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Wednesday, 27 February 2013 07:40

Four vs Four Men's U-21 Volleyball Tournament Series Launches Summer 2013

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Twelve teams representing high schools from all over Las Vegas came to Stupak Recreation Center on January 2 to compete for the title of the first Volleyball Voices Four Man Under-21 Championship Team of 2013.

The four-man tournament's unique format is the creation of Volleyball Voices Head Boot Camp Class Coach April Chapple. 

"It's a great concept to put players with collegiate level experience and high school players on the same court because it allows the younger players to play with a mentor on the court and helps them learn the game faster. In the late 90's I played on the first professional Four Person Tour with stops all over the United States that was featured on ESPN. I tweaked some of the rules and regulations in order to create a similar concept for the male volleyball players here in Vegas."

Each team consists of four or five male players who are or have been on a Vegas high school volleyball squad. Four man rosters must have one high school player on the court while five man rosters have to carry two current high school volleyball players on the team. Teams can have one player over the age of 21 who is allowed to be the team's setter or play exclusively in the back row. Five man teams were allowed to use their fifth player as a substitute for an unlimited number of times. 

Ken Beckham, Community Program Specialist at Stupak Recreation Center gives his perspective on the four vs four format, "I am a big proponent of the four man tournament. When a player is playing in a four man league or tournament they are required to do more things than with a six-man team. In fours, you are required to pass, set, hit, play defense and block. You can not hide your deficiencies in fours. If there is something you can't do, the other team will find it. Four man requires you to play the game and be a volleyball player, not just be a "middle blocker", or a "libero", or a "hitter".

Participants in this and the upcoming four-man tournament events this summer will accumulate points for finishing in one of the top seven spots. 

Volunteer tournament manager Rick McNelis adds, "In a format such as this tournament provides, it gives younger players the opportunity to experience a fairly intense level of competition, while still having an older more experienced player with them to help settle them if they get rattled or excited during game play. The older players get the opportunity to compete, and also the opportunity to experience game situation coaching, and problem solving."

In fact, Ray Lewis, director and coach of Club Extreme played on one of the two teams he entered into the tournament. 

"I was apprehensive about playing with my kids; however, it was a great experience. By playing with your players, it forms a stronger bond and respect among you and your team. The players realized that the things I am trying to teach them-such as defensive awareness, control and intensity--were all parts of my own game, when I play competitively. Also, it allows the players to see that we are imperfect, as is the game of volleyball. My players respected me more after seeing how I came back from an error and many of them told me they would like to implement that mentality in their own game. It's a unique experience to coach and correct players while on their same team. Adjusting from the sidelines is a completely different mindset than being in a competitive situation yourself and making adjustments to your team. I would highly recommend coaches consider playing with their teams in future tournaments."

This summer, tournament teams will be able to enter their own rosters. Once they do, those players must play on the same team for each of the four 2013 summer volleyball tournaments. Individual players on each team will continue to accumulate points which will determine the seedings and rankings for each successive tournament. The next championship tournament is scheduled for January 2, 2014. 

LVHS Boys Varsity Coach Sue Thurman explains the benefits of this style tournament "Playing with your athletes can help the coach to recognize problems that might exist regarding communication, coverage, and decision making. It can also help him or her to recognize and appreciate hustle and hard work. Coaches can also model their expectations for their players. This format also allows player and coach to work together in a different sense.

Rick McNelis offers "This is an outstanding opportunity for coaches to bond with their teams as they play, both together and against other schools. It gives coaches a great chance to evaluate players in a game situation with pressure involved, that is not related to winning state, or a division, or a league. 
It also gives coaches a chance to work with and evaluate some of their younger players who may be getting ready to transition to higher levels within their schools like freshman to junior varsity, junior varsity to varsity. Plus, outside of their school gyms, where else do coaches have the chance to be on the court with their players, as a play happens, and make corrections to show the kids how those changes can make their game play better?".

Coach Lewis agrees "I think this format allows for high level volleyball without having teams of older guys that just dominate their competition. It levels the playing field and creates an equal opportunity for all players to develop. For players, it is a great experience to see some of their upcoming competition and grow from watching experienced players. For us coaches, we get an opportunity to see our players compete before the high school season. It's much easier to build on your team's weaknesses and recognize their strengths after seeing your players in a game situation. Most importantly, the format provides a fun, competitive experience for all players involved." 

To add to the fun, a scavenger hunt for players was introduced during the tournament to keep players entertained when they weren’t playing in the tournament. 

Each hour, players were notified by texts on their mobile phones when the start of the hourly scavenger hunt began which offered players the chance to search for a tournament t-shirt or snap back cap hidden outside of the playing area. 

Another interesting element introduced at the tournament was the selection of the winners for Best Hitter, Best Blocker, Best Defense, Best Setter and Most Valuable Player awards. The winners were selected by the players who voted throughout the day. 

Winners of this year's awards were former LVHS Garrett Jones for Best Hitter, current junior Wildcat Shayne Marquez won Best Setter, Kavanaugh Buck a 6'6" senior from Bonanza High School was voted Best Blocker, the Best Defensive player was another LVHS grad Jonathan Duggan and the players chose Mike Pena LVHS assistant volleyball coach as the Most Valuable Player. 

With a twelve team tournament, pool play matches were played one game to 25 with a cap at 27. Play was very competitive in both pools as teams vied for a favorable playoff spot.

"When you know you have to go hard for 25 points in a row you play alot more aggressively than when you have two or more sets to win a match " says April Chapple.

"This type of format definitely raises the excitement level for the fans and the players. Pool play in the earlier stages gives everyone a chance to evaluate the competition, and an open tournament bracket gives everyone an opportunity to advance, no matter how they played earlier in the tournament."

The New Year's tournament is the first of five scheduled for 2013. The series will continue this summer with two more tournaments held June 22 and 29 and two on July on 20 and 27. All tournaments will take place at the Stupak Recreation Center. 

2012 Four-Man Final Team Standings

1st Team Flat Tires
2nd Team VXV I
3rd Team Real Vegas
4th Team Foothill

5th
Team Awesome
Team Don't Hit At Mike
Team Unicorns
Team Bonanza Cats

9th
Team Rattlers
Team VXV II
Team Money
Team Turn It Up