BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — In its second year of existence, the Capital Sliders Volleyball Club doubled in size.
The plan, club director John Coletta said, is to keep that trend going next year, too.
“We’re hopeful to build it each year,” he said. “Really, we’re only limited by our own numbers.”
Coletta is the head coach for the Shenendehowa varsity boys volleyball team. Last spring, he started the Capital Sliders, the first Clifton Park-based offseason volleyball program.
“Volleyball is a little off the radar,” said Coletta, who has coached the Plainsmen’s varsity squad for four seasons. “It just seemed like the right time to start something here.”
The Capital Sliders in 2014 featured only one team that played at the 16U level, but has teams at the 16U and 17U levels this season. Most of the 34 players in the program are from Clifton Park or attend Shenendehowa, while a few athletes come to the Capital Sliders from places like Bethlehem and Burnt Hills.
Both of this year’s squads will finish their 2015 seasons at the East Coast Championships in Richmond, Virginia, in a three-day tournament May 23-25. Already this season, the program’s teams have traveled to tournaments in western New York and Pennsylvania.
Besides once-a-month tournaments, the club conducts practices twice a week at Shenendehowa High School. Dan Urbanski, a 2011 Shenendehowa graduate and former varsity volleyball athlete, coaches the 17U team and said practices for the club are kept-lighthearted in tone. Most workouts start with time for the players to scrimmage on their own before skill exercises take place.
“We like to mix the serious and the fun,” said Urbanski. “It’s not for nothing that we’re here … but we try to keep it loose.”
“We don’t want it to get stale for them,” Coletta said of the program’s players, most of whom have experience at the varsity or junior varsity level.
Mitchell DeBortoli has played two seasons for the Shenendehowa varsity team and has been with the Capital Sliders from the beginning. A junior, DeBortoli said he started playing competitive volleyball only as a freshman and relished the chance to work on his game without having to travel to an out-of-town volleyball club.
“Here, we get to develop as a team,” said DeBortoli, who played for a Burnt Hills-based club before the Capital Sliders were formed. “Just getting in our reps is the most important thing about [this program]. That’s the best thing about this club.”
While improving for high school play is important, Coletta said the program offers other opportunities for its players.
“This coming year, there’s going to be a definite benefit at both levels, JV and varsity, for the kids that make it,” he said. “But, down the road, looking even further, we have colleges now that are reaching out to us about our players. That’s based on our club program, having seen them there.”
Coletta said the plan for 2016 is for the program to continue to have teams at the 16U and 17U levels, plus an 18U squad and at least one team at a younger level. For DeBortoli, one of the Capital Sliders’ first members, that sounds good.
“We’ve already doubled in size. Each year, it’s going to get bigger and bigger,” he said. “We want to build our reputation as a club.”