Shepardson helping hitters year-round
Aaron Shepardson knows that volleyball isn’t just a fall sport. But Shepardson also realizes how hard it can be for young volleyball players to get quality court time outside of the high school season.”A lot of kids in any small community don’t have the opportunity to play (in the offseason), unless they drive to Denver three times a week. That’s a lot of wear and tear. It’s hard for the kids and hard for their families,” said Shepardson, who is the head coach of the Front Range Volleyball Club’s (FRVBC) Mountain Division teams. “Now they have an opportunity to not drive as far.”And nobody could be happier than Shepardson to provide the kids with a chance to hone their skills year-round in Eagle County. Last winter, Shepardson came to the area with his wife, Jolene, to head up the Mountain Division squads after coaching at Winthrop University.”A year-and-a-half ago, I met Jim Moray, the head coach of the entire club at a club, qualifier when I was recruiting for my university. He said they were thinking of starting a division of their club team in the Vail Valley,” said Shepardson, who jumped at the prospect of coaching at the club level. “It’s one of the best programs in the country. So for me, it was a step up from the university I was at.”As a club coach, Shepardson gets to do what he loves most.
“I see myself more as a teacher,” Shepardson said. “The rules are such in college that it doesn’t allow you much training time with the players. They are only allowed five months out of the entire year as training time. Four of those months, you are in competition, and trying to solidify what you already can do. In a club volleyball situation, I can work with these kids year round if they choose.”Weeks of hittingFrom December until June, the Mountain Division teams (15- and 17-and-under) got their fill of volleyball, practicing three days a week and competing in tournaments most weekends.Once a month, the team ventured out of state to play in qualifiers in places like Minneapolis, Reno, Nev., and Atlanta.
During the summer, many of the club players have been taking it easy, much to Shepardson’s approval.”Some kids have been playing January to June and need a break,” he said. “It’s good to spend some time with their families and rest.”But other kids, several of whom will be playing at Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain, have taken advantage of Shepardson’s camps and individual skill sessions at Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards.When high school season rolls around, Shepardson won’t exactly be able to rest.”My job is to build this program,” Shepardson said. “I’m going to be busy this fall trying to find players. I’ll go as far as I need to go to find the best young athletes, so we can develop them into good volleyball players. Also, I’ll be trying to find coaches. We’re very interested in growing, and we’d like to have teams in every age division.”
ComplementaryShepardson sees his program and high school programs as having a symbiotic relationship.”There’s only so much you can do in a high school season,” Shepardson said. “I think the coaches here have done a great job with that short period of time. I don’t know how you can get anything done, and they have. Now, the opportunity for these kids to be playing year-round, or close to year-round if they chose, will do wonders for the (high school) programs, I think. We want to help them and their programs and develop players as they work with our players and help us.”In addition to finding quality players, Shepardson hopes to meet all of the area coaches. The ones he’s met thus far have already made him optimistic that he made the right choice in coming to the area.”I’ve met coach Bryan Doyon (of Battle Mountain) and Rob Crawford (of Eagle Valley) is an old friend of mine,” Shepardson said. “Just the other day, I met Cathy Alexander (of Vail Christian). I feel like this was the right move for me and my wife. People like Rob and Bryan have gone out of their way to welcome us.”
Now that he’s here for the long haul, Shepardson wants to help others enjoy volleyball as much as he does.”I’m here to bring my love for volleyball and see if I can mold some people to love it as well. There are a bunch of kids who are already like that,” Shepardson said, noting that he wants the region to be a statewide volleyball hotbed. “That’s my goal – when people think of the Vail Valley, they’ll say, ‘Wow, there’s some good volleyball up there.'”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado