For the past three years, the women’s volleyball team at Pacific Union College and The City of St. Helena’s Recreation Department have teamed up to provide a volleyball league for youth in the area. The eight-week program is offered for ages 9-14, and student athletes from PUC’s women’s volleyball team serve as coaches and mentors for the league teams.
Aside from running practices and games, the PUC women’s volleyball team educate young athletes on what it means to be “Champions of Character,” a program in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which PUC is a part of. The goal of the program is to instill character building values so students can do the right thing on and off the court, and understand how those values play out in practice and competition. The five core values are integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership. Brittany Brown, PUC’s athletic director, prioritizes the league’s goals as “character training, then practice training, then games.”
Throughout the eight weeks, games and practices were held at Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School in St. Helena. The final city league event took place on PUC’s campus at the Pacific Auditorium, with parents and the local community joining the athletes for an awards ceremony.
Amanda Loeffler, a sophomore outside hitter for the PUC Pioneers, has been a coach for the league the last two years. “I get to teach younger girls the game I love,” says Loeffler. “We set up drills for them to learn the fundamentals of the game.”
“The experience helps me to become both a better coach for the girls and player for PUC,” reflects Loeffler. “[The experience] can be tough, it takes a lot of patience, but it makes me happy to know I made a difference in these girls’ lives.” Players who choose to serve as coaches also receive academic credit in service learning.
St. Helena’s Recreation Director Haidi Arias is a PUC alumnus and former student athlete. Arias, an acquaintance of Brown, had a need for volleyball coaches and together they were able to create this partnership. “My vision is to create a strong development for the city and for our school. More importantly, to insure the relationship remains consistent,” Brown describes. “It would also be really cool to partner other sports within our program and expand in that way.”
The city league is a great opportunity for athletes on the women’s volleyball team to use what they learn during the season to help youth see the larger picture. Brown and Arias plan to continue this program indefinitely with hopes of growth.