Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Triumphant Return

I figure that the beginning of September marks the unofficial beginning of the volleyball season. And since this blog has been on life support for far too long, I thought it was time to try and breathe some new life into it.

I've had a really interesting summer as far as volleyball goes. But since there isn't anything worse than talking about recent history, I won't spend any time revisiting it, with the exception of one thing...

At the beginning of August, I had the chance to visit the KidsVolley camp at VK Hjallese on the Southside of Odense. When I got the invitation to come by and spend time working with the kids, I was a little nervous about accepting, I knew very little about KidsVolley and didn't really have an idea as to what they would find interesting or fun to do. In the end, I couldn't say no, and as it turns out, it was one of the best volleyball/social experiences I've had in some time.

I don't want to make it seem like this was a huge production, in fact it was the opposite. I showed up at the camp, was greeted by the always positive Aase Bechsgaard, who had sketched out a rough schedule, and Dorthe Windeleff who was helping as well, and then we started. Even though many of them had been to last year's Pokal final, none of them really knew who I was (not surprising when you play on a team with Shaun and Geo).

So, we started with a small introduction, told a little bit about our experience in volleyball and explained what kinds of opportunities there were in the world of volleyball. After this, we spent a little time playing pepper, setting and showing off. I got the chance to warm up the old shoulder and hit some balls on a KidsVolley net, etc... Finally, Dorthe and I played short matches against all the different levels of KidsVolley players at the camp. Everything from age 6 to 13-15 I believe. We got a chance to learn the rules for each level and to experience the game from on the court. Once we were done, we signed some autographs and took a picture. About two hours in all.

The kids seemed to have a great time, and all of them were better than I had imagined. They were obviously excited to have the chance to meet some real volleyball "stars" and it didn't really matter that they had no idea who we were beforehand. It's not news that KidsVolley has been an incredible success, and that the future of volleyball looks positive, but for me it was a special experience.

I wanted to share my visit to VK Hjallese because the more I thought about it afterwards, the more obvious it was to me that it should be happening in every KidsVolley club in the country. As I said before, the kids didn't really know who I was when I came. Sometimes I forget in the small world of volleyball Denmark that there are lots and lots of people who play who don't really keep up with the elite division. That includes almost every KidsVolley player that doesn't play in one of the big elite clubs. The more they get exposed to the Elite level players, the more role models they have to look up to and the more they see what higher level volleyball looks like, the more I think they will be engaged with the sport. If nothing else, it can be a fun experience for younger players to meet someone who is at the top of the sport. I know when I was younger, a big part of my attraction to the sport came from watching the older players play. I simply wanted to be like them.

Clearly, the practice program that I described earlier could be easily copied. I know that I'm not even close to being one of the most interesting players to meet in the league. If the kids think that watching me hit is exciting, then I would love to see what they would do if Kristian Knudsen, Geovan Santos, Mads Ditlevsen or Shaun Powell showed up at their training one day and put on a little show. I don't know if there are other KidsVolley clubs out there that would find it interesting to have an Elite player come by their practice but I would bet there are...

The bottom line is that I really had a good time getting out and meeting what will hopefully be the next generation of volleyball players. I think the kids enjoyed it as well, and I'd love to hear if there are other clubs out there that have done the same thing...


nanooksvinyl said...

so, when i was a sophomore and you were a freshman, and i was trying a second time to make the team, did you want to be like me?


Maria McKinlay (u-17 Marienlyst) said...

Finally someone realized it! Thank god.

One of the problems is, as you mentioned, not many of the kids know anything about the elite players. Also, many of them are scared of the elite players in the big clubs they play in (I know that for a fact from myself when I was younger and from those kids I help train and trains with). I often hear some of the younger ones say things like "look! It's Shaun! He’s that guy from Canada" They really think he’s cool, but then they try to avoid him, thinking he might eat them.

One of the big problems with introducing the young players to the elite games, is that there is no contact between those two groups. Not even in marienlyst.

We seriously need contact between those two groups! Not much is done for young players, just take marienlyst, your own club. We once had over 30 kids running around playing kidsvolley, now, there are 4-5, not much for a one of the biggest volleyclubs in Denmark. Also, on my team, we are about 22-25 players, and we are only about 5 who knows what real volley looks like.

Me and a few of my team-mates help out at EVERY game played in marienlyst, hoping someone will notice us and think we do a great job. But not even that can make people open their eyes for us and help us. All we get is, sorry for my way of saying it, a damn lousy bottle of soda!!

If you one day have time, we could arrange something with you coming to help the u15-u17 team or something, we kind of lack the expertise with setting,. And it could be cool for the new players to see how real volley is played. It would be really cool, I’m a big fan of you myself.

Maybe you can help us change it and make the interest for volleyball bigger? Please?

Ps. I just have to write this, so you really realize how much one single practice, with an elite, can do.
When you came to Marienlyst, for the first year to play on the team, you came to one of the kids trainings and played a match with me and my old team-mates. That made such a huge impression on me and from that time I decided I wanted to be a setter, like you, become just as good and nothing else is good enough for me than that, and I have become a setter, a damn good one too, just because of that one little time about 4 years ago, think about it.
If you can change one persons view on volleyball that much, with just one time playing with them, think about how much you can do with helping out several times?

That's just my opinion. I really hope and have faith in you can help. I think i speak for a lot of young players.