KANSAS CITY, Mo. – At the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, the energy and dedication of the athletes first shows up on College Camp Friday, where players add to their to-do list with a session of skill building piloted by college coaches.
In 2023, the plan required some tweaks as the NCAA altered the rules about college program presence, but the TC NIT was lucky to dig into previous relationships with coaches outside the Division I ranks and assembled a rollicking roster of camps that met the requirements of the moment.
“I worked these camps before the rule change, so I knew what was going on. You’ve got some of the best teams in the country coming to this, and it’s great to work with that kind of talent,” said Chuck Waddington, head coach at Angelo State (Texas). “The kids were into it, every position group, working hard and trying to get better. Even with the huge tournament coming up, they were looking to get better. And there are some kids in (the camp), you say I’m definitely going to track her, she was really coachable and impressive. A lot of kids are not from Texas, a lot haven’t had any exposure to us, so this works out great.”
“We have a really strong tradition of working with camps, high academic camps, and this is an opportunity to meet players and spend quality time with them,” said Leah Saunders, assistant coach at Emory University (Georgia). “It’s great one-on-one time, you can get immediate feedback and learn about their playing styles. We hold these moments dear to our program.
“They love playing here; playing in this tournament is such an honor, and they want to rise to the occasion and take it seriously. It’s a fun group to work with; everyone is internally motivated.”
Camps were held in two sessions at the Kansas City Convention Center, each one ending with high-fives, smiles and more than a few extra conversations between coaches and players who found a connection.
One athlete who moved with a purpose in and out of every drill was Finley Lemay, 14, who plays for the Mavs club program, conveniently based in Kansas City. Showing excellent touch as well as a strong right arm during hitting drills, Lemay looked way beyond her years when it came to court skills, but even so, getting better never strays too far from her thoughts.
“I came out here to get some work in and get better. And I was glad to get some feedback from the coaches, hearing things I had not heard before,” Lemay said. “There’s obviously stuff I need to work on; I’d say I’m good, but still not good enough. The girls were fun, very welcoming, smiled a lot, so that was all fun.”