by Jonathan Weaver
For about two dozen co-ed beginner volleyball players, Monday was their time to “watch the professionals.”
Since January, children (seven through nine year olds) and pre-teens (10 through 12 year olds) have practiced fundamental and skill-building exercises Monday evenings in the Richard G. Snyder YMCA gymnasium.
But, Program Director Stephen Scholl – a Kittanning High School graduate who was hired last year after graduating from Slippery Rock University in 2013 – had a surprise for the two groups Monday, when Point Park University Head Volleyball Coach Mike Bruno and members of the women’s volleyball team came to help and inspire them to attend a new program this June.
“We’re starting a volleyball camp this summer, and to kind-of kick that off, we’re having (Point Park) come out here because they’ll be basically running our summer camp,” Scholl announced yesterday. “I’m excited for it. I think the kids will really like it.”
Coach Bruno – who coached the Pioneers to the first round of the national tournament November 23 after the team won the soon-to-be 13-team Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the fall – said he coincidentally bumped into Richard G. Snyder YMCA CEO Joely Beeker at Mel’s Pizzeria. Bruno also has a summer home along Crooked Creek.
“I always wanted to bring something to this area,” Coach Bruno said. “Grassroots is just awesome to work with – there are no bad habits yet.”
The seven college athletes Monday evening taught the beginners different methods of passing and preparation while shouting words of encouragement
Kris Righi and wife, Lisa, of Kittanning watched from the sidelines with other parents as their eight-year-old daughter, Cecilia, volleyed the ball back to the college players.
“She likes to stay busy, stay active. This is perfect for her,” Kris said. “She was really excited to see the team in here today – she came in and saw them hitting the ball around and said, ‘Boy, they’re really moving.
‘I don’t think she’s stopped smiling since they started.’”
Kris added that the youth program is giving his daughter and other children a good head start into sports since Cecilia is too young yet to start basketball – her other favorite sport.
Coach Bruno said the youth players made quite an impression and encouraged them to continue practicing.
“It’s great working with the youth – it’s really refreshing,” Coach Bruno said. “From a coaching standpoint, it’s great to see my student athletes getting to give back to the local community.”
Soon-to-be Senior Pioneer Paige Baker, who played for four years between Elderton and West Shamokin High School before earning a scholarship to Point Park, had her first experience at the Richard G. Snyder YMCA yesterday
“Coming back here and seeing the kids was fun – I wish I had this opportunity when I was younger. I didn’t start until I was in seventh grade,” Baker said. “The fact that they’re starting in second and third grade is awesome.”
Soon-to-be Senior Captain Izzy Vavrek, of Hopewell, also learned the basics of volleyball after watching her sister, Paige, at the Sewickley YMCA. Now, the Hopewell High School native was learning from these youth.
“(The youth players) actually taught me a lot – they were so excited about the game and just watching us. They have a lot of passion, so it makes me want to get that passion back for the game,” Vavrek said.
Scholl, who played volleyball for fun at Slippery Rock while achieving his degree in Health and Physical Education, and Maranda Arblaster, who played for five years at Ford City Junior/Senior High and now assists the child athletes,agreed that both age levels are improving -and that Monday’s clinic was inspiring.