Monday, March 23, 2009

Survey Says: At Least 22 People Probably Won't Agree with Our Decision

To cover 12s, 13s and 14s or not to cover 12s, 13s, and 14s, that was the question. And cutting right to the chase, our answer is, well, we've decided not to. At least not the way we typically try to cover other age levels.

Please hear us out.

We appreciate everyone's participation in our poll. Truly. And it was clearly as split a decision as you'll find outside of a Minnesota or Florida political election. But two things happened while the poll was in progress that weighed heavily in our decision:
  1. We attended a lower age level tournament
  2. We found a long-forgotten piece of paper in a memorabilia drawer.
Let's start with the tournament. It wasn't the best volleyball we've ever seen. Third balls were perhaps bumped over the net a little more than they probably could have been and many serves failed to find the opposing team's court.

But it wasn't the worst, either. Many of the players were clearly gifted and deserving of recognition. In fact, it was easy enough to fast-forward one's mind to the day when some of these kids would be running picture-perfect slides and digging everything in sight. The left side on one particular team, for example, stood out as a potential star.

Our heart just tells us that the recognition that left-side deserves at this point in his or her career should come primarily from parents, grandparents, friends, coaches and teammates. Not a blog.

Especially when we also consider that long-forgotten piece of paper. On it were scribbled the end-of-season reflections of a 12-and-under team from several millennia ago. Ironically, their favorite memories weren't winning a big tournament or some incredible come-from-behind performance. They were of one kid doing a funny imitation of another at a mid-season party. Or someone else trying not to laugh with her mouth full at a restaurant after a big tournament.

So is it all about "just having fun" when it comes to these younger age levels? Absolutely not. Skills are being developed. Responsibilities are being shared. Life situations are being lived through. In fact, the team we're referring to was quite competitive at the time and its roster included several who would go on to become all-staters and full-ride student-athletes. But in fifth, sixth and seventh grade, they weren't thinking about all that. And we're glad. They were first and foremost just kids who were enjoying the good things that come with being on a team. And in our opinion, it wouldn't have helped them to have seen too much written about them too soon.

On the other hand, the reality is that Wisconsin has some of the top 12s, 13s and 14s teams in the nation. We really do. We have some amazing younger players who've already accomplished much. As a state, we really should be proud and excited about the future of the sport.

And with that in mind, we've decided to provide occasional links (minus any commentary) to information that's already available online elsewhere (like results from the recently completed Badger Region Championships for 12s, 13s and 14s). We're also starting a new label called "Younger Age Level Links of Interest" that should help anyone who's interested find those links.

We know it's not much, but it's our small attempt at compromise on this subject.

One last thing: Instead of sending us comments about whether we've made the right or wrong decision about this, we'd prefer to have our readers answer this question: What do you like most about the experience of attending a 12s, 13s or 14s tournament?

Please submit your thoughts as an anonymous comment to this post without including any names or other information that we'll feel the need to edit before publishing.



Anonymous said...

My favorite memories of 12s, 13s and 14s is all about the wonder of athletes of this age being able to perform this particular skill set. We all know that volleyball is a game full of mistakes and to watch young athletes constantly trying to improve upon the previous contact is really inspirational. As I look back now (after aging 3 athletes throught the sport) it is truly refreshing to watch the younger age groups playing for the sheer joy of the game and the companionship of their teammates. The fancy hair accessories and matching long socks and yes even the team cheers after kills or aces :) I also remember hearing our DDs awed observation of the older girls at qualifiers and such -- "can you believe they were our age once? Do you think we'll ever be able to play like them?"

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about not covering the younger age groups. That would be too much time chasing them around when you could spend that extra time on the older girls.

Anonymous said...

My favorite memories of 12s, 13s, and 14s was my daughter's team climbing into the bed of my pickup truck and getting their picture taken with the biggest smiles on their faces. This was after they lost a championship. I was one who originally voted for coverage of the lower age groups but after reading your comments I agree, it should be about the fun at that age.