Friday, June 09, 2006

NCVA 2nd Meeting Notes (volleyball)

The parent group met last night with NCVA, Regional Commissioner Donna Donaghy, Marketing Director Tom Donaghy, and Officials Coordinator David Ouhgtred (also the director of the Empower Club). My notes follow. The parent group agreed that it was a productive meeting. We thank the NCVA staff for taking the time to meet with us and the obvious preparation they put into answering our questions. We also once again thank Jeff Nelson and USF for making a room available for us to meet.

The region staff had taken the time to bring copies of the NCVA Girls Handbook with pages annotated to show us where the Region’s answers are to some of the group’s questions in the handbook.  There was a small bit of confusion at the beginning because Donna said she had not received our proposed agenda for the meeting (e-mailed on June 1 so the answer to some of the issues raised may be more technical .  She also mentioned that there were several items in the FAQ we presented that weren’t written clearly enough (ouch)  and it was mentioned that the NCVA handbook has won awards, so I would say if you’re looking for exemplary writing I would have to recommend reading the NCVA Girls Handbook.  

Ed Cohen, one of the board members, was gracious enough to make a special visit before the meeting to let us know that other matters have called him away this week and he won’t be at the June 12 board meeting, but wanted to say hi to the parents and to express his regrets for not being able to attend.  Democrats in the group all immediately concluded that they would rather have Ed running against Arnold instead of Phil Angelides, particularly when it comes to California’s seeding draw for Federal Funds.  Btw The Bill Russell Room at USF is an exceptionally nice place to meet, there are, however, no plaques dedicated to volleyball players in that room.  It’s reminder that it’s critical to the health of the sport and to someday getting the sport the recognition we all think it deserves for the junior experience to be both positive and for our kids to see processes, governance, and promotion that will make them want to get involved once they have kids of their own.  

The group of 6 parents and the NCVA staff made considerable progress (imo) and learned the following.


  1. The protocol is on page 17 of the NCVA Handbook, but once a parent determines that the club director has not been able to answer the question satisfactorily or has serious concerns about the impartiality of the club director in the matter, the stated policy is to contact NCVA.

  • Donna explained that she has always answered all e-mails in a timely fashion.  This does not necessarily include e-mails about great opportunities to refinance your house, Green Peace donation appeals, or questions about where one’s daughter’s practice or tournament is on a given day.  She stated that some emails may not be getting through to her for unknown reasons.
She did let us know that any direct e-mail from a parent or club director that is about safety, conditions, problems with NCVA itself that she has received has always been answered ( though it’s not always the answer that people want) in a prompt/cordial fashion.

If you have “legitimate” concerns that have gone through your club director or can’t go through your club director in your judgment, e-mail and she will make sure that it gets to the right person at NCVA and you will get a timely answer.  

It was pointed out by the parents that there were a couple instances where they had sent e-mails themselves and not had them answered or acknowledged.  The one that I know of was the proposed agenda that I sent on June 1 (I did find my e-mail after the meeting and it appears to have been addressed and to have left my server).  This also did not match input we had gotten from the many people who had contacted the group which included not only parents but club directors and others who deal with NCVA in other capacities.  Donna had also sent me an e-mail that I did not receive.  In the three months, I’ve been involved I’ve found Donna to be a perfectly reliable correspondent (other than the e-mail she apparently didn’t get and the one that I apparently didn’t get from her)

There is a real possibility that there is a technical glitch of some sort.  Donna was quite adamant that she does answer every e-mail she gets  and appeared quite sincere.  In any case, the group recommended that NCVA find and adopt auto-respond software to send an automatic receipt when e-mails come in and generate something that lets you know that your concern will be answered.

If you have had a different sort of experience with e-mails to the NCVA commissioner, please let the parent group know so we can all understand the problem a little better.

  • The group also discussed frustrations some have expressed with “Who takes care of what” at NCVA when trying to get problems solved.

Many, but not all, organizations use a “single point of contact”model with a clear and public list of who is responsible for what.  NCVA apparently uses a different system.  All staff are trained to handle and give a definitive answer to most any question of consequence.  Donna indicated to the group that whoever one happens to reach on the phone should be able to answer your question about an issue whether its standings, site problems, safety issues, paperwork, or calendar matters.  

If this has not been your experience, please let the parent group know so we can better understand what the problem is.  Obviously, there are certain sorts of questions that a given individual may not be able to answer.  If that comes up, one should go directly to the Regional Commissioner by e-mail.  If you have an auto-reply option in your e-mail program, make sure that you enable it.

  1. Communication about Bids and NCVA’s system

  • Because the City Beach bid issue was very recent and partly because of John Tawa’s article on Prep, we did ask what NCVA’s system was for helping to ensure that Clubs get their paperwork in.  As John pointed out, this is something where the kids pay for something adults didn’t do.  Similarly, how can a parent realistically be assured that his/her child’s club did its paperwork.

  • NCVA always sends reminders before the deadline to let clubs who may have qualified know whether or not their paperwork is complete.  This generally starts 20 days before the actual deadline.

  • While the OVR system that John identified uses a single point of contact, NCVA uses an all staff capable system.  Any person in the office can let a club know if the paperwork that gets submitted to NCVA both got there and is complete.  There is a staff procedure to log the receipt of paperwork. Donna says that NCVA routinely notifies clubs of incomplete paperwork in advance of the deadline.

  • City Beach, according to Donna, is the only club in NCVA that has ever lost an earned bid due to paperwork issues.  She did not recollect another instance.  Since City Beach took responsibility, I assume that if this is the case it’s really not that big a problem for the region.

  • Dave Oughtred assured us that the bid registration process is in fact very simple and straightforward and that proactive clubs submit as early as January to avoid any problems.

  • Esentially, NCVA has the same level of protections for bid paperwork issues as OVR.  I did point out that one of the issues in the region may be that things get done and systems exsist within the region that the volleyball public does not hear about, hence the fact that NCVA has these precautions in place and John’s article had to report that NCVA did not respond to his phone call on the subject after they promised to call him back.  

  1. The group did inquire about the end of the season points listings.  We had gotten a number of inquiries about this and members of the parent group had checked as early as the day before and encountered problems finding certain listings or corrected totals.  The staff informed us that all totals for all teams were up on the website and suggested that people were clicking in the wrong part of the website, but all the totals had in fact been posted.  They seemed to imply that this had been the case for some time.

I did go home in the evening to check and all totals were listed and the one instance of an “asked for” correction  of which I was aware had been taken care of.  It was noted that the totals appeared to have been updated on the afternoon of June 8th, the date of the meeting according to the site itself.

We did not get into the length of time since the staff appeared to take the position that the complete totals had been posted and corrected for all teams without any time issues.  

We did ask who has responsibility for doing this and learned that it’s a shared responsibility among the staff.  We were informed that when there is an allegation of a mistake, it does take a number of phone calls to confirm the error with the affected clubs.  For example, just because coach C says they beat coach B’s team, one shouldn’t assume it’s accurate.  One has to check with the tournament director and coach B to confirm the result.

The staff did not suggest there were any other difficulties involved in tallying the points or posting the standings at the end of the year.

  1. The question of area league sites got discussed.

Staff indicated that they had dealt with issues about the distance to certain tournaments extensively over the phone with the club representatives, had actively looked for new sites, and seemed to express some frustration that there was any perception that the complaints and concerns had gone unheeded in any way.

The policy is laid out in the manual.  Tournaments are not to be more than 90 miles away unless there simply isn’t a gym available that weekend in the vicinity.  The parent group suggested that NCVA post exactly that when these situations do occur and to let clubs +parents know on the website when the 90 mile rule has to be broken.  

  1. The group agreed that some of the Parent Group’s democracy issues were likely matters for the board to consider.  E.g. posting of agendas and making meetings visitor friendly.  (staff expressed concern that people would come to meetings and speak out of turn).  Donna did tell us that she routinely takes any serious concerns that have been e-mailed to her by parents to the board.  The Parent Group suggested that the posting of agendas and minutes would help to document this habit and let parents in the region know that their concerns are in fact taken seriously and brought to the board.  

The parent group believes that this practice is a good thing, but it is not the same thing as having actual representation and a direct voice in matters of consequence to parents, players, and the Region.

Digression ahead:  At one point, the Regional Commissioner referred to the board as “My Board”, I did ask to make sure that she meant “Our Board” and she did confirm that she simply misspoke.  I personally believe that this is indicative of a strength of the organization.  It’s apparent to me that the regional staff takes great pride in and strongly identifies with NCVA, hence “My Board” and this is potentially a very valuable asset.  When one considers one’s work a reflection of yourself, it’s a major event in quality control circles.  I also believe that this is part of why there is something of a gap between the way the region sees itself and the way the region’s constituents and others often see the region.  There have been instances where parents have been referred to explicitly as “customers” that suggest strongly that they are receivers of services not partners in the organization itself.  Speaking personally, I believe this is the fundamental adjustment that may have to happen if this gap between self-perception and what I would consider an unhealthy image for the organization itself (one which may not be reflective of how well things within NCVA are actually handled) with its constituents is to be healed.  

In particular, the staff do not seem particularly aware that there is any sort of problem with perceptions about NCVA.  Part of this is due to the fact that they have such a high level of pride in their work that they sometimes seem to take suggestions that anything is not working properly as a personal insult. At the same time, when one regards an organization as an extension of oneself and a reflection of oneself, there can be a downside :Digression ends

  1. Ethical conflicts for coaches who have dual roles as club and high school coaches did get raised.  Staff indicated that they have met with CIF on the matter at least twice.  The parent group suggested a code of ethics through NCVA to give parents who get trapped in these situations a confidential process for investigating abuses of this dual role.  The normal cure is to go to the school principal which sometimes presents difficulties of its own particularly when it comes to preserving the player’s anonymity.  Obviously any process would also have to be fair to the coach, but there was no closure on this particular matter.  

     NCVA will write a letter of complaint to the high school principal. This has been done in the past in extreme cases.

  1. There was extensive discussion of the website.  Staff appeared to believe that most if not all the information that the public complains about not being able to find is actually already on the website.  They were also very optimistic about a “team or club page” system within the NCVA site that promises to improve the quantity and quality of information available there.

The Parent group pointed out that when something can not be found on a site, it’s not necessarily the end user’s fault.  We discussed the need for a user friendly interface that might take the form of a Faq that starts with questions to supplement the Region’s Award Winning Manual.  (in the real world manuals are being replaced by websites with treed structures that allow one to ask a specific question)

It did come out that the NCVA’s website administrator, by his admission, knows very little about computers.  The Parent Group offered to help with the process of making the site more user friendly for volleyball parents who notoriously have a limited capacity to understand processes, structures, and websites.  Sometimes, it does take someone with training in the creation of “how to” instruction, documentation, and website design to make this possible.  NCVA did ask that we review the Girl’s Manual with the annotated answers to our FAQ questions for possible revisions or suggestions.

There was a brief discussion of the San Jose Convention Center issue that had precipitated these meetings.  The Parents mentioned that if the website had put up a notice acknowledging the problem right from the beginning and let the Region know that the issues were being worked on and out, the frustration level with NCVA would have been much lower.  Staff agreed that this would be a good idea in the future.

  1. Site clean up issues did come up.  There have been real problems with teams simply not cleaning up after themselves or abusing facilities to an extent that NCVA loses access to the site.  We mentioned that other regions have had good success with fines.  It was pointed out that NCVA has provisions for fines and does in fact enforce them from time to time.

  • suggestions were made about positive reinforcement

  • simply hiring more custodial help at problem sites and passing the cost on to the clubs

  • There was also extensive of conditions at the NCVA facility in Sacramento.  It appears to be the region staff’s position that these problems are the fault of parents and players who do not treat the bathrooms there respectfully.  It was also pointed out that sites are certified as public facilities, so the number of bathrooms for a given event should never be an issue.

  1. We did check into the First Aid capacity of Site Directors.  All have a first-aid kit at tournaments.  Site Directors do not necessarily have current CPR or first-aid training. Staff mentioned that they have offered free First-Aid classes and gotten a very disappointing response from the region.

We believe the tone of the meeting was very positive and we actually got through most of the agenda.  I would credit this both the NCVA staff and the many parents who volunteered time and effort to both come to the meeting or just share their concerns.  The Parent Group does not necessarily believe that all is perfect within the region, but the meeting was a clear step forward.  

If you have specific experiences that either support or differ from what was represented at the meeting about how things get done at NCVA, please let us know.

Link to my other volleyball articles


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