

Please understand I am not suggesting that other clubs do not offer experienced coaching abilities. I am suggesting that perhaps your daughter can obtain excellent instruction and experience at more modest cost.

Roger Dietz

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DEJA VOUS (all over again?) - Sunday, April 5, 2015

NOT LIKELY.       

They were all there well maybe one was missing but the others were there. Back then I said they were alike bright, personable, athletic, competitive, long hair and braces and freshman completing their first year of varsity volleyball on their high school team.

Now they are seniors. Much has changed and yet much is still the same. The hair is long, they are fully grown women,, they compete constantly, they still err but now know that comes from trying and is an opportunity, they  all are on their way to college  and in nearly every case getting some financial aid  to play volleyball.  Yes, they share common traits but they are definitely their own person with their own wishes, wants and goals.

On October 9, 2011 I wrote about these young volleyball players and this past week end at the NEQ for the 18’s here in Philadelphia I saw many of them playing, talking and enjoying the camaraderie of their team mates, parents and other friends. Yes, the parents the continuing presence: cheering, wincing and filled with pride as they assemble together as they have done for the last 4 years in club and at their high schools.

It has been a special time for many. It will long be remembered with all the changes that have happened in that time period in our sport, in our attitudes and in our composition. Clubs come and go, we usta do it this way and now we do it this way, different and hopefully better but maybe some more tweaking is called for making sure that the progress is evenly shared.

I would hope that these young women will make their opinions known about their experience. Let us old folk know what you think can be done better for the game, for the players, and for the community. Frankly we need your insights and help.

In that article I closed by quoting the poet: “YOUR REACH SHOULD EXCEED YOUR GRASP…” Watch these reachers. We did. You did. We wish you well but will miss you.









Sunday, April 05, 2015



CAN I TRUST THIS CLUB? - Tuesday, October 6, 2015

     This week on two occasions in conversation with young players they told me that they had heard through their girl’s network that some clubs had already filled the roster in some age groups or that a major part of the roster was filled.

Now is this real and true or is it just a continuation of the doubts that exist about pre-established team rosters? I have heard this complaint almost every year in the 15 years that I have been involved in club volleyball.  Do I know that it happened in the past? Yes, I do know that absolutely.

Is it fair then to charge a player to participate in a tryout when they have no idea if the roster is open or that it is open for the position that they wish to fill?  Clubs might claim that they have more than one team in the age group but that is just avoiding the circumstances when players are seeking the highest level.

Can the club be open about such situations? I don’t know given the rules that KRVA has established but it would-be at least fair to do so.

Recruiting could be so much more open if it was PERMITTED. College rules allow for recruiting but limit the times and situations so why cannot that be true for our clubs?

 I am told that each region sets their own rules so it could be changed.

The suspicion that such favoritism exists tears at the fabric of club’s fair treatment of each player regardless of their skill packages. It raises the question of each club’s integrity.

Roger Dietz


October 5, 2015

TEN THOUSAND IS THE NUMBER - Saturday, September 12, 2015

 Big Data crunchers have investigated nearly every conceivable establish data sets. The one noted with the above headline is that special or especially capable athletes are found to have practiced 10,000 hours. That is they did that before theybecame paid athletes or before they left the college scene. I repeat a statement made to me by someone in the distant past that “YOU are not a good volleyball player until you have made 10,000 mistakes.” The point of this last piece of data is that must spend a lot of time in the uncomfortable portion of your skill package: can’t dig?, hours of digging and correcting; can’t put the ball down?, hours spent doing attack runs tilting the shoulders to get that extra torque, etc., etc.

But it takes time. Today Radnor had a tough match with Garnet Valley who are continuing to show improved competitive strength but Radnor is spending time and effort with fundamentals to improve so the start at nearly little experience andadding to that requires, you got it TIME. They lost in three 25/13, 25/10 and 25/5. Lower Merion was showing great promise these last few years but now is working with less experience and trying hard but against some experience it just requires hanging on and keeping your enthusiasm high. Lower Merion has the enthusiasm and the coaching that will soon begin to show. Conestoga won in 3 25/21, 25/16 and 25/12.Olivia Scheppell lead the attack parade with 13 kills.  Lea Coogan had 8 aces and Laryssa Terleckyj 11 digs.    Coach Felker said that they came to play and did better with their now smooth functioning middle attacks attached to their established defensive combinations.

Roger DietzFriday, September 11, 2015

Scrimmages 2014 - Saturday, August 16, 2014







10 AM





















































































3 PM


What a difference next day is. - Saturday, September 12, 2015

After the first two matches seen this season with uneven performance from theirinexperienced players  I watched an evenly matched pair of teams, Merion Mercy and Villa Maria.  Both teams have players that have played club and high school fortheir respective schools for several years. It showed. They played well against each other and provided a defensive masterpiece with long rallies, great athletic gets and an ability to keep the ball in play regardless of what seemed to be impossible. Merion Mercy gym unfortunately has a low ceiling for volleyball and players need to carefully watch balls as the jump off the steel girders .No one was fooled for long as teams are accustomed when digging errant balls after the second touch to make it high and long: Whoops too high; No they got it; wow!  A rally in the second game after the ball had come off the ceiling dropped straight down but the player erred hitting toward her baseline but Kaleigh Oates racing backward  reach out andusing an over the shoulder motion  put a roll shot over the net for a point: SPECTACULAR.But such actions of determination were exhibited by both teams during the 4 sets played. Oates and Carly Ostrowski joined later in the match by Erin Zimmerman were the offensive producers aided by the consistent setting of Alaina Acchione forVilla while Merion Mercy depended greatly on the all-around, 6 rotation players of Allison Stranick and Makenna Hallager.It is an understatement to say that the defensive skills of both teams were on top of their game tonight. Many long rallies, using quick hands and feet kept balls that were out of bounds returned to the court for final finishing.

It was more like a District final than the second or third game of the season for both teams.Congratulations to both coaches for having your players ready to go, trained and determined. Oh, yes Villa won in 4 with scores of 25/19;25/17;24/26 and 25/20.Roger Dietz                

Thursday, September 10, 2015

EARLY MATCHES - It’s only just begun - Thursday, September 10, 2015

Watching the Upper Merion and the Horsham-Hatboro match Tuesday and followed by the Penncrest Rustin match today it was an obvious observation: Lots of new comers on the court. UM and HH lost nearly their entire starting teams and Rustin seems to have filled their needs with underclassmen. Only Penncrest had numerous returnees.

All four teams seemed to find ways to err and they were successful. I observed any number of out balls that were returned to play even though I heard (for me that is saying something) a player call”OUT.”

The worst was to see balls not played because player 1 thought it should be player 2’s ball and so watched as player ‘2” failed to get there in time. Along rally won by a team that was finally able to get a side out and the player faults the serve.  Setter’s setting 1 ball that is not set at a height that is above the net and so on and on. THE CHANT “She’s a freshmen” takes on a different meaning.

Now in all full disclosure some of these freshmen bring a lot of athletic ability to the court. Some are polished in some skills and lacking in others but perhaps they never had to learn the others in their previous competitive teams.  Every young person in my experience wants to hit and attack and yet so many balls are returned free to the opponent sort of saying”OK, your turn”. RICH Johnson had a mumbled remark AAA:

ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!” That may not be the philosophy of all coaches but it is the one that reminds the player that giving up the ball without challenging the opponent is a sure way to lose. Rustin struggled to hit balls from behind the line and get them into play. Rustin blocked well and had some very powerful attacks from Maya Johnson and Emma Nelson.

The Head Coach at Penncrest, Jen Schrader Carney said that she thinks It went to 5 because her team won the first so easily and that their previous matches with Rustin had not been very challenging and so the team of veterans relaxed. Whoops, now we are in 5 and it is tied at 13 all. Penncrest won with a huge sigh of relief. I saw Penncrest in a scrimmage several weeks ago and admired how well the team played together. This was my first exposure to the NEW RUSTIN and they must not be taken lightly.


Roger Dietz


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

2015 INQUIRER DISTRICT 1 REVIEW - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The week beginning August 17th saw 81 school gyms flooded with the players beginning the preseason practice sessions and bringing with them the high hopes for the coming season. Sophomores anxiously hoped they would make varsity and juniors and seniors were looking around deciding what positions are probably filled now by the coach and what positions are open. A few freshmen having established their “creds” during the club season are nervously hoping coach will tap them for the potential of a 4 year experience on the varsity. The coaches are observing the multitude and looking to see what the players are doing, talking, stretching and setting to themselves or against the wall.  Their activity is often a good clue as to their commitment.

These 81 schools have formed 10 leagues with permanent membership and rules governing their schedules in addition to those imposed by the PIAA. Some leagues have a history of strong competition within their league and other leagues struggle to have more than one or two teams reach a winning record for the season. A look at the history of the State Championships these past four years shows Suburban-One American providing a repeating team in all of those 4; Chesmont –National placing two teams in three of the events and two other teams in different years; the Catholic League has had three different teams with one of them appearing 3 separate times; Central League providing two different teams with one appearing twice; Pac Ten had one team attend three times and the AACA two teams participating. Consistent and strong competition within the leagues seems to be the key to raising the goals toward seeking more wins and then win in the District playoffs. One other factor shows that the long tenure of the coach and their coaching experience leads to attracting talent and greater player commitment.

But beware there are school teams that begin to build and attract more athletically capable players to challenge the status quo.  This past season saw Pennridge as the top team going into the District playoffs and Great Valley, Henderson, Lower Merion and Plymouth Whitemarsh have shown significant improvement in their records these past two years. Garnet Valley is another school that rose from a mediocre record and over the last 4 or 5 years has become very capable with this past year winning their league over the usually dominant Strath Haven High school team.

Here are some observations on teams league by league to obtain some insight into their rosters and goals perhaps giving us a hint of whom maybe in the 2015 State Championships

Ches-Mont American - last year Unionville was number one in the league followed closely by Great Valley.  Unionville has a new coach which can be unsettling until returning players accommodate the new change.. Great Valley lost just one starter and with so many returnees will be seeking to be the league winner.

Ches-Mont National - has seen Bishop Shanahan create a history of winning the league but fell to Downingtown East these last two years.  Shanahan appears to be the best choice to win this year. Downingtown East and West have challenged year in and year out  for the first spot and will again with West appearing to be the leader this year with East having lost their dominating player – Lauren Mueller to graduation.

Suburban One Continental - Pennridge won the top spot last year after a strong challenge from Central Bucks East and South with East taking the second spot. East returns many of last year’s starters and a group of seniors and freshmen who will be fighting for starting roles.

Suburban One American - has been led by Upper Merion for many years but the departure of 5 seniors of whom 3 were 3 year starters created a lot of open positions for this year’s team. Horsham-Hatboro was a strong competitor last year but has suffered key losses to graduation. Plymouth Whitemarsh continues to field stronger competitive teams and maybe expected to do so again this season.

Suburban One National - has experienced a variety of leaders in first place but none have repeated consistently.  Pennsbury and Council Rock North are offered by others in the league as the likeliest to win the top spot this year.

Central League - saw the emergence of Garnet Valley as the league wining their match against a strong Strath Haven team. Strath Haven returns some hard hitting players this season and may recapture the league championship.  Lower Merion whose volleyball history is modest is on the upswing and will again provide opponents tough competition.

The Catholic League - features all the Catholic schools except those in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.  Cardinal O’Hara won this league many times but lost out to Lansdale these last few years and had a strong challenge from Archbishop Wood this past season. Archbishop Carroll has often conquered this league and appears ready to challenge all comers this season.

The Athletic Association of Catholic Academies - has historically won many State Championships in their classification over the last 10 years. The Mount, Villa Maria, Merion Mercy and St. Basil when not winning the league make strong challenges for their opponents.  This year It would appear the Villa Maria may be the early leader but an experienced and scrappy Merion Mercy will present a very strong s challenge for the title.

PAC 10 - is a small league dominated currently by Pope John Paul the Second and appears unlikely to give up that top spot this season.  The street gossip is that Upper Merion will join this league next year and they bring with them a long and strong history of beating all comers.

Independents is made up of a number of public schools that  joined to play competitively but have recently  accepted a number of schools that were part of the Inter- AC. Notre Dame Academy who would seem to be logically in the  Athletic Association of Catholic Academies  manage to win the top spot year after year. It appears they will repeat again this season.

Del Val League - is a small league and they have not been diligent in reporting scores and other match results so I cannot comment about the league. Academy Park is one of those teams and their coach says they are improved this year and expect better results.


Roger Dietz