The third annual Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Volleyball Camp took place August 1-3 for girls from elementary to high school age. The camp was held at the Salt River High School gym. The camp was split into two sessions; the first was a morning session for elementary girls to learn the basics of volleyball, and the second session took place in the afternoon for the junior high and high school girls. About 50 youth participated.
Salt River High School varsity volleyball coach Pele Baker worked with the youth to help them learn sportsmanship, volleyball fundamentals and forming friendships. This was the third year the volleyball camp was offered on the Community.
The girls learned about and practiced playing the various positions in volleyball, as well as attacks, overhead tosses, hitting and throwing, defense, serving and rotation. The older girls were separated from the junior high girls, who picked up on the basics of the game but at an intermediate level.
“With the younger kids, we basically work on concentration and getting them involved,” Baker said. “With the older girls, [we are] teaching them the basics.”
Baker said most of the players have never played before. She said they do very well from the beginning to the end and they make some major changes.
“They improve as individuals, and I enjoy the little ones and their laughter and how they take things as they go,” she said.
“They taught me how to serve and pass to the other kids. I also liked the coaches, and I got a T-shirt for going to the camp,” said Alexandra Corrales, 7.
With the older girls, Baker said she enjoys the challenge. “When the girls see someone do something on the court, they want to challenge them and do even better. They are not afraid, and [are] eager to learn and get better. When the camp first begins the girls do not talk to each other, but by the end they are friends. It is good to watch them communicate with each other.
“Sportsmanship is something I really stress,” Baker continued. “It is not about how good you are, but how well you play with other players next to you. I try to teach them [that] everyone is on different levels. Playing with older girls and girls your own age teaches you how to deal and play with kids your own age, but also playing with the older girls makes them realize they have the knowledge and ability to play with girls who are better than [they are at the game].”
Baker said one of the biggest challenges is having the girls return to the camp every year. A lot of girls do come back, but Baker would like to see them be more active.
“In the high school there is a lot of interest in volleyball, and from the first year I came to coach until now their attitudes have improved and their level of respect has improved,” she said.
“This is my first time here at the camp,” said Elaina Gutierrez. “I will be coming here to Salt River High School, and I’m just trying to get back into volleyball I used to play at Carson Junior High in Mesa.”
Baker said the kids are a joy to work with and she loves spending time with them. She said this year the team has a lot of talent and she is hoping to be able to put it together and find a leader.