Student Shares Travel Volleyball Experiences


Photo Courtesy of Audrey W.

Audrey spikes the ball over the net, snapping her wrist to create topspin (a fast forward spin on the ball that causes it to drop quickly after clearing the net), which will make it harder for the opposing team to receive the ball.

The crowd was silent as Audrey walked up to the serving line. The cheers of teams on nearby courts were distant. Audrey bounced the ball once, twice. The sound of the ball striking the ground echoed through the gym. Time seemed to slow as Audrey tossed the ball into the air. Then—SLAM!—she hit the ball, sending it flying over the net to the other side of the court. The players on the opposing team scrambled, shouting incomprehensibly at each other. The ball sailed downward. As it hit the floor, the referee blew the whistle. Audrey’s team erupted in cheers. They had won the tournament.

7th grader Audrey W. plays for the East Coast Power (ECP) DC volleyball club. She is a member of the Eagles, ECP’s U12 national team. Before playing travel volleyball, Audrey participated in McLean Youth Volleyball, a local recreational club, where she first learned how to play volleyball.

“Everyone on my team was also very inexperienced like me, so we had pretty low standards. We would cheer every time we touched the ball or got it over the net,” she remarked. “It was a great experience because I learned the basic foundation that I needed to do better and progress as a volleyball player. My coaches and teammates were really nice, and I had lots of fun at the games when we went against the other teams.”

Audrey currently plays the position of outside hitter (left-side hitter), who is the main attacker in offense. Outside hitters usually play in both the front row and the back row, helping with serve-receive if needed. Successful outside hitters need versatility, quick feet, and the ability to jump high. The volleyball may not always be in a convenient place, so they should be ready to hit from many different angles.

As a member of her club’s 12-year-old national team, Audrey has strengths and weaknesses. “Personally, I think I’m pretty good at passing and hitting, [but] sometimes I can get a little shaky on serve-receive.”

Her team as a whole also has some skills they need to work on.

“Sometimes, during games, we lose many points due to this one server, and as a team, sometimes we need to communicate better on the court like sometimes both of us go for a ball or none of us go for the ball,” Audrey mentioned.

To improve their volleyball abilities before each tournament, her team has practices twice a week for two hours each time. During practice, they usually start with drills to refine their fundamentals: passing, setting, hitting, and serving. Then, the team either scrimmages or does some fun games, both with the purpose of developing better skills and communication as a team. They also work on running a smooth 5-1 offense, with the five hitters and one setter constantly rotating and switching positions on the court.

Tournaments take place one or two times a month, sometimes in consecutive weeks. This year’s travel volleyball season started in December 2021, after tryouts the month before, and the first tournament was in January.

“Our team hasn’t done amazing because we haven’t gotten a bunch of first place, but I still feel like we did well,” Audrey stated. “[We just were] not good enough to be number one in most of them. But we still got first place in our first two tournaments and second place in a lot of them.”

Despite not winning the past few tournaments, the team continues to persevere, putting hard work into each practice to perfect their skills. Audrey has confidence that her team will do better in upcoming tournaments.

Playing travel volleyball definitely requires a lot of hard work, but it can also be a unique experience. Audrey enjoys volleyball not only because she gets to play the sport she loves but also because of the friendship opportunities it presents.

“Volleyball is really fun because it’s a team sport, and you have a lot of fun teammates to hang out with and also play with,” she said. “My favorite part is working together with my teammates to get the ball in play, and I also really like the fact that if you mess up, your team is always there for you to help you shake it off and keep going.”

Audrey has overcome many challenges and had many amazing memories throughout her volleyball experience.

Caption: Audrey spikes the ball over the net, snapping her wrist to create topspin (a fast forward spin on the ball that causes it to drop quickly after clearing the net), which will make it harder for the opposing team to receive the ball.