COPPERAS COVE — Cari Lowery thrives on certain moments.
Spending a majority of her time entrenched in a hectic, constantly evolving and highly competitive environment, Copperas Cove’s head volleyball coach finds rejuvenation in flashes while overseeing the annual Lady Dawg Volleyball Camp.
“Any coach will tell you the best part of their job is that light-bulb moment, when a kid looks at you and goes, ‘Oh, OK. So that’s how you do it.’” Lowery said. “That part is exciting. It kind of renews your spirit and reminds you why you’re doing this.”
With more than 250 kids attending the four-day camp at Bulldawg Gymnasium, Lowery had more cherished moments than ever in 2014, completing the program’s largest camp to date Thursday.
There was a time, however, when the camp lacked appeal.
In 2004, Lowery created the Lady Dawg Volleyball Camp from scratch, and in its first year of existence drew a total of 12 participants. A decade later, enrollment has grown exponentially for a variety of reasons, according to Lowery.
A major factor is the creation of a volleyball league within the Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation Department, but in the end, she believes the camp’s success is due to the contributions of her current and former players.
“The kids around here want to be good,” she said. “When you have good teams, they all want to be part of that.”
Since arriving, Lowery has seen a direct correlation between the accomplishments of the Lady Bulldawgs and the growth of the steady camp.
Copperas Cove made its first postseason appearance under Lowery in 2006, reaching the Class 4A quarterfinals, and the team has returned to the playoffs every year since. The Lady Bulldawgs enter the 2014 season as back-to-back District 8-5A champions, winning 40 matches for the first time in program history last year.
While Lowery expects another strong season from her team, she understands there are holes to fill with the departure of two-time district MVP and all-state selection Qiana Canete among others, but camp is the perfect time to find future standouts.
Open to kids from the ninth grade all the way down to kindergarten, each day is broken into three sessions based on grade, and for the older kids, it is an opportunity to experience volleyball at the high school level.
“For the incoming freshmen and eighth-graders, we run it pretty much like a pre-tryout,” Lowery said. “So it is pretty intense. It is not the same as two-a-days or tryouts, but it is pretty close.”
The atmosphere is far more subdued for the younger children, who learn basic skills and rules of the game.
Regardless of intensity, the camp ultimately serves one purpose — creating passion for the sport.
“They get up here in this beautiful gym and see all the Lady Dawg volleyball stuff everywhere, and they get excited,” Lowery said. “Then, they’ll work harder, and they’ll be up here during the summer.”