By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
As young Stillwater volleyball players ran around the Pioneer Fieldhouse on Thursday in the final day of the Stillwater High volleyball camp, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine at least some of the elementary-aged girls some day playing for the Lady Pioneers.
“We have had a lot of girls graduate from high school who say they went to camp eight or nine years, so it’s very important,” Stillwater High coach Jason Webber said. “There is a mainstream that stays with us and they get that education through our camp for five or six years in a row.”
While Webber has seen it before, he also sees the effects of having some of the junior high and high school volleyball players coaching the Stillwater youth — which Webber said had about 23 campers attend — in the camp. It’s important for the future of the program to have those who look up to the Lady Pioneer players to be able to get the experience of learning the sport with those older players, but it also is important for the high school level athletes to utilize the skills they have in a teaching format.
“It’s important because we have young girls learning from coaches who have been through the program,” Webber said. “I still have players in the high school program teaching these little kids and their game is getting better as a result. When you teach, you get stronger at learning — and that’s a lot of what we see here.”
While Webber is seeing improvement from his high school players, he said repeat campers also see improvements at their young age.
“It’s crucial. I use the example that I didn’t start playing until I was 17 and they start playing at 7, so they are getting a 10-year jump on when I was playing,” the SHS volleyball coach said. “We have a camper who is 8 years old and she’s already a proficient passer — especially for an 8-year-old, so imagine whenever she’s near 18, she’s going to be an extraordinary passer and going to have a lot of opportunities in the sport.
“I’m not saying some of these girls didn’t have it, but we’re providing it for them at a younger age to help build the program 10 years in advance.”
Unfortunately, the four-day camp came to an end Thursday. Now Webber and his staff can continue working with the high school volleyball players in preparation for the 2013 season — with hopes of a return trip to the Class 6A state tournament — but it’s not without some sadness on not getting to work with Stillwater’s youth.
“These young ones are so cute and all the coaches fall in love with them,” Webber said. “They don’t want them to go, we just want to take them home with us — each and every one of them — because their personalities come out and we know what their potential is and what they can become. They’re just ready to start evolving and maturing into adults that we hope they will become one day.”