Lindsey Devine has gotten a good taste of youth volleyball with an international flavor this summer.
East Tennessee State’s head coach just returned from working with a USA Volleyball national team of girls ages 14-16, helping in the selection process at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and then traveling to Italy and Croatia for competition. She was impressed by most everything she saw along the way.
“It was a great experience, both culturally and from the perspective of coaching players at that level of competition,” said Devine. “The international game is a lot different, and I don’t think young players in the U.S., unless they play on these national teams, understand how fast the game is, how fundamentally strong it is.
“This was really an eye-opening experience for a lot of people.”
Twenty-five players from around the country were invited to Colorado Springs for tryouts, and 12 were ultimately chosen — five from California — for the national team, which would compete at two international tournaments. The first was the European Global Challenge in Croatia, where Devine was involved, and the second is a NORCECA event next month in Mexico.
Devine was an assistant to former Ohio State coach Jim Stone, who is revered in the volleyball business for his success at all levels of competition.
“He’s a very gifted coach,” said Devine, “and since he finished up at Ohio State, he’s been on many world championship teams at various levels. To be able to get our players to buy into a system in such a short time takes a great gift. He’s just really passionate about volleyball.”
The U.S. team flew into Venice for five days of training in Italy in early July before heading to Pula, Croatia, for the Global Challenge. They played eight tournament matches there and finished fourth in a 12-team field.
Russia ran through the field unde feated, beating Slovenia in the final.
The trip began on an ominous note for the Americans.
“We flew in and were expected to play our first match that night against the Italian youth national team,” said Devine. “They had been practicing for two to four weeks already. We’re tired and hadn’t even come together as a team yet. Most of these girls had seen each other across the net in club matches but never played as a unit — and it was evident.”
Devine said her group was treated royally during its stay in Italy.
“They did a fantastic job of hosting,” she said, “and a great job of advertising and promoting the events. With the U.S. coming to play, that was a big deal to them.”
Devine hopes to translate some of her experience abroad into her program at ETSU.
“I believe we’re doing what we need to do here,” she said, “but now I can see even better how much benefit it is if you’re an aggressive serving team that is able to pass the ball and get first kills. We have to make sure that in practice situations we’re working on those skills over and over.”
Devine’s players will report to camp to begin preparations for a new season on Aug. 7.
“I’m totally motivated,” she said.