For The Tribune

Cali Cummings said this week seemed like a good time for her to attend her first Seymour Owls volleyball camp, while Maggie Connell said she looked forward to attending the camp for the fifth time.

Holly Birdsong, who will serve as the varsity head coach of the Owls this fall, had 70 girls attended the camp that is being conducted at Seymour Middle School.

The campers are divided into three groups, kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade.

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“We are doing the same skills at all the age levels,” Birdsong said. “They (younger girls) just may go slower, and actually all the way down to the kindergarten level they’ll be doing the serving, passing, setting and hitting, just like all the other groups do.

“We have gone to a lower (badminton) net for the younger kids, and the kindergarten-through second grade use what is called a ‘first touch’ volleyball, and the third-through-fifth grade uses a ‘volley light’ volleyball. The sixth-through-eighth grade will use a regular volleyball.”

Birdsong said the first touch balls weigh half as much as the volley light balls, and the volley light balls weight half as much as the regulation balls.

Some of girls in the third-through-fifth grade were tossing plastic balls the size of softballs during one drill.

“We’ve added in several different drills to work on their hand-eye coordination, watch them follow the ball all the way to their hands,” Birdsong said. “Also, we can work with tennis balls whenever we’re working on hitting and serving so they can throw it over the net easier than a big volleyball to teach the proper form for everything.”

Cummings, who is entering fifth grade, said, “I just want to get better at my skills. I like passing the ball. I like back row. I think my serving is pretty good. This is the first year I thought I could do it, and I’ve found myself liking volleyball now.”

Cummings said she has attended middle school volleyball matches in the past to see her sister, Delaney Cummings, play. Delaney will be a freshman at Seymour High School.

Connell, an incoming seventh grader at St. John’s Sauers, will be going into her fourth year playing volleyball at the school.

“I just like the competition, and I just like playing volleyball,” she said of her favorite sport. I like to play all-around,” she said, and added that she is confident in her hitting, passing and serving.

“I became interested in volleyball when Holly began taking me to all of her games, and I would sit there and help her.”

The older girls do more team drills during the camp.

“We’ve done more team stuff,” Birdsong said. “We’ll be back on the regular courts for sixth, seventh and eighth grade, and we do a lot more activities that are full-court involving all aspects of the game.

“There is not really enough time (five days) in summer camp to go into full offense and defense that they are trying to get three contacts on the ball and set the ball up.”

Birdsong said she started a mini-volleyball league (four vs. four) two years ago, during the winter, with the youngest kids.

“With these badminton courts, and it worked really well, so I brought that into summer camp this year, and it’s worked really well,” Birdsong said. “We’re going to do mini volleyball this fall on Saturdays.”

The Owls varsity is playing in a league in Indianapolis on Thursday nights, and the middle school is playing host to a middle school league on Monday nights.

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.