JACKSON TWP.  It’s the unofficial welcome to summer for Jackson volleyball players.

Every year, the start of the team’s summer schedule is the annual youth camp that brings elementary, middle and high school athletes from the district together for a week of instruction, games, contests and hopefully, fun.

Sarah Benson is one of the Jackson seniors volunteering at the camp for the final time after having not only helped the past two years, but attended as a camper growing up in the district.

“I came when I was in fourth grade, all the way through high school,” Benson said. “I think the coolest thing was getting to interact with the high schoolers and getting to learn from them, just getting to know them and then seeing them play, knowing their names and their faces.”

Players transition from camper to volunteer going into their sophomore year and for Benson, being on the other side of the equation is a chance to get to know the younger players who she works with during camp and then sees in the stands at varsity games. 

Often, the campers will say hello at games and remember working with Benson and her teammates during drills and contests the week of camp. As the coaching staff knows well, working with elementary and middle school students can be challenging at times as they try to corral energetic, enthusiastic young athletes and get them to focus their energy on the task at hand.

Volunteering at camp is a chance for varsity players to learn those same lessons.

“It’s brings you back to when you first started to learn volleyball and who taught you,” Benson said. “It takes a lot of patience, especially at first when it’s their first time learning volleyball, so you have to take a step back and repeat things.”

One of the fun parts of camp, Benson noted, is seeing veteran head coach Jeff Walck interact with the campers and have to find a way to instruct and direct while being patient and making camp fun at the same time. 

Camp also kicks off a busy summer of activities and workouts for varsity players and it’s also a sort of kickoff for players’ senior seasons.

“This is our first team bonding thing of the summer and so we’ll go and get lunch in between sessions and just kind of get a feel for what the summer’s going to be like for the whole team,” Benson said. “We were just talking this morning about how it’s funny that we’re seniors now and it’s our team now and our time to take over.”

This year, the summer begins with an added level of energy because of the just-completed school year and all of the success it brought for Jackson. With the basetball and boys basketball teams both winning state titles, girls lacrosse reaching the state title game, volleyball just missing out on yet another state appearnce, cross country and track both sending runners to the state meet and other teams winning league titles, players coming back next season are eager to prove they are capable of continuing that winning momentum.

“We were talking about the baseball (state) championship. We were so close to making it to state (last) year, it just makes everyone want to work that much harder to be right there with the guys, showing we can win a state championship too,” Benson added. “I think everyone’s just really motivated to keep that success going and everybody’s really motivated to get there right with everybody else and win those state championships and get where they are.”

With camp now complete, Benson and her teammates are fully rooted in summer and ready to tackle their volleyball schedule while also trying to enjoy their time off from school like any other high school student would. They want their senior season to be a memorable one, but there’s still summer sun to enjoy.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
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