Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bigger than the Building: The Upward Star Center Aims To Play With Purpose

As Upward Stars enters our third year partnering with Junior Volleyball Association, it has become evident that the organization's expertise is crucial in reaching young athletes across the country. They continue to show a strong commitment to working with Upward Stars club directors nationwide and truly trust the vision of each club director to help benefit and grow the sport at the local level.

On Saturday, Sept. 27 the Upward Star Center opened its doors to the local community.  The multi-sport, indoor-outdoor complex sits on 60 acres in Spartanburg, SC.  On the outside lie two state-of-the-art turf fields, four natural grass fields, and four lighted sand volleyball courts.  

The 120,000 square foot indoor facility houses six full-sized basketball courts (that can be transformed into 12 short courts), 12 regulation indoor volleyball courts, six meeting rooms, four pro-style batting cages, a running track, rock wall, café, strength and conditioning area with trainers, a retail shop as well as a full-sized orthopedic and rehabilitation center.


We often get asked, “What’s the need for such a facility?”

In today’s sports culture, a lot of organizations sacrifice the long-term benefit of athletes in exchange for short-term gain.  The result of such neglect is 70% of young athletes quitting sports by the age of 13.  We want to stop this trend and help reclaim the landscape of youth sports for the benefit of our young athletes.

The Upward Star Center was built to serve these three purposes:
  1. Train New and Existing Leaders – Invest and develop mission-aligned leaders and coaches with and athlete-focused philosophy. 
  2. Use as a “Living Laboratory” – Develop and improve new sports offerings that focus on an athlete’s long-term development. 
  3. Support Upward Sports’ Exclusive 360 Progression Program – Offer recreation, developmental, and performance programs as well as tournaments with the primary goal of developing the total athlete.
Playing With Purpose – Upward Sports’ 360 Progression™

The Upward Star Center is one of the premier sports destinations in the southeast.  As proud as this fact makes us, the real mission and excitement is being able to help build total athletes. The term “total athletes” is used to describe our exclusive 360 Progression program which is the blueprint to help young athletes grow in four key areas – Mentally, Athletically, Spiritually, and Socially.

Upward Stars has dedicated coaches, staff, and community members who share in the mission to guide players through the stages of game discovery, skill development, and peak performance while fostering the growth of personal character through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Now, one of the critical issues that arose recently is that players are leaving leagues, a lot of times even quitting sports entirely by the age of 13 which decreases the time they can be impacted through the 360 Progression. There is clear evidence that if young athletes aren’t around qualified coaches and in a competitive atmosphere, parents are willing to move their child out of athletic programs.

While the Upward Star Center is a new and crucial piece in reaching these athletes, Upward Sports also has an existing Volleyball Center ten miles away which houses seven additional volleyball courts and has an expansion in the works.  As it stands, the 19 courts these two facilities have combined make them one of the largest volleyball complexes in the country! The ability to have access to such venues ensures athletes and their families have a place that can provide the competitive environment they wish to be a part of. 

Following the vision of creating a higher-level sports environment, volleyball was instituted as an Upward Stars program. Upward Stars differentiates itself by allowing players to be a part of a “club” atmosphere.  It is here that they are led by certified coaches, receive individual instruction, and play against high-level competition to ensure they are reaching their full potential.
Upward Stars already has terrific clubs and young athletes within its programs who are seeing results.  Under the guidance of Corey Helle, the Upward Stars Volleyball Club Upstate was recently ranked the #1 club in the state of South Carolina.  Helle, who spent 17 years as a college coach including the last 11 as the head coach at Wofford College, retired from the college ranks to be the full-time club director in 2012.  This year the club anticipates having 40 travel teams and another 200 players go through their developmental academies.


There are many experienced and passionate coaches within the Upward Stars programs like Helle.  The knowledge gained from working or playing at the top levels lends them to be excellent teachers of their sport and help their young athletes perform at a high level.

The Future of the Upward Star Center

Since introducing volleyball in 2012, participation numbers have continued to rise, and the ability to impact young athletes’ lives has grown along with them:
  • In 2013 – 600 club athletes participated in Upward Stars programs along with six additional tournaments that when combined, totaled 1,705 players for the year.
  • In 2014 – 750 club athletes participated in Upward Stars programs along with ten tournaments that when combined, totaled 3,442 players reached for the year.
  • In 2015 – Over 14,000 participants will be reached by Upward Stars Programs and events, including:
o   Hosting 8 SAVL tournaments, local high school and middle school tournaments, 13 indoor and outdoor events including sand, grass, and developmental tournaments, a national recruiting showcase for aspiring college players, and numerous coaching clinics.
o   The Upward Star Center being the site of a division 1 Men’s volleyball match where North Greenville faces off against perennial division 1 power Pepperdine and their leader, former national USA volleyball coach, Marv Dunphy on January 3, 2015.
o   Co-hosting 1 AAU Winter Bump tournament in January, 1 AAU Super Regional and 1 JVA Challenge Tournament in March, and 1 SAVL Club Championship in April.

“We are excited for the 2015 volleyball club season for many reasons, one of the main ones being able to have our teams play in one of the premier sports facilities in the country,” said Helle, who also coaches the 181 team.

Also, beyond the Upward Star Center only being used for sporting events, there are plans to utilize it as a place for conventions, concerts, community events, and parties to expand on the ways we can minister to our community.

Partnering With JVA

As we enter our third year partnering with JVA, it has become evident that their expertise is crucial in reaching young athletes across the country. They continue to show a strong commitment to working with Upward Stars club directors nationwide and truly trust the vision of each club director to help benefit and grow the sport at the local level.

JVA is just one participant that is utilizing the Upward Star Center for their events and tournaments. We invite you and your club to come visit the facility if you haven’t yet, and keep checking www.upward.org for upcoming events and Upward Star Center information.

Upward Star Center – Play With Purpose

For more information about the Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) click here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What's On Your Court? A Key To Injury Prevention

In the past two decades the junior season has been extended approximately three weeks and now goes into the second week of July. High school season begins immediately after, followed by club tryouts in early November. That leaves a very short break, if any, for the junior athletes.  As we embark on the 2014-2015 club volleyball season, we want to highlight a growing trend in volleyball facilities and volleyball venues at the junior, collegiate and international level. 
The agreement is almost universal that the season is too long and the length of the season is contributing to several issues that have a negative impact on the sport. Those issues are less participation at the youth level, more injuries at all levels and an overuse factor for those players that must go directly from their club teams to the USA High Performance programs or their collegiate program. Many of the elite level collegiate coaches have been saying for years that many incoming freshman are entering college with overuse and chronic injuries that will plague them for most or all of their collegiate careers. 

Plastic tile courts directly over concrete offer little protection against impact injuries

One factor that can significantly decrease the chronic injuries is a softer playing surface that is more forgiving on an athlete's body during the 2-3 hour practice consisting of endless  jumping, landing, and diving across the floor. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more than 46.5 million youth participate in sports each year in the United States. Safety, protection, and durability are characteristics that all coaches and parents can agree upon when considering what type of flooring kids will play on. The video below is a look at how Sports Performance Volleyball Club, one of the most successful boys and girls junior volleyball clubs in the country and the world, does their best to prevent injury and overuse in their junior volleyball athletes through their training schedule and training surface in their facility.




The 2015 JVA World Challenge will feature an Official FIVB Taraflex® court during competition and teams will be able to experience the benefits on their bodies' recovery after the numerous hours of play over the 3 day event.

Taraflex® Sports Floors at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, University of Nebraska
 

Team USA won their first Gold Medal on Taraflex® Sports Floors
at the FIVB Women’s World Championship, Italy 2014

Taraflex® by Gerflor is used by leading youth volleyball programs around the country and NCAA Division I volleyball powerhouses like the University of Nebraska and University of Hawaii, and the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB).   Gerflor, through IHF and FIVB agreements, has supplied courts for handball and volleyball tournaments during the last Olympic Games in London in 2012.  Its storied history is matched only by its benefits to players of all levels.


Taraflex® is ASTM F2772 certified, which means that it helps prevent long-term debilitating injuries for athletes. Shock absorption characteristics – combined with its foam backing – constitutes Taraflex®’s Impact Protection Index (IPI) and protects players of any level when they fall, slide or dive for a ball. In fact, athletes receive more support and stability around the point of impact (called deformation) with Taraflex®, which results in fewer injuries for a difference a player can actually feel.


Coach Jim McLaughlin of the University of Washington says, “It’s [Taraflex®] better for the players in terms of extra cushioning for safety and longevity.” At the University of Hawaii, Coach David Shoji says, “Taraflex® is the safest court because it is forgiving on our players’ bodies.” Volleyball club teams, youth programs, recreation centers, colleges, and universities can take a page out of these leading coaches’ playbooks when it comes to Taraflex®. Whether your players are just starting out or they are involved in elite level play, Taraflex® provides maximum safety, protection, and durability as they pivot, slide, jump, dive, and dig their hearts out.

If you're attending the JVA World Challenge in Louisville April 10-12th, make sure to check out the Official FIVB Taraflex® court that will be featured as one of the championship courts!

This article was brought to you by Taraflex®, the official volleyball surface of the FIVB:  Order your own custom-color Taraflex® courts for 50% off, limited time only!  Contact Joe Corbett at Gerflor USA to learn more.


For more junior volleyball education visit www.jvaonline.org.