By Martin Couch
Volleyball coaches DeAnna Ward, Melinda Bragg, Doug Maxwell and Allen Dillard have formed[more] the first Junior Olympic Volleyball teams at Bryant this year.
As a satellite program to the Little Rock Juniors, Bryant has 30 girls participating in four teams – one sixth grade, two seventh grade and an eighth grade squad – to build excitement and aid the Lady Hornets high school team in the future.
“We have coaches who are volunteering their time,” Ward said. “The school is providing the facilities and we are able to keep the cost down. It’s quite a bit cheaper than the Little Rock program. We are doing this to get as many girls playing volleyball at earlier ages because, normally, they don’t see a volleyball until they are in the seventh grade. With this program, we can pull in more sixth graders and get them better prepared for playing since we don’t have any kind of city league program going.”
Ward says that Bryant is at a disadvantage when it comes to playing other volleyball teams like Cabot and Conway, because they have feeder programs.
“Those girls have been playing three or four years and our girls have seen a volleyball only two weeks when we play them at first,” Ward said. “Our senior high program doesn’t have the depth that it needs, so if we can get more girls involved at an early age, maybe we can pull some of them over into volleyball and help our or senior high program.”
Lady Hornets volleyball coach Beth Solomon is also involved in teaching clinics for the JO program, as well. Currently, the JO season will end on March 12 with the Volley in the Rock, but Ward is hoping to get more girls involved in the program by the start of next season.
“Next year, towards the end of the regular volleyball season in October, we will start passing out information and getting it on the website when we are going to have meetings here at the school and try to get the message out to get more signed up,” Ward added. “Girls can sign up now through the Little Rock Juniors website and click on the Bryant satellite program. We are hoping to double our numbers by next year.”
The cost is around $100 for each girl and that includes playing in three tournaments and uniforms.
“We want to make it feasible here in Bryant to get as many girls as possible,” Ward said. “We are coming in late, but we are excited about the program and maybe it will help us out a few years down the road. We are hoping to have consistency with skills and vocabulary so everybody is on the same page.”