Former Collegiate parent Kathy Wrenn has many job titles within Collegiate. She is the School wellness coordinator and a Middle School physical education teacher, but, perhaps most importantly, she is a program leader for volleyball. When Wrenn joined the program 17 years ago, Collegiate had only three volleyball teams; now there are four or five, depending on how many students sign up for each season. This school year, Wrenn started a youth volleyball program for girls in grades 3-6. Wrenn kicked off the VolleyPAWS program with a small session in the spring of 2016. After that session’s success, she began to organize the six-week fall program.
“[The athletic directors] have very specific rules” said Wrenn, so the guidelines were already in place for VolleyPAWS. Volleyball was the “…only sport that didn’t have a youth program,” said Wrenn. In that way, the sport has fallen behind some of the other sports offered at Collegiate, especially because volleyball is very skill-oriented. “It takes about a year for someone to really be able to practice,” says Richmond Volleyball Club Coach Clark Menger. Menger is also the father of Quinn Menger (‘21 at St. Catherine’s) who made second team state as an eighth grader. When I asked Coach Menger when Quinn started playing, he answered: “[Quinn] was at a volleyball match on her way home from the hospital.” Quinn did start playing for Richmond Volleyball Club when she was eight.
I and a few other varsity volleyball players assisted Coach Wrenn with her new program last fall. While most other sports programs at Collegiate don’t have current students working them, “we rely on [student help] a lot because we’re a new program,” Wrenn explained.
Future varsity volleyball team captain Avery Freeman(‘18) told me “I wish I were able to participate in the VolleyPAWS program when I was younger, because it teaches kids skills and teamwork at a very young age, which will only continue to strengthen the Collegiate volleyball program.” Starting early is important in volleyball, and Collegiate now provides younger girls with that opportunity.
According to Wrenn, VolleyPAWS focuses on two things: “sportsmanship and character development.” When I coached last fall, we really tried to implement these themes by having smaller ideas to focus on every session—a “word of the day.” The first day, our words were coachability and attitude. My team of 5th-6th graders and I scribbled down those words on a poster board and discussed what they meant to us. The following weeks we talked about communication, teamwork, hard work, sportsmanship, and “scrappiness.”
Freeman, Olivia Hess (‘17), Isabella Vita (‘19), and I all participated as coaches. “It’s really good to target the younger kids–to get them interested in volleyball,” said Hess, “I think VolleyPAWS is a good way to do that because the girls get to see the varsity players and all their hard work.” I personally liked having the program during varsity season, because the girls I coached came to and cheered for me at some of my games. I still wave to my players when I see them walking around campus.
VolleyPAWS was, however, time-consuming for me as a junior in the Upper School. “Sometimes it was hard because it was right after [our] sports practice,” said Vita, especially when “I had a lot of homework since I wasn’t able to start it until after.” The time commitment is worth it in the end, though, because we got to teach these kids the sport we love. I look forward to getting to work the upcoming spring session on April 8.
Photos courtesy of Kathy Wrenn.