Interview with Dave Weitl, The JVDA's Newest Board Member
by Rick Capone
Dave Weitl is the Club Director and one of the three founders of the Washington Volleyball Academy (WVBA), along with Raynani Reinhardt and Diane Flick. Founded in 1998, the WVBA was established to provide advanced technical training to young student-athletes thereby enabling them to excel and compete successfully at the interscholastic, regional and/or national level of youth volleyball.
Weitl has been involved with youth volleyball for 15 years total. He worked with two different clubs when he first became involved with the sport, before venturing out to establish the WVBA. The club currently has seven teams in five different age groups, and has 16 coaches guiding the athletes.
Weitl, who recently accepted a position on the JVDA Board of Directors, sat down with VolleyBiz to discuss the JVDA and junior volleyball in the United States.
VolleyBiz: Your club is located all the way out in the state of Washington. Why did you decide to serve on the JVDA Board of Directors?
Dave Weitl: The first reason is probably just to have an opportunity to have a voice in the future of junior volleyball. I think the JVDA needed someone in the northwest and the northwest needed someone with the JVDA. What prompted me to have an interest to begin with was some of the actions of the founding board members. There were a lot of complaints over the years about not getting representation at the national level. Junior volleyball was obviously pretty important to the national governing body, but it didn't always seem like the decisions that they made and some of their actions in Colorado Springs were in the interest of junior volleyball. Then the group that founded the JVDA decided to take some actions and those actions were inspiring to a lot of people and very inspiring to me.
VBiz: What most excites you about the JVDA mission?
DW: For the 15 years I have been involved in junior volleyball we had no real leadership out of our national office. The JVDA represents an opportunity to really grow the sport. Also, we can share best practices and improve our professionalism amongst the junior community and all the clubs that are members. Most importantly we can lobby for policies that are good for the junior community at all levels whether it is at the USAV, other bodies, high school and college. The junior community has a lot of interests that aren't being represented and don't really have a voice, yet we are a pretty large group of people that are paying a lot of money to play volleyball. That's what excites me most about the JVDA. It's the first time in the 15 years I have been involved that junior volleyball really has a voice.
VBiz: There are those who think the JVDA is anti-USA Volleyball. How do you answer that criticism?
DW: Well, USAV is about winning medals at Olympic Games. Juniors can't be their main priority. Their main priority has to be winning medals at Olympics. Therefore, USAV will not always necessarily respond to the needs of juniors. The AVCA is a good example. I think it was founded when the college coaches didn't feel like they were getting a lot of voice with decisions the NCAA might have been making. So far USAV has not responded well to some of the ideas brought forward by some of the leading clubs in the junior community. In many ways it prompted the creation of the JVDA. I think the JVDA is not anti-USAV, but it's going to strongly lobby USAV, which will be beneficial to its members who are juniors.
VBiz: Your club played in Qualifiers last year and sent several teams to JO's, as did several others on the JVDA Board of Directors. Isn't that problematic within the organization?
DW: Well, some of the directions of the JVDA decided to pull out of the JO Qualifying process entirely. Others have not. The actions of the members and/or the board members that did pull out, considering these clubs had won a lot of medals every year at JO's, spoke loudly to a lot of people involved in juniors, including myself. The message they sent demonstrated how seriously they believe in changes and what is needed at the national office of USAV. In many ways their actions inspired other people to get involved. I respect their decisions and admire the commitment they stand for in making those decisions, but it's not necessarily the best thing to do for every club in the country. However, for those clubs it works for it speaks loudly. It has not really caused a problem within the Board, but I think the public at large probably created a controversy when there wasn't really any.
VBiz: What is JVDA's relationship to the USAV regions?
DW: Every one of the 40 regions is a little bit different. Some regions have good representation of juniors in their governance. Others do not. One of the goals of JVDA is to represent all juniors at all levels. It might give us a chance to improve conditions for our members. As far as I know, most USAV regions are supported by the dollars coming from families of junior players. Policies at the regional level need to respect this important part of their membership. Each region needs to take it upon themselves to be proportionally represented by all the members that are important to that region. So some regions may have a higher percentage of junior members, but, generally speaking, most regions are made up of predominantly junior members. We believe junior membership should have the predominant voice in all the regions. That is not the case under the current structure. So, each of the 40 regions and its members in that area need to really look at how to make changes within their regions to, hopefully, get a better voice for junior volleyball.
VBiz: How does the JVDA intend to grow into a national association?
DW: The first step is to clearly state what the goals of the organization are. It's a young organization and it did not start out with many clubs. But, the clubs that started the JVDA were traditionally many of the strongest clubs in the country. The message that needs to get out is what is the JVDA about and how can a member benefit. There are three main areas that we are focused on. First is growing the game of volleyball. Second is to become a voice and advocate for the membership involved with junior volleyball. Third is to promote best practices and professionalize how we run our clubs. Those three areas are beneficial to all clubs in the country.
One of the things we are going to start right away is to share some of the newer programs that have been developed to some of the member clubs. Mainly to establish programs for young volleyball players, players as young as four years old. Essentially they are modifications to the game - how's it's taught and played, which allows success for kids as young as four-years old. A couple of the clubs are going to get involved in this with a tour and visit different clubs and bring the younger game to different clubs. They are going to bring some equipment and some drills to share what we have been working on so we can get it more and more popular across the country. Next, we are going to start making some services available, such as best practices and good business models, and share how the more successful clubs structure their business, train their coaches, how they acquire public or private facilities. One of the things that can be a limiting factor on how much we can grow the game of volleyball is access to facilities to play the game.
In all the years I have been involved in club volleyball, I have not seen USAV add a single court. The courts that have been added in private facilities have been added by private clubs. If we want to add capacity to make the game more available to more people, we probably need more courts. Who is adding courts? Private clubs. By sharing some of the ways in which clubs have successfully added courts and built private facilities is another area we can help our membership. The most important thing is to continue to speak on behalf of junior volleyball.
VBiz: Is there anything you would like to see accomplished while you're on the board?
DW: Yes, what I would like to see accomplished is the JVDA represent nearly all clubs, if not all clubs, in the country. There is sorely lacking a voice for junior volleyball and this is an avenue and opportunity for junior volleyball to speak with one voice and help get the conditions that we operate under more favorable to our sport. I would like to see our membership grow from 4,000 teams out of the 20,000+ teams in the country. I would like to see us represent 10,000 teams within as early as a year. And perhaps 15,000 teams by two to three years.
VBiz: Your talking about total teams compared to total clubs?
DW: Right now we don't represent many clubs, but many of the clubs we represent are pretty large. We need to represent a good percentage of the teams that are out there. A lot of clubs have a small number of teams. But, that is where we might offer the best support in terms of best practices, technology and coach training. Plus, we can provide a lot services to the smaller clubs that, right now, are really looking for support. We can be a great place for them to find that support. Especially being part of the AVCA and all the coach support services that organization provides. We just have to get the message out and make sure everyone understands what we are about. It's not just about one battle with USAV over qualifiers. It's about getting a voice in junior volleyball on all issues about junior volleyball.