It’s not often that you get to take advantage of the experience of a legendary coach, but for the past three weeks young girls have been learning or tuning up their volleyball skills from Sandy Hunter.
Hunter, who is renowned not only through Calhoun County, but throughout the state, has been teaching volleyball skills first to fourth to sixth graders, then for two weeks to high school varsity and junior varsity girls with the help of Donoho’s Janice Slay and White Plains Joi Watts.
Hunter, who has won numerous state titles both in volleyball and softball at Pleasant Valley, has been offering summer camps now for about 30 years.
Even though Hunter has not been involved with volleyball in Alabama at the high school level for the past 12 years, she continues to have the summer camps and the young girls, aware of her reputation and coaching skills, continue to come.
Hunter started the summer camps about 30 years ago at Donoho High School with Louise Marbut and Karen Hester. Hunter would invite other schools to come and help with the camps like UAB, Montevallo, JSU, Auburn and UNA.
“We did it because there weren’t a lot of camps at that point,” explained Hunter. “Everyone in the county were like family, both the coaches and the players, it was really fun. We didn’t mind helping each others kids because that’s what we should be there for is the kids.”
Hunter has been holding the summer camps at Jacksonville’s Community Center for about five years now, getting as many as 125 girls out at the camps.
“Janice Burns (PARD Director) and her whole staff have been great,” said Hunter. “I love the gym, I love the facility, and I love the air conditioning. There is nothing to complain about.”
Hunter hopes that the campers take away from the camp skill development, techniques and fundamentals. She admits that volleyball has changed over the years with rally scoring and the use of the libero. She admits that anytime she has been stumped she calls Donoho Coach Janice Slay, who is also helping Hunter at the camp.
Slay, a former JSU Head Volleyball coach, won back-to-back state championships in 2011-12 while at Donoho.
Slay is very complimentary of Hunter. “Sandy has done a really good job of doing this camp for a long time and I just kind of jumped in with her but basically her philosophy and mine is working on fundamentals. IF you don’t have the fundamentals you can’t do anything else.
“You really spend a lot of time working on footwork, passing and some setting. We spend a lot of time working on basic hitting steps and approaching. Really what we are trying to accomplish is not to put a team on the floor but building blocks and fundamentals for them to take back home so when they start working out in their own gym with their own coach they can work on those fundamentals and then she has something to build on to put together a team.”
Joi Watts, a former JSU player who is now in her second year as head coach at White Plains High School, also has been helping with the clinic. “The biggest thing, and I tell my team this everyday, is that you want to see improvements,” said Watts.
Watts explained that the camp is set up to teach fundamentals.
When the girls leave camp, and for those who are going to be playing in junior high or high school, Watts says the most important thing is conditioning. “If they can get into the gym two to three times a week and just do some touches that is good but the biggest thing is just making sure they are conditioned, doing weight lifting and running,” said Watts.
Hunter also has a former player of hers, Lindsay (Barker) Mullens, helping out.
One of the main things that Hunter wants to always instill is that the players and coaches have fun. “If you don’t have fun then what’s the point?” said Hunter.
Hunter has seen a big growth in volleyball in Calhoun County. “I think that the middle of the field has gotten much bigger,” said Hunter. You do have some teams like David Clark’s program at Jacksonville that is at the top, but there isn’t a lot of discrepancies between the programs.”
While Hunter has always loved softball, and has found a lot of success in softball, she feels that the girls are tending to gravitate a bit more towards volleyball. “At Pleasant Valley softball used to be the favorite sport. But once they learn to play volleyball and do it correctly they fall in love with it.”