Football, volleyball campers prepare for fall sports

By Joseph Garcia

Seventh, eighth and ninth graders braved triple-digit temperatures during this week’s Panther State Championship Football Camp at Liberty Hill High School. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

By all means it is still summer, but this week Liberty Hill High School coaches held camps for two of the three fall sports – football and volleyball.

Monday marked the first time since the 2011 season ended that Panthers head football Coach Jerry Vance supervised any sort of practice. Like many football fans, Coach Vance was just pleased to see the pigskin thrown around at the practice fields at LHHS.

The Panther State Championship Football Camp runs through Friday for all incoming seventh, eighth and ninth graders. With 115 registered participants, football camp is an opportunity for players and coaches to familiarize themselves with one another.

“It gives all the coaches a chance to get into a groove of coaching,” said  Vance. “We get to see all the ninth graders who are coming to high school and they get to know the high school coaches and the seventh graders get to meet the junior high coaches.”

Vance said the camp is not mandatory for players expecting to play this season, but it is a good chance for kids to get used to his system. He also believes the camp participants will have an advantage over players who did not attend.

“(Camp is) not required, but it seems as though these kids will have a leg up on the bunch that do not show up for whatever reason,” Vance said. “We introduce them to our terminology and our expectations. We take some time to teach them how we want them to tackle and block. Obviously you aren’t going as hard without pads on, but it gives us a chance to do a lot of teaching. It’s a lot of interaction to where they get to know us and we get to know them.”

Every day of camp, participants play “Pantherball” which is an ad hoc game of street football where continuous forward passes with no break in action are the key to success. Pantherball is a fun way for campers to scrimmage each other on teams of mixed ages at the end of the day.

However, before the fun part, campers learn some of the basics Coach Vance and others expect to see during the season.

On Monday, coaches worked with campers on offense, on Tuesday it was defense and on Wednesday it was a chance to scout for future special teams players such as kickers.

“Tomorrow, we will do an introduction to special teams and give everyone a chance to kick the ball and snap the ball,” Vance said after Tuesday’s camp. “(That’s a way) to see who has got maybe some innate talent to do that kind of stuff.”

The week following football camp, the real practices begin for high school players with pads and helmets crashing. Camp was just a precursor to ease the coaches and players back into the swing of things.

While the boys were outside in the Texas heat, the girls were inside working and gearing up for the 2012 volleyball season.

Lady Panther Volleyball Camp continues through Thursday with two sessions a day split by age groups. Fifth through seventh graders attended camp from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., with session two from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for incoming eighth and ninth graders.

Liberty Hill High School volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson is preparing for the season, which begins on August 16, with the Austin ISD Tournament, but is kicking off the volleyball season by holding what she considers to be a very important camp.

“We like to have a camp because for one it is good for our community,” said Peterson. “Volleyball is a growing sport and there’s been a lot of interest. We obviously want to provide (girls) opportunity to get excited about the sport.”

Volleyball camp begins with fundamentals like passing, setting, serving and hitting. Campers learn the same skills that are taught to them as if they were in a junior high or high school practice. But like Pantherball in football, camp is not all work and no play.

“It’s camp so we do some things that are just fun and games and silly,” Peterson said. “But a lot of the drills and things that we’re doing are exactly the same way that we would do with our programs.”

Peterson said camp helps all of the Liberty Hill volleyball programs from fifth grade to varsity and is especially a great tune up for girls going into eighth, ninth and seventh grade. Camp also helps the coaches to get to know the younger students.

“Some of these kids have been coming since they were in fifth grade and we as high school coaches already know them,” Peterson said. “So I just think camp builds some unity throughout our programs across the board. It’s a good opportunity for us to get everything going and kick things off.”

The sport of volleyball is growing. With every passing year, numbers at the volleyball camp have been increasing. This year the camp has the largest number of participants ever with 141 registered.

Not only is this a testament to the growth of the Liberty Hill community, but to the success of athletics at the high school as well.

“Numbers have been increasing throughout the years and I think some of that has to do with our community getting bigger,” Peterson said. “But also because of the success of the athletic programs that the high school has had. Kids want to be a part of that.”