By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For a kid who hasn’t even started high school yet, the volleyball court can seem like a big, intimidating place.
That’s why smaller bites are useful; hammer in on fundamentals and be ready to excel when your body starts to build strength and endurance. With ball control and footwork being critical themes, that was the thought Friday at the Youth Skills Clinic at the Triple Crown NIT.
The clinic drew 50 athletes, ages 10-13, with a strong group of college coaches supporting the directives of Munciana 14s coach Wes Lyon. One of the challenges in this age group is getting to play freely and confidently even as they are learning, which sometimes makes a kid more cautious.
“It’s all about teaching and making kids feel comfortable quickly. The coaches we had out there helping are (good with) people, and you have to relate to the kids,” Lyon said. “You have to give them something they can understand; I can’t be a philosopher out there. The goal was, you got to move your feet, cover area, and be clean on what you’re doing out there.”
As the players age, things get more complicated and the simple fun of the game can be obscured, and Lyon made sure the drills and workouts had an air about them that stayed positive. He was supported by college coaches from Arkansas State, Baylor, Kansas, Lipscomb, Loyola Marymount, Morehead State and NC State.
“You want to train, do the reps, and you do want to make it competitive. If you’re doing a passing set of drills, if you’re going by court, say the first one to 10 passes is the winner. At this age, not everyone knows what a good pass is.”
One of the young players soaking in the insight was actually a repeat customer – Ellen Roberts, 12, of Fishers, IN plays for the Munciana 12’s team. She looked comfortable on the floor and was happy for the chance to further refine what she’s commanded at an early age.
“I thought it was good. It was a little different because I didn’t know anyone’s names, but I got into it,” Roberts said. “I started to get the hang of it – I wasn’t to anxious or worried about anything.”
Given the vast varieties of athletic presence at these ages – some girls were easily a foot taller than others – Lyon said it’s important players don’t just rely on early growth to exert their will.
“You see it, but I just don’t want any coach to ever get in that situation,” he said. “You want to do things right, have that attention to detail, whether you’re the best athlete or don’t have much athleticism yet. You want to make sure they all do things the right way.”