BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — When John Coletta started running the Shen Boys Volleyball Camp a handful of years ago, only two dozen campers showed up.
“It’s gone up from there,” he said while watching nearly 60 athletes in grades five through 12 work on their serves at this year’s camp, which ran Aug. 1-5 at Shenendehowa’s Gowana and Koda middle school gymnasiums.
“We’re going in the right direction with it,” the Shenendehowa boys’ varsity volleyball coach later added. “Especially with us being a fall sport, a lot of parents and people in the community think [first] about soccer and football — maybe even fall baseball — as the main sports, so it’s nice to see some awareness for another sport that we’re doing well in.”
In 2015, the Shenendehowa boys’ program won a Section II Division I championship, shedding its runner-up status with a straight-sets victory against Bethlehem. In each of the four previous years, the Plainsmen had lost in the championship match to Bethlehem.
At this year’s camp, athletes with a range of experience participated. While some boys were varsity candidates for the fall or have several years of competitive playing experience, others were relative newcomers to the game.
“We have some players that are really brand new to the game,” Coletta said. “They’ve never played formally, except maybe they’ve played in a [physical education] class.”
Regardless of a player’s experience level, Coletta said the camp started each participant at the same point: the beginning.
“We start our camp with the basics for everyone,” he said. “For the returning kids, that’s good because it helps reinforce things for them. For the brand-new kids, it’s great because they get a clean slate to get to learn our system or how to pass.”
Besides a collection of fellow Shenendehowa coaches, Coletta also had some special helpers in running this year’s camp: alumni from last year’s title team. Coletta said the participation from those athletes, in their new roles as teachers of the game, was the best addition to this year’s camp.
“They wanted to come,” he said. “They reached out to me to see if they could come help, and I said ‘Absolutely.’ ”