PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — Nine third and fourth graders from Valley View Elementary really love to play volleyball even though they are barely eye level with the net. But size didn’t stop these undefeated champions: they won every game of the Fall 2022 season!
What were they taught by their coaches Laurin Nelson and Beth Farmer? To leave every game and practice using good sportsmanship, having fun, and feeling a little bit better than they were before.
Laurin and Beth both had daughters that wanted to play volleyball. Like Disney’s recent rendition of “The Mighty Ducks,” Laurin and Beth’s daughters Brin Nelson and Nora Farmer rallied their friends Thomas Weiler, Autumn Weber, Tillie Dredge, Brooklyn Taggart, Dottie Hughes, Jace Smith, and Max Jeppsen. None of their friends had played the sport before. But unlike the Ducks, these kids played volleyball. Together they forged the Strikers pee-wee volleyball team at Pleasant Grove Rec Center.
Their basic skills included bumping, serving, and setting up a volley. The Strikers were fast learners. Bumping puts your fists together to hit the ball over the net, or to pass to a teammate. Serving is the back right corner position that starts each volley with one person hitting the ball over the net. Setting up a volley involves multiple teammates bumping the ball over the net. Serving is the only “position” they play at this age, and they rotate during games to give each player a chance to serve.
The other positions focused on getting the ball over the net and not letting it hit the ground. Each game, a different player got to take turns being captain. One of Laurin and Beth’s goals was to give the boys as well as girls on the team exposure to volleyball because it’s a soon-to-be sanctioned sport in high school for boys as well as girls.
What made this greenie team so successful? Good sportsmanship for one. When the opposing team made a good play, they cheered them on! Their coaches gave lots of encouragement, taught them to stay positive, and encouraged everyone to have fun.
The coaches encouraged each kid on their own level. Their motto seemed to be “Celebrate anyone on either side”. When they came together for a team cheer it was “123 Go Strikers!” And their favorite pre-game ritual was to circle bump during warm ups. Circle bumping is the team in a circle, bumping the ball back and forth in the circle as many times as they could without it dropping. Their mission, which they chose to accept, was to bump the ball higher and volley (or pass between teammates without dropping the ball) for longer.
They never took the games too seriously. And hardest of all, they always had good attitudes, and the reward was slushies.
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