Heins Gymnasium (aka The Hangar) was brightly lit for three days last week by the smiles and energy supplied by about 150 youngsters at the Sandhills Community College Lady Flyers Volleyball Camp.
The Monday through Wednesday sessions led by Flyers' Coach Alicia Riggan began with a Basic Skills Camp in the morning for rising first through fifth graders. An Intermediate Skills Camp for rising sixth through eighth graders got underway at noon, and the Advanced Skills Camp for rising ninth through 12th graders began at 4 p.m.
Three weeks earlier, Sandhills Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Mike Apple entertained 74 rising third through ninth grade boys and girls at the Flyer Basketball Camp.
Beach Balls Fly in the Hangar
Riggan begins her 11th year as the coach of the Lady Flyers with a home match against St. Andrews University on August 17. This is her 10th camp for the middle school age group, the fifth for the high schoolers and the second for the elementary school age group.
"Last year my daughter Brooklyn asked me why we don't have a volleyball camp for kids my age," Riggan recalled. "I thought how are we going to do this? We do it with the beach balls, no sting balls (foam backed) and lower nets.
"We want them all to feel they can be successful. We're not worried about their techniques, we just want them to learn that volleyball is fun. With the middle school kids we don't use the beach balls and no sting balls as much. We still want to have fun, but we really start developing technical skills."
There are no returnees from last year's 24-5 team that put together a 19-match winning streak. The camp coaching staff included assistant coaches Kristin Hylton and Jacob Marley, several alums and 13 first-year players.
Hitting, serving, passing, setting and conditioning were the core subjects of the instruction with Flyer basketball players Evan Davis and Cameron Williams helping with the latter.
The only one of the Flyer newcomers with college volleyball experience is Stephanie Pages, a transfer from Pfeiffer University and a product of East Montgomery High School. She and new teammate Mya Sencenbaugh, a Purnell Swett grad, clearly embraced the challenge of working with the younger campers in their group.
"I work at the day care down the road, Sandhills Children's Center, and I've grown to have a love for children because they are so cute and so sweet," Pages said. "I want them to feel comfortable and I've also learned how to talk to them better.
"Coming in here and teaching them skills is a different scene, a different environment, but they are so eager to learn and it's so much fun to see them get better. I feel like a little kid when I'm with them and get on their level, but at the same time being there for them when they need me."
Volleyball Flourishes in Moore County
The large number of players competing for spots on middle school teams, and club teams offered by the AC Sandhills club program lends itself to more attention to detail in the sessions for the sixth through eighth graders.
"With the older kids of course it's about showing them more skills and techniques, but it's still to have fun," Pages said.
For many of the campers in the older age group, volleyball is an almost year-around endeavor. Carley Modlin, an all-conference selection as member of the Pinecrest High School team last year is one of the new Lady Flyers and a part of Riggan's teaching staff for the camp. Twin sisters Chloe and Emmie are rising sophomores and members of the volleyball and basketball teams at Pinecrest.
In addition to the school sports, the 2018-19 year included a trip to Georgia and Florida with the AC Sandhills team. A busy summer schedule included a team camp at Pinecrest.
Chloe was asked about some of the things she gained from the camp.
"I learned that you have to pay attention, and to get things right you have to be a coachable player," she said. "I know that the coaches know what they are talking about."
Camp Benefits the Community, Volleyball Program
Members of the volleyball team were required to participate in two out of three of the daily camp sessions, but almost everyone attended all of them. The funds obtained from the camp will go toward the team's meal expenses for road games, uniforms and other gear.
This season's schedule includes a Labor Day weekend tournament in Perrysburg, Ohio hosted by Owen's CC the 2018 NJCAA Division III national champion.
Both Riggan and Apple welcome the opportunity to help grow their sports in Moore County. And they feel their players benefit from being camp coaches.
"I think one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it," Apple said. "When they have to teach those things it becomes ingrained in them."
Riggan looks forward to next year when she will have an experienced group of returnees to work at the camp.
"We had no returnees so they were all working their first camps," she said. "Next year they will be pros. The energy in the gym is just so exciting any time you have young, excited people. It's been exciting to see their skills improve from day to day."
A volleyball doubleheader at the Hangar on September 14 against Pitt Community College has been designated Camp Day. Campers will be recognized between games.
"I hope they come to watch their teachers play," the coach said.