The University of Northern Colorado hosted its annual volleyball camp this weekend, giving high school teams a chance to get back on the court and potentially impress the coaching staff.
UNC calls it a camp, but head coach Lyndsey Oates said it was actually just a three-day tournament where teams from Colorado and neighboring states can face schools they are playing against. might not have faced otherwise. UNC coaches do not provide instruction like they do in individual skills camps.
“I’ve had so many coaches thanking us for the welcome,” Oates said. “They’re just thrilled to be back in the gym, maskless, playing regular volleyball. Spring was not (normal) so summer was our first chance to have a chance to get back to normal.
The UNC was unable to host the camp last year due to COVID-19. This year the numbers are down a bit, but not by much. Oates said 122 teams from five states participate – they have averaged about 160 teams from eight states in the past – with around 500 players and coaches staying in campus dorms.
Longtime Weldon Valley coach Jerry Spooner said his team, from the Fort Morgan area, attend camp every year. His tenure dates back to before Oates was hired at UNC and before he took place in Greeley.
It’s a relief to be back this year. The team’s goal for this year was to remove some of the rust and get back to playing the sport.
“Things are back to normal, and normal is fantastic,” said Spooner. “No one knew how good it was until they took it off, so the kids were having fun again.”
Weldon Valley competes at Level 1A and has won two State titles; its most recent was in 2012. The UNC team camp gives the team the opportunity to face bigger and tougher opponents in the hope of another title.
Spooner said that with each year they leave UNC, the players are better and better prepared for the season. He expects the same this year.
“When I see my kids reaching a level they’ve never reached before, I get goosebumps with adrenaline rush. I received them today, ”Spooner said. “We’re young and we’re starting over, and you always ask yourself, ‘Do we stink? But I think I will see (the potential) for my group again.
Not only is the camp good for the participating teams, it is also good for the UNC.
First, Oates’ assistants are responsible for most of the logistics with the camps. Their contracts provide for a base salary, but successful camps give them a bonus.
UNC staff also closely scrutinize potential recruits. Oates and his assistants can watch the players for three days and assess what they would do with the Bears.
Coaches will be monitoring players during their regular high school and club seasons, but they can see how players react to their different opponents and situations. Plus, they’re all in one place.
“We see a lot of kids on our campus,” Oates said. “It’s great for the area teams to have a good competition in their backyard so we have a lot of local schools playing in this tournament.
Junior Makenzie Harris of Eaton received a scholarship offer after Oates watched it one summer. The staff had followed Harris’ career, but it wasn’t until a team camp that Oates decided she would make a good addition to the roster.
Sterling senior Kyndall Feather also attended camp during all four years of high school.
Camp ended on Saturday and most schools are expected to start their seasons in just over a month.
“It’s good to have a college with its reputation to bring us in here,” Spooner said. “Sometimes they are not thanked enough. Hope they know when we didn’t have it we missed it.