New England starting young with volleyball program

When seniors Taylor Hewson and Maddie Humleker were sixth graders, New England Elementary was just starting their volleyball program. A program that was much needed after a realization by then varsity coach Jodi Ryder.

Alexis Jaramillo (left), Maddie Rayhorn (middle), and Samantha Volk (right) await the ball. [PHOTO BY RACHEL BOCK | The Herald]
Alexis Jaramillo (left), Maddie Rayhorn (middle), and Samantha Volk (right) await the ball.
[PHOTO BY RACHEL BOCK | The Herald]
By RACHEL BOCK | For The Herald

When seniors Taylor Hewson and Maddie Humleker were sixth graders, New England Elementary was just starting their volleyball program. A program that was much needed after a realization by then varsity coach Jodi Ryder.

“That was one thing that we noticed, is that the kids that were coming up in seventh grade, all of a sudden they are expected to play volleyball, well they hadn’t had anything but gym volleyball, they didn’t have the time and the fundamentals that they needed to come into seventh-grade volleyball,” Ryder said.

After talking to some other area schools, New England took action by starting their own elementary program seven years ago.

The two seniors helped coach this year’s fourth grade girl’s volleyball team who went undefeated this season. Having seniors assist in coaching is something Ryder introduced when the elementary program first started.

“The first year we started the program, we had two teams, and there were some games we played at the same time, and I didn’t have any help,” Ryder said.

Every year since, Ryder has had senior girls volunteer their time to help coach, which has been a rewarding experience for both groups of girls.

“The (younger) girls look up to them,” Ryder said.

In order to find gym time during the busy school year, the elementary program starts right after spring break and goes until the beginning of May. From day one, the basics of the game of volleyball are taught. Then they add the fundamentals of passing, setting, serving and hitting along with other aspects of the game. Almost all of the girls in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes went out this year, totaling 23. In the past seven years, Ryder figures about 95 percent of the girls have been a part of the volleyball program.

The fifth and sixth grade also had an outstanding season finishing around the .500 mark. The fifth grade team was coached by Jodi Ryder and the sixth grade was coached by the girls varsity volleyball coach Taylor Hafner. Hafner started with the program last year, when Ryder needed someone to take over while she was away healing from knee surgery. Having Hafner join the coaching staff has been another key to the program’s success. Ryder and Hafner have a lot of the same philosophies in coaching.

“Coming from being an ex-varsity coach, you always want your younger programs to be doing what your doing, and how your doing it, because then you don’t have to reteach things,” Ryder said.

Seven years ago when the elementary volleyball program began, there were only three other area schools that had a program. This year there were so many area teams, that they had to come up with a new way to fit all of the games into the six-week season. A triangular schedule was introduced so all the teams could play each other twice, and so that they could have the same amount of home and away games during the season. A triangular schedule would bring three schools together to play, usually on a Tuesday or Thursday night. Each school would play two games against each other, and would only go to the score of 21. The addition of the new schedule eliminated some of the traveling time which gave the children more time to practice.

The girls would practice around three days a week, with Ryder trying to keep the practices fun, in hopes of the girls having the same love and passion for the sport as she has.

“The ultimate goal for me is to still be involved in the sport, to make sure they are starting out on the right foot, and doing things correctly,” Ryder said. “I want them to be fundamentally sound players, and then to learn to love the sport, like I love the sport.”

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