Helena Youth Volleyball Camp grows again as Huskies teach new and returning campers

Published 4:37 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HELENA – The Helena Huskies celebrated another successful year of their Helena Youth Volleyball Camp from June 3-6 at Helena High School as they grew from 50 campers in 2023 to 67 campers this year.

“For that amount of kids from ages kindergarten through seventh grade, I think it’s good,” Helena head volleyball coach Amanda Livingston said. “I think they’re getting a lot of touches on the ball, but I also think they’re having a lot of good time too.

The camp caters to a wide range of skill levels and age groups. The older kids and more skilled players use the upper courts to work on skills from passing and setting to hitting and serving while the younger kids work on basics with creative modifiers from the coaches.

“The younger ones, we’re getting out pool noodles to teach them how to pass correctly, and we’re using hula hoops to teach them how to do their approach and their techniques,” Livingston said.

With those younger campers comes a lot of kids learning how to play volleyball for the first time. However, with those kids learning the same skills that the current Helena varsity players are learning, Livingston hopes that this camp leads to more fundamentally sound players once they get to middle school and high school.

“The thing is they’re starting so young learning the skills that my players are doing,” Livingston said. “We’re just modifying it down to their level so that now they’re getting it and then they’ll progress every year and get better and stronger until they’re at the high school level playing volleyball.

She said that the number of first-time players just shows the level of growth that the sport has seen in the area as the sport becomes more popular and the Helena players get out in the community more.

“I think volleyball in general in the area is growing because a lot of the parents, when they filling out forms and I sent out an e-mail and they e-mail back and they’re like, ‘Oh, our daughter is so excited about learning a new sport and trying new things,’” Livingston said. “So, I think there’s definitely growth that is happening. I’d like to say it’s because of Helena and the things that the girls are doing and stuff like that, and I think some of it is, because we’ve gone to the schools to hand out flyers and open car doors, and we’re trying to create a buzz around our program to give those kids an interest and say, ‘Hey, this is volleyball and you can play and you can be a part of the program one day.’

The players themselves run the stations and lead the different age groups in the various drills and games throughout the week. That gives Livingston and the coaches a chance to see the players teach the lessons that they learned during the season and learn how to coach kids.

“It is fun from a coaching perspective to see my players coach and be like, ‘Oh wait, you’ve explained that to them how many times and they still don’t get it?’” Livingston said. “They get a little taste of our coaches’ world in these two days. They’re getting a better understanding all-around of the game of volleyball.

The players don’t just get to teach the campers skills. They build relationships with the kids that go deeper than the sport, from the hugs to start the day to playing volleyball with them on the side.

Livingston hopes those relationships continue after the camp ends and the kids can come out and cheer for their volleyball friends at Helena games this fall.

“The little campers love them,” Livingston said. “You can see it when they come in and they’re running to their favorite player. In between the breaks, they’re getting their favorite players. They keep hitting the ball around with them. You can really tell that they’re building those relationships with those players and hopefully these campers will come to our games and to our home events and cheer for their favorite players and stuff like that. They’ll get a little fanbase going.”

While the Huskies welcomed many first-time campers this week, Livingston estimated that roughly half of the campers were returning from last year.

She said that the continued development that the kids have at the camp helps to foster their love of the game and will lead to more players at Helena Middle School and Helena High School.

“I think it’s huge because I think on the first day, with the 67 campers and I was like, ‘Hey, raise your hand if you came to camp last year,’ and probably 30 or so raised their hand,” Livingston said. “So, I’ve got some that are continuously coming every year. And so, eventually they’ll start playing on travel ball teams and then they’ll try out for the middle school teams and then they’ll be in the high school. I think it just constantly continues to feed the program.”