The noises of volleyball games and the chatter between the players as well as instructions from coaches can be heard regularly in the Storm volleyball facility in the northwest of Corpus Christi.
The 5,000 square meter training facility for the volleyball club in the region is back in operation after being in silence for almost nine weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. When businesses and schools closed in March, it was what is usually the busiest time for the club volleyball round.
Tournaments run across the state and across the country, including national tournaments in the summer where players demonstrate their skills in front of Boy Scouts. But that spring, Storm did not participate in tournaments and the workouts were done via zoom or done by the players themselves.
For the high school seniors in the program that helped them earn their college game chance, it missed one last opportunity to play with the teammates they grew up with who might stand the most.
“It was the senior year experience, we kind of missed it,” said Kailey O’Neal, a Taft graduate who will be playing at Eastfield College this fall.
O’Neal said they used whatever they could find to train, but what was missing was the friendship and camaraderie that comes with being on the team.
In addition, it was much slower than in the spring for players who spent hours and days training and preparing for tournaments. The players communicated through Snapchat, and the club’s coaches used Zoom meetings and workouts to help the players with their work at home.
“I think it was a lifestyle change,” said Emily Barron, a Veterans Memorial graduate who will play at Carpenter College. “We’re always gone. You are no longer gone every week, but stay at home. “
The path back to business for the club is similar for many small businesses across the state and across the country. When the tournaments were canceled, Storm’s owner and club director Robbie Curlee decided to stop traveling for the teams and the gym eventually closed in March.
The multiple tournaments are used to help teams qualify for major national tournaments. However, as soon as non-essential businesses closed, Storms Club joined them. The club season usually starts in November after the high school season ends and lasts through the summer.
Curlee said the teams were together until the end of February and were participating in tournaments when they closed. She added that they plan to resume the season in November and have decided not to travel this summer.
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With no tournaments and no training, Curlee said they refunded the money their parents paid for the canceled tournaments. The move wasn’t easy, and the club couldn’t run its annual summer-free clinics because they couldn’t rent gyms or other facilities.
Curlee said the company took out a loan for the first time since opening 10 years ago to pay staff and other overheads and opened in May with limited capacity.
Curlee is the only full-time employee and has part-time coaches and seasonal employees.
“When all of that hit, it really turned us off completely,” said Curlee. “Those of us in the volleyball world not only had to stop our training and our training, but also couldn’t keep up at all.”
A total of nine different players from the club have signed up for college, and despite what has happened, this is the rewarding part for Curlee and her staff. Aubree Banda, who played for Taft and attends Coastal Bend College, said this helped her learn not to take anything for granted.
And Curlee said the seniors missed that last chance to play as a team.
“Not having that time with your team and not being able to have that final dance where there are tears and they move on,” Curlee said. “It’s those special moments that the seniors didn’t have, and that’s probably the hardest part.”
Storm Volleyball College Signatory
- Aubrie Banda, Taft, signed with Coastal Bend College
- Kiah Barron, Carroll, signed with Wharton Jr. College
- Emily Barron, Veterans Memorial, signed with Carpenters College
- Anastasia Brown, Aransas Pass, signed with Our Lady of the Lake
- Kelly Graves, Taft, signed with Dallas Christian
- Jacqueline Hernandez, Skidmore Tynan, signed with Coastal Bend College
- Ysabella Hinojosa, Ray, signed with Coastal Bend College
- Kailey O’Neal, Taft, signed with Eastfield College
- Haley Rodriguez, Veterans Memorial, signed with Carpenter College
Len Hayward is the sports director of USA Today Sports Network Plains Region and the sports editor for Caller-Times. Support our subscription options and specials at Caller.com/subscribe for more coverage