Husker Nation is a unique place. The entire city bleeds Red, that is, speaking to the passion that exists for the University of Nebraska Athletics. In a state without a team in one of the 5 major professional sports leagues, the “Gimme Red ‘Til I’m Dead” Cornhusker fans are huge supporters of Husker Athletics, and women’s volleyball is a prime example.
The Husker volleyball program has gone to the NCAA Championships every single year since 1984, which is every championship except the first one. Huskers have led the country in attendance the past few seasons. Even prior to winning the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, the 8,000 seat Bob Devaney Sports Center, home of Nebraska Volleyball and one of the top venues in all of college athletics, would sell out on a regular basis.
The success of the collegiate program has had a direct impact on the ‘craze’ of youth and junior volleyball in Lincoln. The sport has become popular enough that two junior volleyball clubs exist in one facility.
Abbott Sports Complex is a 10-court facility located on the north side of Lincoln, Nebraska. Part of the facility is comprised of 4 volleyball only courts, which is the home of VCN, a JVA member club formed in 2010 by former Nebraska setter Maggie Griffin. The other half of the facility has 6 basketball/volleyball courts, and is home to Nebraska Juniors volleyball club, also a JVA member club formed in the mid 90’s and currently Directed by former Husker Gwen Egbert.
VCN and Nebraska Juniors, share the same goals of growing and developing junior volleyball in Lincoln, but find a way to have their own niche.
Alumnus Egbert played volleyball at Nebraska under Coach Terry Pettit where she was a member of two Big 8 championship teams. The team made their first NCAA National Tournament appearance that year and Egbert was selected First Team All-Big 8.
Egbert started as a coach for Nebraska Juniors in 1997, now a club with over 20 years of success developing young players into some of the best in the country, including current USA Women’s National Team member Jordan Larson and 25 current or former members of Nebraska Volleyball. Nebraska Juniors has 10 teams ages 13-18 and uses the traditional style of training with one coach per team and split position sessions with all coaches.
“Both clubs want volleyball in Nebraska to be great, so we work together to put on top events with the best competition possible. With such easy access to Abbott Sports Complex, both clubs can get players and teams from all over the state” explains Egbert.
Although they are two separate clubs, VCN and Nebraska Juniors collaborate in many ways. Friday nights are open training, which means any player can come train from any club. These sessions are fundamentals only and different ages play together.
VCN uses the master coach training philosophy, and is unique and successful because of the club’s Youth Academy pipeline. Club Director Griffin and her staff believe that if all kids are trained the correct way at an early age, they will really reap the benefits from a volleyball, and an overall athletic standpoint as they get older. Basic motor skills and volleyball movement are combined to help young players develop and find success. While VCN is a younger club, its success throughout the Youth Academy and training is evident as the older players are finding high levels of success in their high school, club teams, and their commitments.
“Being a National Champion at the club and collegiate level, I wanted to bring my experience to the place that really gave back to me as a player and a person. Nebraska Volleyball has a special place in my heart as I did a lot of growing up here. The people, the community, and the culture is so strong, I wanted to share that with a large group of youth who wanted to have those same opportunities, whether it be at Nebraska or any other school across the country. Lincoln has become my home because of the support from Nebraska fans and the impact of the players we are influencing every day, whether it be through volleyball or through life lessons” shares Griffin.
Regardless of styles, all players reap the benefits of two clubs existing in one facility. Young women from all over the state are encouraged to “dream big” when it comes to playing volleyball. Both these clubs and coaching staffs promote, encourage and extend themselves to help players achieve their dreams. Just ask Sydney Townsend, Olivia Boender, Amber Rolfzen, Kadie Rolfzen and Kelly Hunter. All had the dream of playing at Nebraska and winning a national title! As high school athletes their club experience was a vital part of achieving that dream!
No matter the method or where they train, club volleyball is part of the developmental process, and these two clubs are an example of the positive junior volleyball experience that the JVA strives to grow throughout the country.
The JVA is comprised of over 800 indoor and beach junior volleyball clubs around the country. For more information on running a volleyball facility, click here. For more information on being a JVA Club Director click here.