The Tigers began their offseason training June 5. Workouts continued last week at the school’s gymnasium, and players will have more opportunities in July to polish their on-court skills, according to Tarah High, Patterson’s first-year varsity head coach.
“We are hoping that by the end of these workouts, the girls will have a foundation for the games and practices, as they try out (for the varsity team) in August,” she said.
High, who replaces Jennifer Hamm following five seasons at the helm, has served as head coach for Patterson’s freshmen volleyball team the past five years and is looking for a solid campaign in 2012, beginning with a slate of summer clinics.
“I am sure that there will be some challenges that I face this season, but the primary focus is to recruit players who are committed,” said High, a 2005 Patterson High graduate. “There is so much potential talent from last year’s varsity and junior varsity teams, but I also see a lot of potential and motivation from many of the sophomores and incoming freshmen.”
The contrast between the regular season and summer clinics boils down to one underlying concept: In the fall, the team plays to win; during summer, the team plays to improve.
“You have to want to make yourself better,” High said. “If you aren’t getting it the first time, then you have to modify your approach until it works.”
While conditioning improves the strength and endurance of each athlete, individual practices, held twice a week, focus on improving volleyball skills. The players are divided into groups of four to five athletes.
“We try to incorporate an edge for competition and, of course, an even stronger sense of strength and camaraderie,” High said.
She said the workouts also focus on offensive and defensive strategies.
“By far, the girls are most fond of hitting and usually request that we hit at every practice,” High said. “It wasn’t until we saw improvement in the basic defense that we decided to venture into this more offensive part of the game.”
Patterson’s Mariele Schut, a junior, is among those players who have used their opportunities this off-season, demonstrating perfect attendance at just about every summer workout.
“I’m having fun, but I also hope to get better for the start of the season,” said Schut, who played on the Tigers’ JV squad last season. “This is a chance to bond and meet other players from all the different levels. We all want to be at our best.”
The team’s summer days are also filled with passing and setting drills and scrimmages.
“Each girl is responsible for themselves, and that is why I love athletics so much,” High said. “The individual has to want to make it better for the whole.”
What happens during summer workouts is an indicator to High of what she can expect from her players during the fall. She sees summer clinics as a level playing field. Each athlete gets one-on-one coaching and a chance to make improvements in her game.
Participants also get to be out on the court in game situations, providing a chance to show they deserve a varsity spot.
“It is in my nature to work with the athletes who show a lot of heart and commitment to the program,” High said. “The starting six positions for our varsity team are open to the girls who display passion for themselves and their team.”
Summer is also the perfect opportunity for players to learn the extra lessons High sees as so valuable.
“I hope that during the summer and the ensuing season, we can teach the girls that there is much more to being an athlete than just showing up for the occasional workout or practice,” High said. “It takes a bit more than muscle memory to make an athlete, and it really starts in the heart and in the mind.”
With the graduation of seniors Dani Hansen, Stephanie Cantu, Caitlyn Tanner, Falysha Corral, Theresa Bays and Jessica Barajas, the Tigers are left with four returning varsity players.
Still, High said she had seen an increased number of girls in the gym this offseason and she believed they had a chance to improve as individuals.
“I have been enthralled with the turnout of our summer clinics,” High said. “With only a few days’ break in between (the end of) school and workouts, we had more than 40 girls come out for three levels.
“I have a strong conviction that once these girls really find their love for the game, they will in turn become stronger athletes, motivated leaders and committed teammates.”
High, who led the freshman Tigers to a league championship a season ago, considers her first varsity head coaching position an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I accepted the position at the start of May, and I am really excited to add the muscle to the strong spine that exists for this program,” High said. “I think my devotion to Patterson is a reflection of all the great teachers and coaches that influenced me during my school years.”