Growing up, I was never big into team sports. I moved around a lot, got into trouble a bit, and learned a lot of my lessons through hard experience.
When Nugent Good News asked me to interview Reed and Matt Carlson at Club V, I wasn’t super excited at first. I mean, they coach female teen athletes how to play volleyball. How exciting could that be? I was wrong. I learned a lot from them.
To Reed and Matt, volleyball is the vehicle that teaches the attributes of character development. Their mission is to awaken humanity to rise against ordinary performance through youth sports. They are teaching life skills, disguised as volleyball.
A Lifelong Passion
Reed and Matt Carlson grew up in Chicago playing sports, with a lot of focus on volleyball. In fact, they both ended up playing volleyball for the University of Utah.
After college, Reed’s career consisted of personal training, while Matt worked with financial services companies. In 2008, after about a year of persuasion, Reed agreed to coach high school teen girls at Club V, which consisted of teammates from Viewmont High School. Club V was started by Yvette Jones, whose daughter Fiona played volleyball at Viewmont. After the first year of coaching, Reed was hooked, so he recruited Matt to assist in coaching.
In 2009, they expanded to players in the area outside of Viewmont. They had five teams, including a U18 (under age 18) team where five of the girls went on to play collegiate volleyball. Also in 2009, after Fiona graduated high school, Yvette decided to sell Club V to Reed and Matt.
By 2011, they had their first facility with 2 courts and 14 teams. Their first facility was a cold warehouse that was part of Choice Foods. There was no heat, and it smelled like Rice Krispies Treats, so the athletes were cold and hungry. Many times, they were dressed in winter gear to play volleyball. “It made the athletes tough,” Matt jokes.
Today, they have 2 facilities, with 12 courts in Salt Lake City, UT and 6 courts in Lindon. They also have a “satellite” location in the Sandy/Draper area. They are the top-ranked club in Utah and 38th in the nation. They have also extended their offering to include basketball for young boys. This is their second year providing boys basketball, and they currently have 18 teams.
More Than a Sport
Club V is focused on taking athletes, parents, and coaches to the next level. “They should become a level 2.0 of themselves,” Reed says.
“An athlete’s mindset determines the results they get,” he continues. “We spend a lot of time helping athletes recognize where their focus is best spent. Teens tend to compare their identity against their performance and outcomes. How you perform has nothing to do with who you are as a person. Helping them be more disciplined in their thinking patterns helps them gain control of themselves. This also helps them get control of school, get control of relationships, and get control of everything else. When we help them understand the rules of thinking, then they will win at the rules of life.”
Club V is also focused on family and relationships. For Matt, one of the biggest lessons he’s learned with Club V is that connection trumps communication. “The value of a coach’s impact on a player’s life is way bigger than we had imagined,” he says.
This sentiment was also echoed by Kate Strong, a parent whose daughter Savanna has been with Club V for the past two years.
“Savanna spends as much or more time with her coach and team than she does with me, so I want to make sure that the time spent is with the right people,” she says. “What I like about Club V is that they call it the Club V family. They send out motivational videos and content to help with mindset because mindset is everything. They are taking a sports experience and teaching them how to apply it to life. Club V has a reputation of being the best and helping the athletes be their best.”
Strong has seen how Club V and volleyball has helped Savanna learn to perform at her best, not only in volleyball but in life. Savanna previously only competed in individual sports, where she could have more control, so Strong has enjoyed watching her blossom in a team environment.
Reed adds, “What I’ve learned as a parent is that there is no manual for not messing your kid up. We’ve spent more than a decade focusing on the inner workings of the mind. We put emphasis on making sure that the athletes, the parents, and the coaches are working together to have a consistent message. This is how we’re leveling up. You can tell a Club V member by the way they talk and the words they use. We’re now starting to hear the same language from the parents, and it’s amazing.”
Melissa Lee-Henkel’s daughter Mia has played with Club V for four years. She says of her experience with Club V, “The athletes and the coaches are like extended family.” Lee-Henkel became a team mom during Mia’s first year because she wanted to learn more about the girls that her daughter was spending so much time with. “I became another mom for the girls. If they need food, a pair of socks, or a hair tie, I get to be there for them.”
For Mia, the biggest benefits of Club V are the friendships she’s developed, the skills of the coaches, and the opportunity that she has to earn a volleyball scholarship based on the elite training they receive. It has also taught her to be more independent, take more responsibility, and has built her confidence.
Club V expects their athletes to perform at their best, and the proof is in the results. To date, Club V has sent close to 300 volleyball players off to college. They are also sending about 30 students to college on full-ride scholarships.
When asked about some of their big wins, Matt mentioned that they have a Club V athlete that plays professional volleyball in Europe and was the MVP of her professional league. In addition, he shares, “I recently received an email from a mother of one of our athletes. She said that her daughter was suicidal and even had her date picked. Because of her teammates and coaches, her daughter decided not to [take her own life]. That’s a bigger win.”
When Matt asks past Club V members what the most valuable part of their Club V experience was, it’s never about how well they learned to play volleyball. Instead, it’s about the life lessons that they learned on the court.
For more information, visit clubvsports.com.
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