A Look At Club Volleyball

Rider junior Taylor Caswell and WFHS sophomore Sarah Eakin are rivals most of the time, but most weekends, they're on the same side.

"That's so neat," Caswell said. "Here, they're sisters."

The pair, along with more than 80 other Texoma kids from 10-18 years old, suit up for eight different Clay County Volleyball Association club teams.

"I feel like I've gotten so much better just from playing on this club," Eakin said.

Head coach Ray Bussey has been involved with club volleyball since 1988 and has been with CCVA since the beginning five years ago. The club goals are to improve the kids' techniques, especially the fundamentals. The season goes from November to June, with tournaments scattered throughout the year.

"You're seen more at the tournaments," Eakin said.

Since the college volleyball season parallels most of the high school season, coaches can't make it to games. Bussey says the club/junior tournaments give those coaches the opportunity to see thousands of kids in one place and one weekend.

"That's where most of the college recruiting takes place," Caswell said.

Most of the girls play because they want to play at the next level, a common goal that inspires a common motivation between them.

"It's a lot of girls that have dreamed of playing in college, so they're going to play with great intensity," Caswell said.

But with club, like any other sports, there are challenges.

"In club, it's different. We never know who's going to be on our team," Caswell said.

And of course, there's the cost.

Bussey estimates that it costs $1,000 annually for a girl to be on the team, which covers uniforms and fees. That number doesn't include transportation, hotel and food. Add that, the estimate is more like $3,000 to $4,000.

"It gets expensive," Eakin said. "I think my parents see that I enjoy it a lot. It'll be good in the long run, to have college scouts watch. I think it's worth it in the end, maybe save them some money as far as college goes."

Parents are usually paying the bills, but Bussey says he'll never let money be an issue for a girl on the team.

"If you're good enough to make a team, we'll find a way for you," Bussey said.

Eakin echoes that thought. She says the leaders of the club team are flexible, offering pay-as-you go plans and more. She also points out that Bussey doesn't profit as a head coach, volunteering his services.

"It's not about the money with them," Eakin said. "It's about the game."

Time is another big challenge. Most members of the team are active in high school sports and clubs that overlap the club season. And of course, the girls are still students.

"You lose a lot of sleep," Eakin said.

Caswell and Eakin both say that they've have to prioritize their time, giving up parts of their social life to practice, play and simply rest. Both look at the long-term, big picture.

"Sports are my main focus, so I put it ahead of a lot of other things," Caswell said. "I want to go far in life. I just have to work hard at that (sports) and know that it'll be worth it."

Tough challenges aside, the girls are having fun. In the end, they're playing the game they love, meeting new people in the process.

"I've met some great girls and their families, just being able to go to dinner after the games, just the bonds we've formed," Eakin said.