KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For the athletes who tackle the back-row defensive chores on a volleyball team, there’s not much to be gained getting caught up in the moment when an opponent is whistling kill shots at you.
It’s better to be rather chill about the whole concept; take the good with the bad and move on.
But training for the tasks at libero and defensive specialist is a different story, as athletes have to drill on speed, develop anticipation and master footwork in order to be useful. That’s why they came by the hundreds to College Camp Friday on the eve of the Triple Crown NIT at the Kansas City Convention Center.
One of the dedicated defense camps featured head coaches Kirsten Booth (Creighton), Mike Gawlick (Central Michigan), Tom Mendoza (South Carolina) and Jill Wilson (Virginia Tech). Equal parts mindset and body position, their camp kept a healthy pace and occasionally sent elbows and knees skidding on court as the cost of doing business.
“You have to be tough, in the sense of being prepared to take a ball in the face … it’s a tenacity you need,” Booth said. “I can’t have a libero or DS who gets aced two times and falls apart. A libero, I can’t really change. If they get aced four times, they have to believe the fifth time they’ll have a perfect ball. All those things are critical; they are the backcourt leader.
“I love this age; the learning curve is exponential. What I loved about this group was that all of them went after it. You can’t teach tenacity, you have to have it.
In it and excelling from the start was 15-year-old Jaydn Ketner, who plays for the Houston Juniors. She agreed that mentally to have to get in the right place if you’re going to be a force on defense.
“I love the team sport part of it, how everyone works together, and I don’t know … I’m short, right, and I guess I like getting hit at,” she said, smiling. “This is the position I’ve done forever. I thought it was good and helpful; you just have to be confident in everything you do.”
College Camp Friday featured 52 programs, which had courts percolating with action from 10 a.m. until after 4 p.m. Whether it’s used to give back to the game, to explore a few recruiting options or just have a fresh experience away from the college rosters, coaches have been enthused about this part of the TC NIT from the beginning.
“It’s a chance to be around a bunch of kids,” said Booth. “If you don’t enjoy being around people who love the sport, you’re probably not in the right profession. I enjoy kids who are eager to learn; these kids were taking it in, eye contact, locked in and ready to be better.”