Volleyball players from around Europe attend Aviano camp
Stars and Stripes August 12, 2006
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — What’s the best way to end a summer vacation in Europe?
For more than 100 high school volleyball players, the answer is to spend several days sweating and teaming up with others who will be on the opposite side of the net when the season starts.
Oh, and join what is probably the largest slumber party in Europe.
“I love volleyball,” said Naples senior-to-be Maretie Wagner. “I want to be a better setter and hitter. And I’m going to be a captain this year.”
For the fourth year in a row, Aviano hosted a Europewide volleyball camp. The camp, with 105 players from 22 schools, ended Friday, a little more than a week before practice can officially start for high school teams in Europe. The school year starts Aug. 28.
Hans Hillestad, whose Aviano teams are a perennial power in Italy and have won the last two Division II titles, said the camp has grown every year. It started with 44 participants the first year, and this year a few schools sent more girls than the host Saints did.
During the camp, the schools the players attend don’t matter. “This is a skills camp, opposed to a team camp or a training camp,” he said.
The idea is to help girls develop all-around volleyball skills or concentrate on specific areas they’re weak on.
“It’s great experience,” said Ashley Kabonick, a senior-to-be from Vicenza. “Each year, I’ve learned something new.”
What’s left to learn?
“Being consistent,” she said. “That’s my problem.”
Drills and scrimmages were held on six courts in five gymnasiums around Aviano. Each night, the girls returned to the school’s multipurpose room for a different kind of camping — in blankets and sleeping bags on the floor.
“By the end of the day, we’re pretty tired,” Kabonick said. “So it’s pretty easy to sleep.”
Coaches from around Europe also attend, with military volunteers and former campers pitching in.
Hillestad said the main goal is to raise the level of play of volleyball in Europe. Getting players from each school to interact is a bonus.
“It goes a long way toward helping these friendly rivalries,” he said.
Laura Hawkins, who attended SHAPE in Belgium last year, decided to attend even though she won’t be in Europe for the school year. Her family is returning to Canada.
“It’s fun just to get away,” she said. “Especially to a volleyball camp.”