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Blue Jay camps giving kids a chance 'to smile a little bit'

The Jamestown High School volleyball and basketball programs are partnering to bring skill camps to kids in Jamestown.

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The Jamestown Volleyball and Basketball Programs are hosting youth camps every Tuesday and Thursday for grades 3-7 this summer.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN — After spending an hour dodging volleyballs from every direction, Jamestown High School volleyball head coach Sara Hegerle said goodbye to 160 Jamestown kids then turned and smiled.

But really, how could she not be in a good mood?

"This is the highest number of kids that we have had at camp since I started," Hegerle said. "It fluctuates every year but this is a healthy number — we have great coaches who have stepped up to give out kids a better experience."

Hegerle along with Jamestown High School head girls basketball coach Andy Skunberg are cooperating this summer to bring youth volleyball and basketball camps to the kids of the Buffalo City.

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The camp runs Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The eighth grade through high school level camp takes place from 8 to 9 a.m.

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The youth camp, which incorporates grades 3 through 7, follows from 9 to 10 a.m.

"These kids tend to be repeat customers because it's inexpensive, it's entertaining and it gets them better at volleyball," Hegerle said. "We want them to continue to play sports. We want to fill them with excitement and fill them with the joy of volleyball and the same follows for basketball.

"We don't base our success off of the numbers but we think we are doing a good job based on the number of kids that are here."

The basketball camp runs from 10 to 11 a.m. There are 60 kids who attend the biweekly summer basketball camp — a number Skunberg said is comparable to past summer camps. The basketball camp is only for those athletes in grades 3-8.

"We really try to keep the summer camp fun," Skunberg said. "We do lots of mini-games that focus on skills-ball control, shooting, speed. The activities vary based on the age of the girl. We keep the activities developmentally appropriate and just try to instill a love of the game."

Hegerle and Skunberg are in Jerry Meyer Arena at least twice a week for two straight months as the camp runs from June 7 to July 28 — which is unique to the camps in Jamestown as the camps held at the University of Jamestown are usually only concentrated to one day and usually do not offer camps for those elementary school-aged kids.

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There are more than 150 kids participating in the Blue Jay volleyball and basketball camps this summer.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

"We still get kids here who can't afford to go to Jimmie camp or can't fit that into their schedule," Hegerle said. "We complement each other — if they are not at Jimmie Camp they are here and if they are not here, they are at Jimmie Camp. We try to cover all ages and get them in the gym and have a good summer."

It's not just Hegerle and Skunberg who are coaching up the youth of the Buffalo City.

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"Our high school kids and some of our middle schoolers are coaching," Hegerle said. "They come and develop their own skills and then they stay after and develop a different type of skill which is leadership and giving of themselves. They realize things aren't all about them it's about building other people up and I really think that is important."

Skunberg said allowing the high schoolers to coach younger athletes the opportunity to build positive relationships with a younger group of athletes while also gaining skills they would need if they ever want to pursue coaching themselves.

''It gives the younger girls someone to look up to," Skunberg said. ''This camp allows each individual a chance to grow up with the game (and) the Blue Jay camp is a way our high school girls can give back to the community.''

Bernadette Newman is one of those high schoolers who is looking to develop more than just her power kills and digs.

Newman is set to kick off her senior year and second season as a Blue Jay volleyball varsity team member this fall.

"In general, I just love kids because I do come from a big family," Newman said. "I love the sport of volleyball and love teaching it to the little kids but you need a lot of patience to coach little kids because of the short time span and the craziness. Our little girls are pretty good at staying focused most of the time but it can fluctuate."

While Newman and the rest of the coaches are trying to teach the fundamentals of the sport, they are also trying to pass down the values Blue Jay sports teach their athletes from a very early age.

"Sure they are learning to pass and serve but they're also learning how to be better teammates," Hegerle said.

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"They are having fun at doing something productive and they are building their self-confidence. Each kid means something to us and for two hours of their week they get the chance to feel valued and smile a little bit."

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This summer boasts the largest number of kids participating in youth volleyball camp since it started 10 years ago.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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