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Tawa’s Daily Dots: Reaction to breastfeeding controversy in Denver

Daily Dots (May 17, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

• Controversy erupted over the weekend in Denver when the Colorado Crossroads USA Volleyball national qualifier enforced its rule against non-playing guests being 16 years of age or older to deny entry to nursing babies, even those belonging to club coaches. You can read editor Lee Feinswog’s story here:

• I have been asked many times to state my view on the issue. Simply stated, I think the tournament erred in not making an exception to its minimum age rule.

This was the last Crossroads event of 2021.

In previous sessions, nursing babies and children in strollers were admitted — whether the tournament directors knew about it and acquiesced I do not know.

We are not talking about a large number of infants.

There isn’t a slippery slope issue, because one can distinguish nursing infants from other young children.

The tournament next year, when non-COVID limitations are unlikely to be in place, expects to admit all spectators again.

Yes, the tournament is a private event and is entitled to determine and enforce its own rules. This, however, was not the rule it should have dug in its heels on.

Yes, the tournament tried to reach a compromise by setting aside a room at the nearby Hyatt for nursing moms. But club coaches should not have to choose between coaching their teams and caring for their child when they can do both.

USA Volleyball felt compelled to issue a statement on Saturday about this controversy (emphasis added):

It has been brought to USA Volleyball’s attention that a club coach participating in the Colorado Crossroads tournament in Denver says she was prohibited from bringing her breastfeeding baby into the tournament. Colorado Crossroads is one qualifier event for the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship. Colorado Crossroads is not operated or controlled by USA Volleyball and its jurisdiction over the event is limited. USA Volleyball has expressed its disagreement with this decision to the tournament director and is encouraging the tournament to reverse the regulation.

I agree.

• We asked club directors and club coaches to share their thoughts on the issue. Here is a sampling:

“I was upset as a mother, coach, and club director when hearing what happened at Crossroads this weekend,” said Andrea Sandefer, club director for Texas Pistols. “This is a girls/women’s sport. Why would we not support the roles that women play in the sport?”

“My reaction to what happened is absolute disgust and heartbreak,” MN Select recruiting coordinator Kayla Cole said. “I am a mother of two, and am currently breastfeeding my three-month-old and breastfed my 2.5-year-old for 16 months. The 16 months I breastfed my first spanned two different club seasons, where I had to feed him while he was with me or pump and travel with the milk to take back home to him. It’s an incredible time commitment. I saw a post on social media just last week that a year of breastfeeding is approximately 1,800 hours. A full-time job with 3 weeks of vacation is 1,960 hours. Obviously, this is in addition to one or more jobs and other children.

“In 2019, my husband and then six-month-old son came with me to Triple Crown in Kansas City. There was one family bathroom in the convention center where I could sit to feed him. I had to coordinate that with our play schedule to feed when we were off or reffed. By the time I got to the bathroom, fed him (which takes 30-45 min per session for most moms), and got back, I usually had missed warm ups and barely got there in time for the match to start. This needed to happen every 2-3 hours. If the tournament expected the moms to go to a place off-site to feed, that would be at least double the time commitment and would mean the coach would have to choose between feeding their baby and coaching. This is not a situation that encourages women to continue coaching. Can you imagine if this was the norm? No breastfeeding moms would coach.

“Why not pump and bottle feed some ask? Well, one reason is some babies don’t take a bottle. Some are too young to (a recommendation is to wait to introduce a bottle and wait to pump until a mom’s milk supply is solid). Pumping is an incredible time commitment, too: 20-40 minutes every 2-3 hours. Then you have to clean and disinfect all parts, then safely store and transport the milk. In 2019, I pumped all of club season and then the entire duration of AAU Nationals. After this 4-day tournament, I transported over 100 ounces back home through airports. I say all of this to paint a picture of the incredible time commitment and sacrifice breastfeeding is. Anyone who has done it, or knows someone who has, understands and this does not need to be explained.

“It’s important that breastfeeding moms model to the next generation of women that if you want to have kids and if you want to have kids and breastfeed, that doesn’t have to be at the expense of working, whether that’s coaching or not. The actions taken by those running this tournament directly conflict with that, which is one of the reasons I think that women and people in general are so angry about this situation. 

“What can the tournament directors do? First, release a statement apologizing for the massive oversight. They need to make a commitment to providing a space for mothers to breastfeed at this tournament in the future.

“Women who choose to breastfeed should not be made to feel that their decision is ever an inconvenience to anyone. It’s anything but convenient for a mom to commit to breastfeeding but they make the sacrifices to make it happen! That should be celebrated and accommodated! And if it can’t be celebrated and accommodated for in a community that is mostly women and girls, where can this support happen?”

• has been monitoring reaction to the tournament’s decision both on VolleyTalk and on Facebook. It is evident that popular sentiment lies with the nursing moms.

While the tournament can do nothing and hope that the controversy fades away eventually, it should probably take action. I suggest refunding fees to the teams affected and apologizing.

Something like this: “Upon reflection, we erred in not making an exception for nursing children. We thought we were reaching a reasonable accommodation by allowing nursing mothers to use a room in the adjacent Hyatt Hotel that we reserved for this purpose. We realize now that this did not go far enough and we would have served the interests of these mothers and children better simply by admitting them to the event. We apologize for our error in judgment.”

 • As I write this, teams in Spokane (PNQ) and Las Vegas (Red Rock Rave) are fighting to be among the last admitted to the Open divisions at the Girls Junior National Volleyball Championships, which will take place in late June and early July in Las Vegas. After today, the only Open tournament left on the docket, in the age groups we cover, will be 15 Open at PNQ next weekend.

• A Maddie Waak block gave Houston Skyline 17 Royal a thrilling three-set win over Crossroads champion Arizona Storm Elite 17 Thunder in what was essentially a 17 Open semifinal at Red Rock this morning. That sets up a championship match between Skyline, which is No. 2 nationally, and No. 1 Sunshine 17-LA. Houston Skyline swept Sunshine when they played yesterday …

• With both PNQ and Red Rock Rave, which wind up today, on track to confer three bids in each Open division, there will be three At-Large bids to 15 Open up for grabs and one in 17 Open. Those bids became available when a tournament could not award its full complement of three bids, either because the field size wasn’t large enough or because too many previously-qualified teams occupied spots among the top eight finishers.

In 15 Open, the Northeast Qualifier gave back one bid and Northern Lights gave back two.

In 17 Open, Lone Star gave back one.

• Well, the 16 Open division at Northern Lights and 17 Open division at Windy City wrapped up yesterday. That means it’s time to review my incredible predictions!!!

At Northern Lights, with nine already-qualified teams in the field, it seemed inconceivable that three teams seeking bids would find their way into the top eight. But they did! Dynasty 16 Black, Rockwood Thunder 16 Elite and OT J 16 Will all qualified, finishing T-3, T-5 and T-5, respectively.

How does that jibe with our predictions?

“We like Dynasty to finish top four and take home a bid. This team was No. 12 nationally in March because of its talent and we see it shining here. We also think this is the week for OT to punch its ticket. If a third team qualifies, it could be Houston Skyline, but is as likely to be No Name 16 Sarah, which will have two of the best players in the field.”

We got two out of the three, missing on Rockwood. Our picks, Houston Skyline 16 Royal or No Name 16 Sarah, represented well but fell short. Houston Skyline made it to Gold but couldn’t get the win it needed in last day pool action to get into a bracket for a bid. No Name lost both of its Saturday matches in three to fall from contention, then won out to place 13th overall.

I also picked 1st Alliance 16 Silver to top KC Power 16-1 for the title. KC Power did finish second, but to TAV 16 Black, which dominated 1st Alliance in Gold pool play.

• In Indianapolis, we had Circle City 17 Purple winning 17 Open at Windy City and it did! We had Circle beating Academy Volleyball Cleveland Rox 17 Red in the final, which did not happen. That match took place in the semifinal, with Circle City winning 19-17 in the third! Circle City then swept MN Select 17-1 for the title.

As for our predicted qualifying teams, on Friday, we noted that there were three nationally-ranked teams without bids in the field, No. 25 Academy 17 Diamond, No. 28 OT 17 O Roberto and No. 29 1st Alliance 17 Silver. We decreed that the first two would qualify along with Boomers 17 Black Chris. In fact, all three of the ranked teams punched their tickets, with 1st Alliance joining Academy Diamond and OT Roberto in bid position. OT actually had to stress the most. After starting 7-0, it lost to AVC and 1st Alliance on Sunday and needed to sweep PVA 17 Elite in the seventh-place match to secure its bid.

Boomers went 3-5 in tournament and tied for 15th. BVA went 2-1 on Day 1 to survive and advance but could not survive an 0-3 Saturday.

Riley Decker of Aspire

• Finally, expect to see in Dots this week players who fit the description of the “Best Players No One Knows about.” I sent out a request this morning to the 500 coaches and directors on my list.

Aspire 17 UA Premier coach Andrew Yamashiro was the first to respond. Let’s meet 6-1 junior setter Briley Decker, who led her team to second place in 17 USA last weekend at Crossroads. Yamashiro said that last year’s Covid-shortened season was her first in club ball, which explains why she is flying under the radar.

“She is one of the most physical setters in 17s,” he explained. “She has elite serving skills and also is a top notch blocker. She locates well and makes her team around her better. She was a second-team All-State player this past season and is already a three-time All-Region player. She has led us to wins against some Open-qualified teams already and has a real passion for the game.”


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