ETSU volleyball camp enjoys numbers' boost

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY -- The number of girls attending the East Tennessee State volleyball camp this year did more than just hold serve from previous years.
   Numbers increased dramatically for the week-long camp, which took place this past week on the campus of ETSU.
   According to ETSU head volleyball coach Deane Webb, it's been a busy week for the high school kids.
   "Our camp started last Saturday with a setter-hitter clinic," Webb said. "135 girls signed up for that, up from about 60 that signed up last year. And we had to turn people away at that point, so we actually filled up, and it was great to have that problem."
   That was just the beginning of a great week of volleyball, as then the team camp started.
   According to Webb, the number of teams involved also increased from last year. There were 25 that participated this year, 20 more than last year.
   "The team camp started on Sunday afternoon, and we had 14 teams that were here for our first session," Webb said. "That was maybe our varsity session, a little bit higher level. They ran through some practices on Monday, and started pool play on Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning they had bracket play, and finished that portion of the tournament. That camp finished Wednesday about one O' clock, and the team from Gate City, Va. ended up winning that tournament.
   "Then we started our next session Wednesday evening and we had 11 teams in that session, so we had a total of 25 teams come through here during the week."
   The camp concluded Saturday with a defensive clinic, which is the first time they've had a clinic of that type. There were about 60 girls that participated in that.
   Webb attracted teams not only from this area, but also from all over the Southeast to come to the team camp.
   "We've had some that are just local that are actually commuting each day," Webb said. "We have some that are driving as far as eight or nine hours. Some are from Northern Va. near Washington D.C. We had some in the first session from the Virginia Beach area. We've had some from Chattanooga, and we've had some from Atlanta. They're spread out from all directions.
   "We're excited that we have teams that want to make that trip, and the ones I talked to had a good experience," Webb said. "We're excited to have grown from five teams in camp last year to 25 teams this year, and to have grown in the setter-hitter clinic from 60 girls to 135 and having to turn people away. We're excited to have this many girls that have decided to come out to our camp this year."
   Part of the reason for having these camps is to promote volleyball
   The younger kids will have their chance to attend camp later in the month. The Middle school camp will take place July 29-31, while the elementary camp happens on July 29-30.
   Webb hopes that these camps will make the participants tell others about the sport of volleyball.
   "We want the volleyball in this entire region to grow," Webb said. "We want the girls to come and have a good experience, and go back and tell their friends about it, and get them into volleyball. Hopefully, we'll have more players that want to take up the sport.
   "And I'm sure among the 300 to 400 girls that have come on our campus this week, some will end up as ETSU students. We're glad to be able to provide the publicity and that type of benefit for the girls that have seen our school and might be interested in coming here sometime."
   Not only could the camp provide some ETSU students, but maybe a few ETSU players.
   "There were a couple of girls in our setter-hitter clinic that did a real nice job that might be able to do that at some point," Webb said. "There have been a couple of high-quality players here."
   Volleyball is the second most-popular girls sport in the United States behind basketball, but Webb thinks it could get more popular in this region.
   Webb says that kids will get a lot out of the sport if they give it a try.
   "I think volleyball is a great, great team sport," Webb said. "It doesn't matter how good one player is, it takes a team to be successful. And I think they'll learn a lot of those type of skills. They'll learn teamwork and communication. Communication is very important in the game. And just to have the opportunity to be out and to be active. Just to try the sport is a great thing.
   "We welcome anybody that wants to come out to our clinics. Our middle school camp is welcome to anybody that hasn't touched a volleyball before up to those that have been practicing and are a little more skilled. And our elementary camp gives really young kids a chance to come that have never been exposed to the sport at all."
   With the high school camps now behind Webb, he hopes that the younger kids will enjoy themselves as much as the older kids have this week.
   "All the ones that we've talked to say that they're having a really good time," Webb said. "They're a little tired of course because of the long days, but they're having a good experience."