Members of the Bell volleyball program run stands as part of a “boot camp” to instill a winning attitude. Jinni Walker Courtesy photo
Members of the Bell volleyball program run stands as part of a “boot camp” to instill a winning attitude. Jinni Walker Courtesy photo

High School Volleyball

‘Boot camp’ aims to instill hunger for success in L.D. Bell volleyball squad

By Rick Mauch

Special to the Star-Telegram

June 02, 2017 01:57 PM

What’s good for one sport can be good for another.

Taking a page from the football team, the Hurst L.D. Bell Lady Raiders volleyball team has also adopted the motto, “Why not us?”

“Our football team used this as their hashtag/motto last year. It’s just so fitting,” volleyball coach Jinni Walker said. “My assistant put a sign in our office that says, ‘Talent gets you in the gym. Character keeps you there.’ It’s so true.

“Even at the highest level, it is very rare for a team that doesn’t have chemistry and belief to achieve at high levels. Our girls say it best: ‘We will be successful if we have confidence, no fear, have fun and keep our stress off the court.’ Why not us? We have all the tools.”

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At the end of the day, that is my job and my goal as a coach and educator — encourage students to be good citizens, good leaders, good followers, question the process, give their absolute best and don’t give up.

- Bell volleyball coach Jinni Walker

After adopting that motto, the Blue Raiders football team improved from 1-9 to 3-7 last season. While not a marked improvement in the win column, they were more competitive throughout the season and were just a few points from a winning season.

As part of the competitive process, Walker implemented a “boot camp” for her girls during the third trimester of the school year. Each day of the week during the camp posed a different fundamental component, along with a goal-oriented component.

“The third tri is the best time for us because we have the majority of our volleyball players in the athletic period during that time,” Walker said. “In order to achieve a ‘perfect day,’ the girls had to give their very best effort, achieve the set goals, follow instructions and maintain a positive attitude.

“We had 10 players participate, and our code was and is, ‘Raider Speed, Raider Tough, Don’t Give Up!’”

Walker explained that “Raider Speed” means going 110 percent in all that you do and not letting fear or insecurity get the best of you, especially when you are uncomfortable.

“Raider Tough” means you have to be willing to get back up again, especially when you fail.

“You have to be willing to fight through discomfort and pain,” she said. “You must persevere if you want to achieve your dreams.

“Don’t Give Up” means exactly what it says.

“If we don’t strive to compete and win, it’s never going to happen — and that is on the court and in life,” Walker said. “Our goal is for our code to be the way we approach practice, matches and my hope is that we are instilling this mentality for these young ladies in their lives.

“At the end of the day, that is my job and my goal as a coach and educator — encourage students to be good citizens, good leaders, good followers, question the process, give their absolute best and don’t give up.”

Walker said the girls are also calling upon inspiration from the book Get With It, Girls! Life is Competition, by Teri Clemens.

“The book reinforced everything we were trying to accomplish through boot camp,” Walker said.

Yoga has also become a big part of the team’s training, Walker said. In fact, they are hosting a Bring Your Own Parent Clinic on June 18 to offer volleyball opportunities to younger audiences.

Several players at the junior high and high school level are competing at the national level this summer, including: Paloma Sanchez-Magee, seventh grade, Amateur Athletic Union; Sasha Caldwell, eighth grade, USA Volleyball Nationals; Maddie King, freshman, AAU; Alexis Reese, sophomore, AAU; Bella Burns, sophomore, University of North Texas and University of Texas camps and Texas Advantage Elite Showcase; Olivia Runne, sophomore, Texas Wesleyan camp; Taylor McIntyre, junior, Harding University camp; Sophie Rodgers, junior, Trinity University camp.

“It gives the girls invaluable experience, great exposure and confidence,” Walker said. “These are all things that help immensely as they begin — and continue — their high school career.”

The Lady Raiders have four seniors returning: four-year starting setter Sophie Rodgers, two-year starting middle blocker/outside hitter Sydney Williams, defensive specialist Carsen Cleveland and opposite hitter Taylor McIntyre. Williams missed part of last season with a torn ACL/MCL.

“I truly love our four seniors and each of them offers something special to our team,” Walker said.

The work will continue through the summer, Walker said. The team plays in a summer league with Northwest, Denton Guyer, Lake Dallas, Timber Creek and Keller Central. They are also doing a Fast Fours fundraiser on Wednesday nights throughout June and July.

“It’s crazy, but I feel like we’ve been gearing up for the season since the middle of April,” Walker said. “The girls are expected to come in shape for Team Camp the last week in July, and most definitely for the start of two-a-days on Aug. 1.

“Summer training addresses this and gets the girls ready to go. Several of our girls will continue to work out at their clubs via clinics, camps and summer leagues. The girls really must play over the summer. For that to happen, they need a place where they can play.

“Not all of our athletes play club. In fact, I’m finding that there might be a lot of potential from kiddos that just don’t have the resources, whether it be financial or logistical, to play club. They have to have a place to play. Hopefully these opportunities we are providing will give them that chance.”