By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
As the most experienced members of the Port Isabel High Lady Tarpons volleyball team, the nine senior players on the squad have certain responsibilities. And by all accounts and indicators they take them seriously.
Your high school volleyball reporter looks in on practice once or twice a week, and attends as many home matches as he can, and tries to understand what goes on. The main lesson learned by visiting so many practices is to stay alert to keep from getting hit in the head by any stray balls. So this week the Press sought out several senior members of the team to see what might be learned about leadership and team togetherness.
All agreed that leading by example is one of the most important things they can do to help the varsity newcomers along.
“The better we are with our attitude and enthusiasm the more pumped they are to play and have fun,” Karina Vela said. “They’ll see what we’re doing and they catch on pretty quick. That’s why they’re on varsity.”
Vela went to talk about reaching out to the new players and making them feel a part of the team; “We make them feel like family. On the road trips we’re always together, playing games or just talking.”
Fourth-year varsity player Alex Martinez thinks the team’s three sophomores and lone freshman have come along very nicely this season. “They’re doing really well and they listen to everything that all of us seniors have to say. They listen to me and I look up to them (the tall ones!) and they look up to me in a different way!”
Amaya Lampkin has volleyball experience but, since she was away from the game during her junior year, she is that rare senior who has no varsity experience. “This is my first year playing on varsity but since I’m in several other sports … I know team collaboration is a good thing.”
Third-year varsity team member Natalie Salinas knows the importance of how to talk to the under-classmen, “Since I’ve been in the game so long – since junior high I’ve been in club volleyball, so I hope they see me as dependable and calm, when they get to talk to me. (Young players) should be talked to very calmly when they’re upset. So it’s good to give them positive feedback.”
Larissa Torres is also a firm believer in team camaraderie and has her own way of helping the cause, “I talk to everyone on my team, not only in volleyball but in school also. That really helps a lot because we all have to get along to play together.”
The senior players talked about helping the younger players with various aspects of the game.
“Actions speak way louder than words, “Lampkin said Monday. “If I can show by example, I’ll do it, and they’ll just follow along. They have a lot of determination and it takes a lot to be on varsity as an under-classman.”
“I don’t let them get down on their mistakes,” Martinez said. “I’ll tell them, ‘It’s O.K., just shake it off. Just do this next time and you’ll get it.”
Torres said, “With our younger hitters … if they do something wrong, I just say, ‘Hey, just fix this or fix that and you’ll do better,’ and they usually say, ‘O.K., thanks.’”
“After practice we hang out together … wait for our parents,” Salinas said, getting back to the togetherness theme. “We’re very personal with each other. We can tell each other almost anything … about boys, parents, school work. It’s pretty cool. I feel like it’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s a good feeling to know that (younger players) in junior high, at Derry, are looking up to you.”
Getting along as teammates and friends is not always easy. “Like any team (there were) little arguments here and there,” Torres said. “But we talked about it with Coach Breedlove, and now we’re closer and the communication is better on and off the court.”
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