Murray Volleyball Academies teach game fundamentals, fun
Since it started nearly two years ago, the Academy has helped more than 100 kids ages three and up to learn the fundamentals of volleyball in a low-pressure, encouraging environment. From bumping and setting, to digging and passing, coach Bree Anderson helps kids improve their skills and establish a passion for the game at a young age.
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By Sarah Almond | firstname.lastname@example.org
Murray, Utah - Over the past couple years, two women in the Murray community have been working to create opportunities for children of all ages to learn about, practice, and play volleyball.
Soni Hirasuna is the assistant recreation center director for Murray Park Center. Along with running all of the adult volleyball programs at the rec center, Hirasuna is also in charge of running specialty camps and clinics throughout the year.
“We run a volleyball camp every year that’s under my jurisdiction but that’s just during the summer,” Hirasuna said. “So the rest of the year, kids are always saying how much they would love to play more and learn more skills.”
To help meet this need and offer more playing opportunities, Hirasuna joined efforts with Bree Anderson, director of the Salt Lake Volleyball Club, to create volleyball academies where children receive quality coaching and instruction without the pressures of being on a team.
“The thought behind creating an academy was to give these kids some good fundamentals and a fun basis to learn the sport,” Hirasuna said. “That way, if they want to continue to play volleyball, they have a good fundamental base to it.”
Two-hour practices are held once a week, with sessions lasting between two and four weeks. No matter the structure or time length, each academy is designed to give kids professional volleyball coaching and help them focus on learning specific skills without the pressure of a team-driven environment.
Hirasuna and Anderson experimented with several different types of academies, including recent specialized academies where kids can practice specific techniques.
“We had an academy purely for hitting, and then one for setting, and one for passing,” Hirasuna said. “It was a little difficult because there was a big range of skill sets, whereas other academies we set the kids up by beginners, intermediate, and advance levels.”
As part of the Murray Rec-Salt Lake Volleyball Club partnership, Anderson frequently helps with programs and hosts coaching clinics at the Murray Park Center.
“For me, I started in a big club where it was all about winning and the kids that maybe didn’t get to play as much or were new to volleyball, they were always kind of supplementing the really good teams,” Anderson said. “We decided that we wanted to change that dynamic.”
Anderson talked with Hirasuna about changing this cutthroat, competitive club culture. By working with kids at the recreational level, Anderson hoped she could inspire kids to love the sport of volleyball from a young age.
“With this partnership, kids can start in rec and also have the opportunity to have club coaching,” Anderson said. “It’s fun to get the young kids passionate about it.”
Hirasuna explained that Anderson’s concept behind creating these academies is to build a program where kids are more knowledgeable about the sport and have the resources they need to be successful if they decide to play volleyball in the future.
“I know club teams can be expensive so we want those kids that maybe people have overlooked, or can’t afford to pay a lot of money,” Anderson said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to actually explore volleyball and get good coaching and have a good time without having to worry about being the best.”
Academies are traditionally open to children ages seven and up. New this fall, however, Hirasuna and Anderson hosted a pre-academy for kids three- to six-years-old.
“We’re working on getting those really young, young kids in the gym,” Anderson said. “Again, we’re not trying to create stellar volleyball players; we’re just trying to get them excited and interested in the game and a younger age. If we can get these young kids in, who want to know what volleyball is, we can let them start with a really fun experience.”
Visit slc.utahvolleyball.org for information on how to register for upcoming academies.