For two hours Monday, Ellison head volleyball coach William De Gracia barely stopped moving and never stopped teaching.
De Gracia was leading his ninth-grade volleyball camp, which Ellison has held for the entirety of his four-year tenure. Yet it wasn’t always as big as it is now, as 30-plus girls are participating in the four-day camp.
But his ninth-grade camp isn’t the only one expanding.
Ellison had 40-plus girls in its seventh- and eighth-grade camp and 10 girls in its sixth-grade camp. But even that number was an improvement in the second year of the camp.
“We actually only had two elementary girls last year,” De Gracia said.
Because of travel teams like Killeen Junior Volleyball Club and his camps, De Gracia can literally see the sport he loves expanding in popularity at the local level.
“It’s growing,” he said. “It’s growing in Killeen, and I’m excited.
“And hopefully we continue to do it.”
Ellison freshman coach Kaci Felder is in her first year with the program and was helping De Gracia every step of the way Monday just as she was with the sixth grade camp.
For her, working with a coach as passionate as De Gracia is a privilege that she doesn’t take for granted.
“When I first got here, he was working with the little girls and saying I want them to fall in love with the game before they get to me,” Felder said. “And that’s a real coach.”
Even before having coached her first match in Killeen, Felder said she could sense the excitement surrounding the sport and the program at Ellison.
“It’s so exciting to see this many girls come out,” Felder said. “We’ve had a really good turnout at open gym, so to walk into a new program and to come in in the summer and already see so much excitement is really exciting for me.”
And De Gracia has his eyes on even more opportunities for young athletes to play.
The head coach said next year will be the first in which he hosts a sixth grade spring league.
“My upperclassmen girls are going to be coaching the girls, and we’re going to teach them fundamentals,” De Gracia said. “We’re going to do it for the months of March and April if everything comes out right.”
For De Gracia, it just offers more opportunities to do what he loves and that is to teach the game of volleyball.
And as was evident Monday, De Gracia never gets tired of that.
“I’m very excited that I’m allowed to do it,” he said. “I wish I could coach my girls all year round.”
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