New England elementary volleyball thriving

During her time as coach of the varsity volleyball team in New England, Jodi Ryder started noticing a trend

Posted April 18, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

During her time as coach of the varsity volleyball team in New England, Jodi Ryder started noticing a trend. Her competition seemed to be more advanced. She decided to do some investigating. What did she find? Many of the schools that her teams faced fielded an elementary program, allowing their athletes to get an earlier start at the sport.

“Everyone seemed to be more advanced than us, and we couldn’t quite figure it out,” Ryder said.

Before the elementary program was established in New England, the first experience of volleyball the girls would be exposed to was seventh grade. Ryder sought advice from the coach down in Hettinger who gave her the idea of establishing an elementary program. After discovering the earlier starts other schools were getting an earlier starts, she approached the school board and got approval to start the program here in New England.

“I took it to the [school] board, and asked if we could start this up to benefit our varsity program, and get these girls started at an early age,” Ryder said.

The ultimate goal, according to Ryder, is to benefit the varsity program, but she is also very focused on having the girls learn the right way to play early on.

“They’re learning the skills the right way from an early age, and they’re developing a love for the sport,” Ryder said.

The elementary program has been running now for seven years, with Ryder coaching every team.  When asked if she can see the benefit at the varsity level, Ryder replied “absolutely.”

Ryder also notes that the seventh and eighth grade programs have improved tremendously because they have already been exposed to the basics of the sport. Now their focus can be on skills and not the fundamentals, according to Ryder.

Ryder usually has between 14 and 16 girls come out each year, but that number has been overshot this year.  The team this year has 21 girls out, the most Ryder has ever had in a season.

When there are no games scheduled they will practice five days a week. Once games start, that is limited to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with games always being played on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Anyone interested in catching the young athletes in action can do so at the New England school gymnasium when the squad is in town for home games.

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