By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Walking around from court to court, Stillwater High School volleyball coach Jason Webber looks like a kid in a candy store. His eyes dart from player to player, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that might help the Lady Pioneers next season.
And just like that, one of the young players shows that flash of brilliance he’s been looking for.
“We do have a much younger crew as far as losing a lot of seniors and getting a lot of younger faces in there,” Webber said. “We’re looking to see the four seniors that we have grow in their experience and their confidence. ... We’re trying to get as strong of a team together as we can, we’re trying to grow together as much as we can and be a competitive Class 6A team. It’s exciting. We’ve got a lot of work ahead, but I do see a lot of promise with these ladies with so much potential for growth and so many hard-working people in the program right now.”
The week-long Stillwater High School volleyball camp was Webber’s first opportunity to see exactly how his team stacks up and gives him some insight as to who will be his best players next season as this new batch of Lady Pioneers hopes to build on last season’s legacy.
“It’s great to have an opportunity for the girls to spend a week getting tired and tuckered out, while learning some new skills and harnessing some old skills,” Webber said. “It also is a little more generic. They get to try different viewpoints. They get to play different positions, so I get to see what they do whenever they’re put under mental and psychological stress of the game constantly changing.”
Webber may be trying to test how well the new Lady Pioneers handle stress, but there’s hardly anything stressful about the camp itself.
From an around-the-world serving competition to 3-on-3 games, laughter and excitement have permeated throughout the Pioneer Fieldhouse the past week. Even Webber isn’t immune, often sharing in the laughter with jokes.
“It’s a very simple drill and it’s funny to see them get so excited,” Webber said. “So many times, I’m getting excited as well because of them. It’s an honor to be a part of that learning cycle, where they’re growing. It’s that next step in maturity. ... I often wonder if I have more fun than the girls do at camp. But I ask them all the time, ‘Hey, are you having fun and are you working hard?’ They always say, ‘Yeah coach, we’re having a blast.’ Then I’ll ask them what they’re learning and they’ll tell me the details. They’ll be able to tell me what their goals are and what they’re trying to get better at.”
There are still likely some growing pains down the road for the team as they prepare to open the season in early August, but as the unofficial kickoff to the season starting this week, it seems like the first day of practice can’t come fast enough.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Webber said. “It gets us going. There’s a lot of activities over the summer with Pioneer Pride and camps in and out of Stillwater. More girls than ever are involved at the national level of club, so that says a lot about the growth of our program. That’s a lot of fun to see that kind of growth. Then they’re going away to other camps. They’ll be going all over the United States this summer for instruction to see different viewpoints and to learn from different coaches. It’s exciting to see that kind of hunger to get better at the game even though we’re not in season yet. They’re getting camp experiences, club experience — all these different experiences, so it will definitely help our team later on down the road.”