FLORENCE — As members of the Florence Lady Buffs varsity volleyball team, Clarissa Carranco, Hannah Hurley, Michaela Meischen and Jenny Roche are used to getting instruction and being coached. But this week, the script was flipped.
The varsity players took some time out of their summer to come back into the gym and serve as volunteer coaches during the Florence Volleyball Camp.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Carranco, a junior libero, said. “I like seeing them come out and start the sport early instead of waiting.”
The camp began Monday and is for incoming sixth- through eighth-graders.
The high school girls ran around with the younger girls, showed them some drills, shouted words of encouragement and showed them some new techniques.
“They’re having fun,” Florence head volleyball coach Kelly Stephens said. “I’ve seen a lot of good qualities in my varsity players and hopefully one day they’ll want to become a teacher and a coach and kind of carry on the tradition. They have run and acted like the kids when they get out here.”
For senior outside hitter Roche, the camp is a chance to pay things forward.
Roche came out to help ensure that the girls entering high school in the next three years will have a good foundation set for themselves.
“I really believe that for them to succeed in high school, they need to start young,” Roche said. “They need to be getting coordinated and getting all their skills down. Since I’m graduating, I want the future kids to be able to win their games and be good.”
Though the players have been working out on their own this summer and participated in other activities such as strength and conditioning camps, helping Stephens out at the camp serves another purpose, said senior setter and right side hitter Michaela Meischen.
Meischen said coaching the kids helps develop skills of her own.
“I get to help these girls, I get better as a leader and it’s fun to do,” Meischen.
The camp proved to be just as fun for the high school girls as it was for the younger kids.
“I think it helps a lot because when I was little, I had camps, too, and came to most of them,” Carranco said. “It helped then.”
Between drills, senior outside hitter Hannah Hurley lay flat on her stomach on the hardwood floor allowing fifth-grader Tyler Hutchinson to walk on her back as both smiled and laughed.
For Hurley, this could eventually be the norm, as she wants to pursue a career in coaching.
“I definitely am an active person,” Hurley said. “I’m a lifeguard so I work with kids at the YMCA, so kids are always going to be there. I like being around them. They keep me young and new and they teach me things, I teach them things.”
The Lady Buffs will also hold a camp next week at the high school gym for incoming high school freshmen. The camp is from Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.
There is also a new energy at Florence with the arrival of new athletic director Joey McQueen and momentum after some of the players were a part of Florence’s softball playoff team this past spring.
“We’ve been working really, really hard,” Roche said. “I think that with the new athletic director and with coach Stephens holding these camps, it’s like a mindset. For the next few months, all we think about is volleyball and hopefully we win.”
The Lady Buffs are literally not going to wait a second longer than they have to in order to begin fall practice. The first day the UIL permits practice is Aug. 4 and Florence will begin practicing at midnight.
“I definitely want to win,” Hurley said. “That’s the No. 1 goal, and work as a team because this is my last year. It’s going to be hard and I’m still debating whether to play volleyball in college.”
Florence will open the regular season at home Aug. 11 when it hosts Round Rock Christian.
“With who we have on our team right now and how we are, I’m pretty sure we have a chance to make it to playoffs,” Meischen said.