Posted On: 07/15/19 3:22 PM

When athletes from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and Wisconsin make their way to the Wisconsin Badger Team Camp, they are getting much more than a few days of training and competition, but an experience that will create powerful memories and connections among their teammates and the coaches and athletes they get to work with.  Running a camp with 500 high school students, 50 plus coaches, and six different facilities is no easy feat, but the camp staff, just like their volleyball team finds a way to get things done and done extremely well. 

To give a little bit of a closer glimpse into this camp, here is a typical run down of what the athletes and the coaches get to experience.  

The Coaches and Players 

High School teams sign up for camp and will be assigned a coach, which most likely is not their high school coach (Almost all high school coaches are still with their team during the camp, just not actively coaching).  With states having different contact rules, this allows for the athletes to work with coaches who may be club, high school, or college coaches from across the country.  They may also have former Badger players be their coach and all teams have a current Badger player who serves as a student coach at some point during the camp. For example, Manitowoc Lincoln had Jill Loairs, a former Dayton standout and current assistant at Duquense in Pittsburgh.  Brianna Barry was the coach for Bloomington Jefferson (MN), a former All American at Florida State, former head coach at Southeastern Oklahoma, and now assistant at George Washington in D.C. Division 3 and NAIA Coaches get a chance to work with these athletes as well that would include Paul Schlomer from Edgewood in Madison along with Matt and Bri Ebenhoe who coach at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa.  For Howards Grove High School, they were able to work with Deme Morales, the undersized outside with the oversized heart of a champion who was a key member to the Badgers Final Four run and Big Ten Championship. These athletes and coaches form bonds quickly, it’s just one example of why the volleyball community is so great. Everyone has the same mission – to better the game for all and make strong connections through others in the volleyball world. 

The Demos

To start or end sessions, the Badger coaching staff and athletes will do a demo for the camp.  This could be what they do when there is a ball out of system, it may also be various situations out of serve receive.  This is typical of what you would see at a coaching clinic, but with the athletes and players so close, the camp participants are really able to see the speed of the game and the communication happening on the court.  For one demo, Coach Sheffield would ask the defense what was an adjustment they need to make. Each player in the front row would respond with something like, “I was too close to the net and I wasn’t able to press forward” or “I anticipated the ball going outside so I opened up too soon to block”.  So important for these high school athletes to hear the awareness and the self correction from these top athletes. 

The Competition and Training With a Variety of Teams

Team Camp is not one big scrimmage.  Far from. These coaches are bringing in various drills to take teams out of their comfort zone in hopes this will increase communication, effort, and learn something new they can take back to their own gym.  At one point in the Nicholas Johnson Pavilion (NJP), the home of the Badger Men’s and Women’s Practice basketball facility, there were teams from four different states all competing against each other in fast paced, intense drills.  Athletes who may be joining the varsity team for the first time are thrown to the fire and taking their lumps so to say, but that is where the growth and improvement is made. There is A TON of teaching going on. Teaching from the coaches to the athletes, the Badger players giving their perspective, and the upcoming Seniors teaching the incoming Freshmen or Sophomores.  

The Fieldhouse

The Fieldhouse on campus just has this mystique about it.  There is so much history in that building which is connected to Camp Randall Stadium, a definite favorite for the athletes and coaches.  Almost all teams get a practice session in the Fieldhouse, the same floor the Badgers play on in front of thousands of fans. When their session is finishing up at the Fieldhouse, teams will get a chance to head on our to the Camp Randall turf for the perfect photo opp.  

On Saturday night, all the campers gather around the court with some ice cream and watch the current and some former Badgers compete in a one set match.  Music is going, Coach Sheffield is providing play by play, and to see the likes of multiple All Americans and potentially future Olympic athletes up close and personal.  For athletes like Dana Rettke, who is coming off a tremendous summer with Team USA, the athletes at camp get to talk to her and she is so approachable for them to talk to.  All of the athletes on the team are such great ambassadors for the school, the sport, and role models for these high school athletes. 

Howards Grove (WI) 2019 Badger Team Camp Champions


The Tournament

Sunday comes fast and furious with a camp tournament.  Assistant Coach Gary White is the man behind the operations where he has everything set up with pool play, bus routes, and facilities where teams start their competition with hopes of advancing to the sweet sixteen bracket play.  Matches are one set to 25 or a time limit to keep things moving. This year the final four consisted of Arrowhead, Howards Grove, Omaha Duchense, and De Pere. Howards Grove and Duchesne met in the title game with Howards Grove taking the title.  Only fitting that Coach Sheffield and White joined the team picture with Bucky Badger.  

With team camps going on all across the country, there are plenty of opportunities for high school teams to get back together and start their process of building a solid foundation heading into the high school season.  As with anything, the journey of progress and improvement is not always linear, but this weekend for many programs throughout the state and beyond, the journey has begun.