Friday, January 26, 2007

First Volleyball Lessons

I tried something new last night.

The Parks and Recreation Department here in Ridgecrest holds a youth volleyball league for kids 10 and older that runs from March to May. From my experience the last couple years not a lot of the 10 year olds from Saint Ann School sign up for this league. So I decided to see if I could get more kids at school interested in joining a league buy holding a beginners volleyball camp last night. I invited all the 4th and 5th grade girls that were interested in learning to play volleyball to come out for the camp.

My goal for the camp was to give them a taste of what it is like to be on a volleyball team, teach them some basic skills and get them some exposure to the game. I planned on concentrating on teaching them how to pass, how to underhand serve and an introduction to the rules of the game.

I had 10 girls show up for the camp. One of my best eighth grade players showed up to help me out. I put her to work running the girls through a couple warm up laps, some agility drills and stretching. Then I showed them the ready position, and the proper hand position and stance to pass a volleyball. I worked my way down the line of girls a couple times tossing them the ball and correcting their passing style. Then I divided them into two lines and had them toss and pass the ball back and forth while my 8th grade assistant coach and I worked our way around correcting arm positions, hand positions, feet, knees, elbows, etc. Just about any mistake you could imagine the were making. I let this drill go on as long as I could, occasionally switching which side was tossing and which side passed, After a couple minutes I would spread the two lines apart a bit farther. Slowly working them apart from about 4 feet back to around 15 feet. I would have liked to spend a lot more time with just this basic drill, but after about 20 minutes the girls started getting bored and when they get bored they get goofy and sloppy.

So I moved them to either side of the net and let them toss and pass back and forth over the net for a few minutes. Then I let them try passing back and forth over the net for a while. When they tired of that I showed them a normal passing drill. One line of players in the back middle of the court and a short target line in the middle front. I toss a ball to the first girl in line, she passes to the target who catches the ball, drops it in my basket and goes to the end of the passing line. The passer goes to the end of the target line. It was a little slow going at first. But as they got into the rythem of the drill we managed to keep it moving at a pretty good clip. I didn't run these girls as hard as I usually do my regular team. Normally I push the older girls quite hard with this drill. They get two times through the drill with me tossing the ball to them. After that they whole rest of the court is fair game. I tossed most of the balls to these beginners. But after they watched my 8th grader run though a couple series where my tosses forced her to cover about 80 percent of the court they wanted to try also. So I let them. The passes were awful, but what the heck, they're just learning. I love the fact that they wanted to try the more challenging drill.

I gave them a break and let them rest while I went over the rules of the game, referee's signals and general terminology. Then it was on to serving.

I showed them the proper footwork and arm swing for an underhand serve. We worked on it for a while without a ball, just trying to establish some rhythm. This shodow serving with a line of girls stepping a swinging in rhythm always reminds me of an old Temptations dance move. But I've learned not to mention that to the girls. I really don't like seeing the confusion on their faces when the say "Who?" But then they get even more confused when I say "No. Not the Who, the Temptations." I just don't know what parents are teaching their kids these days. But for sure its not good music.

After some shadow serving I lined them up and let them serve a couple with me watching. Once they had all gotten at least one ball over the net from midcourt, I lined them up on each side of the net at midcourt and let them serve back and forth a while. Then I would move them back a step or two and keep serving. I only had one or two who managed to serve the full length of the court. But they did pretty good for first timers.

Once they started getting bored with the serving. I lined them up and taught them how to hit downballs. Most of them had a hard time with this. They just aren't big enough to hit a ball with an overhead swing yet and get it to travel very far. They weren't too interested in doing this until I explained that this was the first step to becoming spikers they were suddenly much more interested.

After a few times through the downball hitting lines. I arranged them on the court for a starter game. We didn't keep score, each girl gets to serve 3 times then its a sideout. We got through that drill with just enough time left to run them through a couple suicides before time to go home. As they walked out, most of them looked tired.

I felt pretty guilty an hour later when I took my oldest daughter to her club practice and the youth league basketball practices were just ending. Two of the 5th graders who ahd been at my camp were running in their basketball practice. I guess they got a great workout that evening.

I'm going to have another of these camps in two weeks. I hope they all show up for it also. I had several parents thank me for doing that camp. I didn't tell them that I have some selfish motives for doing this. If I can get the 4th and 5th grade girls interested enough to play in the city league and take the summer camp that the city offers for two years, by the time they are in 6th grade I won't be dealing with a team full of beginners. I would like to be able to make my 6th grade teams competitive with the public middle school's seventh grade teams. Since the public schools don't play their 6th graders and I do, it will just make my 7th and 8th grade teams that much tougher to beat.

The camp was fun. There were several girls who will need a lot of work, but there were also several who were catching on very quickly. I don't know if any of them will eventually be great volleyball players or not, but I tend to look at every young girl and see the next Logan Tom. Maybe one day I'll find one. I would love to some day sit and watch some young lady winning a national championship or an Olympic medal and I nudge the guy next to me and say, "I knew her when she still thought that catch and throw was a legal volleyball move." Until then I have a whole new crop of young ladies to teach about passing, serving, hitting, sportsmanship and teamwork. I can hardly wait.

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