BAKER — Volleyball’s familiar sounds echoed through Baker School’s gym Friday afternoon as 80 kindergartners through seventh-graders took part in the Baker’s volleyball camp.
This is the second year for the camp that has practices on Monday and Friday and Saturday morning games.
"We started back in April and we will go through the end of May," Baker co-head coach James Kerrell said. We started having practice after school with the kids to give them time in here. We kind of run it like a clinic at first and then we break them into teams.
“The main thing that we stress is trying to build a love for the game and get them interested in volleyball."
Along with passing along a love for volleyball, the camp concentrates on necessary skills including passing, serving and hitting. However, Kerrell said the most time was spent on teaching proper passing skills.
The number of participants in this year's camp surprised Baker's other coach, Tomikko Parks.
"We were expecting a lot of girls," she said. "We were expecting it to be bigger than it was last year ... once the word got around that they are having a lot of fun as well as learning volleyball. We expected more, but 80 was far above my expectations.
"Last year we probably ended up with about 55 or so, close to that. I was expecting about 60, or about that number, this year."
Fortunately for Kerrell and Parks, they had plenty of help from Baker's varsity and junior varsity volleyball players. Parks said about 12 or 15 players helped with the camp.
Parks said the biggest group of girls last year comprised fifth- and sixth-graders coming to the middle school, but this year the third- and fourth-grade group is big.
Many of the third- and fourth-grade girls are athletic, she said, adding she hopes they will stick with the sport.
The concept behind the camp is simple.
"Volleyball is a sport where you don't have a lot of youth leagues," Parks said. "There's not a training league for it so we wanted to make sure the kids got introduced to the sport early. In the past we would get kids that came in during the fifth or sixth grade.
"We would get some of them that came in after their fifth-grade year and they hadn't really played so we were having to teach them. The things that we are teaching them, as far as how to rotate, are the basic things about where to be on the court."
The camp is starting to produce the excitement for volleyball that Kerrell and Parks were hoping it would.
"When the bell rings at 3 p.m., they are waiting on it with bells and whistles," she said. "They are excited about it. They are excited to keep it going.
"Eighty kids is a lot, but they are excited about it and it keeps us on our toes. Some of them, all they talk about is playing volleyball. "They come in with their little knee pads on and they make their parents go out and get the stuff."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.