Volleyball camp battles heat

BY CODY GREDELL | JULY 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Volleyball is a growing sport dedicated to aggressiveness, strategy, and — most importantly — passion.

This was evident on Tuesday as more than 200 young players waited to take the court at the Iowa volleyball camp, held in the sweltering Field House main gym.

The camp is intended for girls ranging from fifth to 12th grade, and the main goal is to meet the needs of each individual player. Skills taught at the camp included hitting, blocking, and communication among players.

"I think it's an awesome opportunity for the University of Iowa to have [more than 200] kids on campus," Iowa volleyball head coach Sharon Dingman said. "It's great for our program. The more exposure we can get — the more little kids we can get wearing Iowa volleyball shirts or just Hawkeye shirts in general — it's good for us."

Campers received coaching from local high-school coaches, the Iowa coaching staff, and a handful of Iowa players.

"We certainly want [the campers] to enjoy being here and playing volleyball every day," Dingman said. " We just want to kind of share our knowledge and passion for [the sport], and then help them improve their skills."

Many of the Iowa players on hand for the camp said they used similar experiences when they were younger to help groom their passion for the game.

"I would always go to the Creighton or Nebraska-Omaha camps," senior middle blocker Mallory Husz said. "I remember how nervous I was and how much fun I had."

Senior outside hitter Tiffany Nilges said she hopes the campers will leave Iowa City with a better impression of the sport.

"I hope they learn better skills [and] maybe learn a new way of doing something," she said. "Hopefully, they enjoy [the game] enough to come watch [Iowa's games in the fall]."

Heat played a role in this year's camp — temperatures outside soared to the high 90s, and the heat index far exceeded that. The non-air conditioned Field House didn't offer much relief, and Dingman made sure both coaches and players had plenty of water.

"The heat has been a huge challenge," Dingman said. "We've had to cut a few of our sessions short because of it."

The temperature didn't stop camp enrollment from increasing this year compared with last summer, and Dingman said she has seen her sport surge in popularity over recent years. She said sand volleyball was one of the hardest tickets to obtain at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and Penn State's women's team also gave the sport a boost when the Nittany Lions won 109-straight matches from 2007-10.

Now that the sport seems to be more popular than ever, Dingman said, she believes she and other coaches owe it to the state to help the game gain steam in the region.

"I think we have a responsibility to help volleyball grow in the state of Iowa," she said. "Volleyball is in a good place right now."

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