Youth learn volleyball skills at Southwest camp

July 15, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

From the parking lot one could hear the faint sounds of cheering and rubber bouncing on floors.

A further stroll toward the Southwest High School gym in El Centro intensified the sounds and once within one could almost feel their insides rattle to the sound of 97 volleyball campers having a great time playing the sport.

The third annual Southwest volleyball camp was everything it was expected to be as it wrapped up its final day Thursday. All the campers who registered were present and deeply entangled in competition and drills with one another.

Despite the excitement and electricity being generated by the group of girls and boys, ages 5-16, camp director Karen Saikhon had complete control. A quick blow of her whistle would echo throughout the gym and each participant would sprint and sit down at center court, quietly and patiently awaiting Saikhon's next set of instructions.


"Now it's time to play some games," said Saikhon, whose announcement was answered with wild cheers and eager faces.

Two groups at a time set off toward one of six courts set up for play until Saikhon read the last pairing of teams. Play followed immediately and again curious people from the parking lot strayed in and out of the gym wondering what all the fuss was about.

"I have had very few complaints about kids wanting to sit down because they're tired," said Saikhon. "Everyone's been active for the entire four hours and really been into it.

"The ones that complained that their hands hurt or that they were tired are the ones that are really active this year."

As Saikhon continued about her camp, which cost each youngster $40, she was constantly interrupted by girls and boys running up shouting scores of their games for her to record. Saikhon would then return fire by telling them to make sure they switched up and played with different players in the next game.

After 6-year-old Kendall Henry reported her team's score she took the time to answer a few questions while surrounded by her 7-year-old friends Tamari Saikhon and Carly Kemp.

"I wanted to come here and play volleyball," said Kendall amongst the whispering and giggling of the trio. "I wanted to learn the setting and serving and the rest of the things. I know how to play, but I'm still not that good."

And then the three ran off, hand-in-hand, for their next game.

As the games continued the campers showed off their skills and were still receiving instructions from two or three Southwest or Holtville volleyball players per court. During the week those same players were helping lead and instruct the camp.

Different sessions featuring about eight to nine campers and two to three coaches covered all the major aspects of volleyball. Saikhon would blow the whistle every 10 minutes or so and the groups would switch to a new lesson.

"My volunteer coaches were really consistent this year," commended Saikhon. "They called if they weren't going to come or be late and I could really count on them. They also did a great job with all the kids and they had a good time as well."

Heather McGuire, 16, will be a junior at Southwest this fall and a returning member of the varsity volleyball squad. McGuire rattled off a series of lessons taught to all the participants ranging from setting the ball to how to approach an incoming hit or pass.

"We just taught the kids what we know," said McGuire, speaking about all the coaches. "We want to try to make all the campers better volleyball players and we're surprised at how much they've learned. They've all improved since the first day."

Shawna Conway, one of McGuire's potential teammates and an incoming freshman, was looking forward to a camp full of practice and competition and she wasn't disappointed.

"They've done a really good job here," said the 13-year-old Conway of the coaches. "I knew a lot about the game already, but I really improved with this camp. Everybody has had a good time. I wanted to come in and improve my skills and I did."

Among the 97 participants, 15 of whom were boys, cities from all over the Imperial Valley were represented and a few campers came from San Diego to attend the instructional event. Saikhon said she was receiving calls as early as February from parents asking when the camp was going to be held so they could plan their vacations around it.

Among all the participants and lessons, however, Saikhon was most pleased with the camaraderie, especially between incoming members of Central Union and Southwest.

"These girls are out here building relationships," she said. "This lets all the girls meet each other and establish a friendly rivalry."

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