- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
Under the tutelage of coach Steve Mattox, the Halifax County High School volleyball program has stepped up in terms of competitiveness. This week a number of athletes took another step in that direction by honing their skills at a William & Mary Satellite Volleyball Camp.
Halifax County High School hosted the camp, which provides the opportunity for volleyball athletes throughout the state to train with Division I coaches at their respective home gyms.
John Critzer, Assistant Volleyball Coach at the College of William & Mary, along with players Erin Skipper and Ginny Bray conducted the camp, which is designed to allow players more affordable training than what is normally available on a college campus.
“We’re just trying to be ambassadors for the sport to everyone in Virginia, to all areas of state, some of which have year-round volleyball and club volleyball and some which don’t,” said Critzer.
“We all have worked camps at big universities, it’s gotten very expensive and it’s just too much money.
“We’re trying to bring university level coaching to the high schools without them having to go out and look for it and at a lower cost where we’re more likely to get more kids out.
“When we decided to do this we advertised to all the high schools in Virginia, and Steve was kind enough to give us a call and have us come work with some of the kids.”
Each camp focuses on fundamentals and the individual needs of the group of athletes he and his assistants are working with, Critzer added.
“We always work on fundamentals and [Mattox] had some specific things he wanted to accomplish for this area’s athletes,” said Critzer.
“Once we got beyond the fundamentals, we started working on transitioning from defense to offense…we also worked on a variety of attacks and some different offensive sets.”
Critzer was impressed with the work ethic and enthusiasm shown by the athletes at this particular camp.
“I think the first thing you see is that you have a lot of hard workers with a lot of passion and love of the game,” he noted.
“You can make a gym out of whatever space you have around you, and I think here you have a lot of passion, a lot of hard workers and a lot kids who are willing to come out and learn how to do it right, even though they’re young and still developing.
“I think in the long run when the kids here in the seventh and eighth grades become 11th- and 12th- graders, they will start to be very successful and very competitive.”
Cross Training Benefits All Athletes
“I think you do need a balance and I believe in the idea of cross-training,” explained Critzer.
“When you play basketball you have different muscle movements and mentalities you can carry over into other sports.
“Some of my best volleyball hitters have been softball players. They know how to hit the ball and they have strong shoulders.
“Some have been gymnasts because they have strong cores and strong shoulders.
“A lot of what we’re doing with our arm swings in volleyball carries over into them having a strong arm to throw a softball.”
“I’ve coached a lot of off-season volleyball and there’s a lot of value in it, but I’d like to see those same athletes play other sports in the off-season,” continued Critzer.
“They’ve been coming in and training hard as volleyball players for three days without stopping those other aspects of their lives (in other athletic endeavors).
“If you can build that practice schedule where they can have opportunities in the off-season, you don’t have to stop being basketball players or softball players or what not, and that’s my personal philosophy.”
Halifax County Volleyball In Learning Curve
Mattox, entering his sixth season as Comets’ varsity volleyball coach, worked with Critzer to fine tune the camp toward what he sees as areas for improvement in his program.
“I think they had fun doing this, because you can see them getting better and better,” observed Mattox.
“Communication skills, back row play and transition from defense to offense, things I noted last year we needed to get better with, those are points of emphasis this week, as well as serving, defensive positioning, blocking, all the concepts of the game.
“My big things are working with transitions, defensive back row play and bumping (the ball) around to take care of the hitter.”
“This and travel volleyball can only help. Kids are playing Junior Olympic volleyball in the winter, and it’s grown and grown,” Mattox continued.
“From day one I was excited when I met this group of kids, and it’s gotten better and better. More and more kids are coming out.”
Two campers commented they got a lot out of the camp.
Chris Bradshaw, a rising freshmen and Kelsy Williams, a rising sophomore, said they learned a lot of techniques which would help them as they prepare for another volleyball season, including the proper way to “sprawl” or get on the floor and dig the ball.
“I’ve learned how to sprawl, convert from offense to defense and jump serve,” said Bradshaw.
“I learned proper footwork, and that’s something I’ve been working on,” added Williams, who has played travel volleyball the past year.
“The techniques being taught are the same that I’ve seen while playing travel volleyball, and it will absolutely help me down the line.”