‘This is really changing the culture of volleyball’: Cullman County Youth Volleyball Association completes 2nd season

Top - Holly Pond's 6th grade volleyball team with coaches Emma Earl and Maycie Black. (Courtesy of Anna McSwain) Bottom - Good Hope's Morgan and Mallory Hammock coach their 6th grade team in the tournament last Saturday. (Courtesy of Morgan Hammock)

CULLMAN, Ala. — The Cullman County Youth Volleyball Association just wrapped up its second season and that brought some young, talented volleyball players to compete in their respective age groups. They finished the season with a 12-team tournament on Saturday Oct. 1.

Jennifer Rohrscheib is the president of the volleyball association, and Anna McSwain is over the youth volleyball program at Good Hope. Both of them talked about how the association first got started.

“Three years ago, I was asked to start a program,” Rohrscheib said. “We had a meeting and we started accepting schools in the county.”

McSwain added,

“We got somebody from each school to help get it going. We had meetings to decide how we were going to run it, the rules, the regulations, and all of those things.” 

With last year being their first official season, the youth program helped get the girls going before officially getting underway and plus, the coaches are current and former players that really help these girls out a lot. Each school hosts a Youth Volleyball Night for these young girls, and they are so appreciative to see them getting recognized.

“A lot of girls don’t touch a volleyball until middle school, so that has really helped the youth program and school program to build up these kids so that they’re a little more advanced and so that they don’t have to waste time on fundamentals and just get into the game,” Rohrscheib said. “This overall program has been fantastic. Our coaches on the 5th and 6th grade teams has taught them everything. They’ve grown a bond; they are close together. They have a great relationship with these kids. It’s absolutely amazing. I probably never want to give it up because it’s so fantastic to see these kids love the game of volleyball. The coaches love their players, the teamwork, the effort, and just the bond that they get from this is amazing.”

McSwain added,

“Volleyball is the only sport that we didn’t have a youth league for, and we needed one for our school so we can help build our school program. We’ve stayed in contact with the high school volleyball coaches and the middle school volleyball coaches; they work with us. My high school coaches sent me names of girls that can coach, who had already graduated from high school that wanted to help coach. We have varsity players and college players that are coaching these girls so that they have good role models to look up to.”

“It was so awesome for them to have a youth volleyball night for our girls. They let the girls go out and warm up with them and they got a special seat to watch them play. They really look up to the varsity players,” McSwain said. “The coaches are teaching them more than just volleyball; they are also teaching them about life. Having those role models to look up to is really important.”

Morgan and Mallory Hammock coached the Good Hope 6th grade A team. They were so happy to hear about the association getting started and seeing these girls participate in youth volleyball. They also had a great group of girls to coach as well, and they had a blast doing it.

“It’s amazing. When we played, I didn’t touch a volleyball until middle school. What I didn’t learn then, I turned around and played travel ball. Volleyball is a sport like no other. It’s a team sport, so at such a young age, they’re building these relationships with each other as teammates,” Morgan said. “Sports teaches you life lessons, but no sport like volleyball will teach you life lessons because it’s a game of ups and downs and you have to keep battling with your teammates,” Morgan Hammock said. “I had an amazing group of girls. They were a group like no other. They are all friends, and they all love each other.”

“It’s more than a team; it’s more like a little family. We’re like a family. When they go into middle school, they’ll be playing on the level in middle school that we played on. They are way ahead of the game, so by the time they get to varsity, it’ll be a totally different culture,” Mallory said. “This is really changing the culture of volleyball. It’s giving Cullman County an edge like no other. All of these girls are starting out young and it’s just great. It’s giving Cullman County this edge and I really am excited to see what’s going to happen in about five or six years. The Cullman County tournaments are fixing to go up a notch and it’s going to be some great volleyball.”

Morgan added,

“We focused a lot on fundamentals. I don’t care how old you are; you need to focus on the fundamentals. We teach them the rules and the rotations. We focus on teamwork a lot. We try to get three contacts every time we have the ball. We taught them how to read the ball and how to cover.”

They taught their team a lot and they’ve also learned some things as well since they became coaches.

“I’ve learned to love the game more and to instill the love of the game into these young girls. We’re very open and honest with these girls. It taught us to love the game and instill the love of the game in these girls. If you have a coach that’s energetic and loves the game, plays around with them and has some fun, they’ll love it even more,” Mallory said. “To watch the girls from the beginning of the season to now, they’re totally different players. It’s so rewarding because they’ve come so far, and they worked so hard.”

“It has completely changed me. I’m a different person now since I’ve been coaching and for the better. It’s made me mature and very patient. I’ve learned patience, but honestly, it’s given me a group of girls,” Morgan said. “We call them our babies. It has taught me to love the game too, even more than I did before. I love to play, but to watch these girls develop and grow and be more confident in themselves and their skills, it really makes you love it.”

They were so happy to hear that they were going to have a youth volleyball night for these young girls who put in so much hard work and deserved to be recognized.

“That was very special because it was so neat to come back because we played at Good Hope. It was so neat to be able to come back and to watch coach Holder and coach Keef recognize my girls because, in my mind, they will always be my coaches. It was so neat to be able to watch my coach recognize my players,” Mallory said. “It ties the community and the volleyball program together. It really makes a difference when you see the older girls appreciating the younger girls. It’s creating a good culture and a good atmosphere.”

“It was like a full circle. It came full circle. It was a moment of appreciation and gratitude for Good Hope and the people here,” Morgan said. “The varsity, the JV, and their coaches; they would take time out of their busy schedules to recognize these little league girls. It was awesome.”

The future of youth volleyball is getting brighter and brighter with each passing season and Morgan and Mallory can’t wait to see what happens from here.

“It’s very bright. It’s only going to go up from here,” Morgan said. “It’s going to change the culture and it’s going to go up from here.”

“It’s very bright. There are some great coaches on all of the teams and most of these coaches have played before. With the rules changing, the coaches have to make sure that they are teaching the girls the right way to do these things,” Mallory said. “I’m so excited about the future. In 10 years, these Cullman County Volleyball Tournaments; they are going to be something spectacular to watch. This is going to give an edge like no other.”

Emma Earl and Maycie Black coached Holly Pond’s 6th grade team this year and they were so happy to see the youth volleyball association get something started for these girls.

“It is really good. I feel like we’ve learned as much from them as they did from us. They all communicated really well together.” Black said. “It’s good. Whenever they get to the higher level, they’ll be ready. They learned about rotations, overhand serving, and sending the ball over, so they’ll be ready whenever they move up. Some of the girls have come up, already knowing some things about volleyball, so that really helps. We just kind of helped push that even further this year since they are coming fresh in middle school. They’ll be ready for higher competition.”

“It is good for them to start at such a young age instead of middle school so that way they can grow as they get older.” Earl said. “Next year, they are going to be good because they are building up all of their skills right now. We helped push them.”

Emma and Maycie had a blast coaching these girls and taught them a lot. They’ve also learned some things during the season as well.

“Over this year, they learned a lot. They struggled a little bit in the beginning, but they really grew a lot after that. They got a lot more confident with themselves and going to get the ball. They’re not scared to call somebody off,” Black said. “From watching them play, what I learned from them is that communication is really important. Teaching them that really helps me learn to communicate as well and communicate through them. I’ve taught them to do stuff and they listen; be respectful. We’ve taught them their rotation and how to talk to each other. If things get chaotic, slow the game down, get a good set and hit it over the net.”

“Coaching them has been a really great experience for me personally because I’m learning from them. It puts me in a point of view when I’m on the court. It’s helped change my perspective of the sport. It changes everything,” Earl said. “Communication is everything. Most of them that started this season only served underhanded and now, almost everyone served overhanded. It’s really good to see.”

They were so happy to see how much the girls grew this season.

“It’s amazing. They’ve grown so much from where they first started, and their personal growth has been amazing. They are more confident, and they are ready to go get the ball. They are never down on themselves, and they all support each other,” Black said. “They believe in themselves more and they have that urge to win. They know that they are good, and they have that urge to win. We taught them that it’s okay to mess up and just get the next point. If you do mess up, push even harder to get the next point. Whenever they can talk to each other and support each other, they know that their teammates have their back, and they will come back and get the next point.”

“I went to some practices last year and they were like different girls. It’s been crazy to see how much they have improved from last season to now.” Earl said. “Instead of us telling them what they did wrong, they would already know what they did wrong, and they fix it. When someone gets down on themselves if they mess up, we’ve always taught them to always encourage their teammates.”

This was their first year coaching and they learned so much this season. They were excited to see them have a very special youth volleyball night so that these young girls get the recognition they rightfully deserve, and the future of this association is getting brighter and brighter each day.

“I have learned that if they are down on themselves, I learned how to talk to them. Each of them is different, so you have to talk to them in a certain way. They are good at comforting each other too,” Black said. “It was good, seeing them get really excited for the game and to play with each other and spend time together. They had a lot of fun playing with each other. I think them seeing us and how we play gives them confidence. Whenever we’re telling them to do something, they will feel more confident in trusting us and doing it because they know that we know how to play the game and they’ll listen to us way more.”

Black added,

“Whenever I graduate, I will definitely be coming back to watch them and their games because I think that they will be so much fun to watch. Just seeing how they communicate; I just can’t wait to see the future.” “Each girl struggles with different things, and you have to read them and know what they are struggling with so that you can help them out,” Earl said. “It was pretty good because we played before them. It was great seeing them in the stands because they were watching us. They learned a lot from watching us and what they can do to get better. It encourages them to do the right thing and how to play the sport. When I get older and they’re in my position, it’s like, we taught them that. It’s like a feeling for us, like, we taught them how to play the game. I’m definitely coming back and watching them.”

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