Volleyball players set sights on improvement

A club where young athletes build skills has led to a Valley-wide spike in the sport’s popularity.

Matt Helm, head volleyball coach at Whitman College, gives instructions to the Sweets Volleyball Club’s U-14 Black team, made up of seventh- and eighth-graders.

Matt Helm, head volleyball coach at Whitman College, gives instructions to the Sweets Volleyball Club’s U-14 Black team, made up of seventh- and eighth-graders. Photo courtesy of Staci Wanichek



Tryouts for the Sweets Volleyball Club’s next season will be held in November.

“We have a no-cut policy,” said Rothstrom. “Everyone can play.”

During the season each team competes in as many as five tournaments throughout the Northwest. The first tournament of the season was held last weekend at Whitman and Walla Walla Community colleges.

For more information, call 509-520-7186, email cassie@wwenvironm..., find the club on Facebook or go to evergreenregion.org

WALLA WALLA — “Volleyball is alive and well in Walla Walla,” said Cassie Rothstrom, president and assistant director of the Sweets Volleyball Club.

Interest in the sport continues to increase in the nation and the Northwest. There are a number of clubs in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, making up what’s known as the Evergreen Region.

Locally, the Nike-sponsored Sweets has just begun its second season. The club provides opportunities for female athletes ages 8-18 to learn, enhance their skills and benefit from expert coaching.

“Volleyball, on a national basis, is really on an upswing,” said Rothstrom. “Our daughters love to play volleyball. My husband, Robert, and I wanted to try to improve volleyball in the high school level.”

The way to do that, they decided, was to form a strong, affordable club to provide practice and training for the players.

“The goal is to improve volleyball in the Valley, take it to the next level,” she said.

Originally based in College Place, the club began with about 35 players, said Rothstrom. It now has 120, comprising 11 teams of participants from the Valley, Athena, Pendleton, Waitsburg, Touchet and Dayton. Following age-group tryouts, players are selected based on volleyball skills, athletic abilities and attitude.

It takes outstanding coaching and training to bring the already excellent athletes to a higher level of play. To assist in that effort, the club utilizes the talents of 23 volunteer coaches.

“We have a phenomenal coaching staff,” Rothstrom said. “A club this large is real fortunate to have such wonderful volunteers.”

The coaching staff is composed of respected members of the volleyball community, including college and high school coaches, former semipro volleyball players and collegiate athletes. Throughout the season, players will have the opportunity to participate in specialized coaching sessions to increase their vertical jump and learn proper core and conditioning exercises.

“It’s a wonderful feeder program for high school,” Rothstrom said.

The club enjoys the support of a variety of sponsors, both local and national.

“We were approached by Nike,” she said. This sponsorship means more visibility, plus sizable discounts on their uniforms.

“Getting sponsors really helps offset our costs,” she said.

The club’s local sponsors are Graphic Apparel, Banner Bank, Columbia REA, Walla Walla Builders Supply, Evergreen Labs, Walla Walla Environmental, Pioneer Title, GESA Credit Union, Walla Walla Wine Club, Baker Boyer Bank and Andy’s Market. Club personnel are appreciative of what the sponsors have provided them, said Rothstrom.

Practices are held at many of the local schools, Rothstrom said. Gyms at the elementary and middle schools, Walla Walla Valley Academy and several of the colleges have allowed the club to play at their location.

“They have all been very gracious,” she said.

The regular practice sessions help the players develop their skills and progress as players.

“It’s crazy how much these kids are improving,” she said. “We’ll grow you.”

Karlene Ponti is the U-B specialty publications writer. She can be reached at 509-526-8324 or karleneponti@wwub.com.


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