Keys to a Successful International Trip for Junior Volleyball Clubs

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2013 A5 China Thoughts and RuminationsBy Bob Westbrook, Club Director of A5 Volleyball Club

This is a follow up to summary of Part I posted on December 4th. During the Thanksgiving Break, JVA member A5 Volleyball Club (Atlanta, GA) traveled to China on a volleyball tour with a team of high school players and club coaching and administrative staff. Here is a summary of how the trip came about and some keys to organizing a successful international trip for your juniors' club.

Initially after first speaking with Jing Hou about wanting to do this trip, he hooked us up with Sandy Vong who originally started the Michigan VB program and is currently associated with the AVCA. Sandy got us off on the correct foot helping us ask the right questions and providing many answers and insights as we began our preparation.

Those conversations led us to Chris Chen who ended up being a pivotal resource as our in country group leader and facilitator. He worked tirelessly on our behalf, going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure all of competitions were arranged as well as arranging all of our cultural explorations as well. Without his assistance with local leadership and logistics we would have not come close to achieving the kind of experience we ended up having. Jing Hou also contributed enormously both before and during the trip.

The other critical factor for the success of our trip was the A5 organization itself. Denise Templeton and Denise Corrigan did all of our pre trip prep and made as many of our travel reservations as possible. They literally spent hours on the phone with folks in China, Chris Chen, Sandy Vong as well countless other key players.

In summary, from my perspective, the keys to successfully pulling off a trip like this are as follows.

1. Pre Trip Preparation. Make sure and give your self enough time to do this.

  1. Strong internal leadership. In our case that was Denise Templeton and Denise Corrigan. They spent countless hours in preparation making as many of the logistical reservations as possible prior to our departure
  2. External facilitator with knowledge of the country and what challenges your group will face. For us this was Sandy Vong
  3. In country facilitator and group leader. This was Chris Chen. He made everything possible on site. This was also Jing Hou as he is so well known there as player and coach. Between him and Chris Chen they knew everyone we needed to know and worked tirelessly on behalf of the group.
  4. Strong, organized group leader from your organization. This was Denise Templeton for our group. She was simply amazing.
  5. Flexibility on Site. Even with strong planning there will be changes in the schedule and itinerary. For instance traffic in Bejing and Shanghai was a factor everywhere we went. Thus we had to take that in account when we were travelling trying to stay on schedule. Preparation helped us be confident and relaxed but we still had to recognize there were going to be many daily changes we would have to absorb in order to accomplish our goals.
  6. A well defined vision of what you want out of the trip is critical. Focused and insightful goals are equally essential for an undertaking of the magnitude.

The A5 athletes that made the trip were not just from one team. Rather, the China team was comprised of athletes from 5 different teams and three different age groups from within A5. We certainly would have loved to take a single team, as the jump they would have made would have been really significant. It was just not possible to make that happen in the time frame we had to work with. Perhaps we could have started even earlier and raised money for a specific team but that was just not possible this year. We will continue to work towards taking a single team but, in retrospect, we also see that the cross section of athletes we took will help us spread the experience throughout multiple age groups and teams.

From a pure volleyball point of view the experience had and will have an enormous impact on our athletes and club.

Personally I learned so much. Some of it was affirmation as much of what they taught is what we currently teach. Arm swing, setting, and passing was very similar technically. Serving was a little different. We also got to work on blocking some, which is always something I feel we need to understand better.

There were drills to write down for sure. That actually just left me wanting more though. There was nothing dramatically different. Just a ton of good progressions and repetition driven drills that were dynamic and impactful. I would love to go back and just train as a coach for a couple of weeks or even more if possible. It is certainly my intent to either go early or stay late the next time we go in order to stretch and grow even more as a coach.

Please feel free to call or email me if you would like to speak more directly about the experience and what it might take for your organization to make this journey of discovery and growth both on and off the court.

My cell is 706-244-9373. My email is or

Thanks for your time and attention to this discussion.

Please let me know how I can be of assistance.


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