Soaring above the net

Published 9:59 am Monday, August 6, 2018

Polk County Volleyball Club a labor of love for the community

Author Stephen King says that “in small towns, people scent the wind with noses of uncommon keenness.”  

Folks learn to “sniff around” for opportunities taken for granted in bigger communities.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Local mother Renae Waldman, who sat for hours on bleachers watching her daughter play competitive volleyball, recognized the scent of opportunity and rallied local support. Alongside fellow volleyball mom Tracy Becker, Renae conceived Polk County Volleyball Club in 2014. 

The club has since grown; the inaugural season sported one team of players 13 and under (13U), and grew to accommodate 12U, 15U and 17U teams this season.  

Coaches for the 2018 PCVC season.

Prior to 2014, parents packed their girls up the mountain to Xcel Volleyball in Hendersonville or down the mountain to Upward Stars in Spartanburg to have an opportunity to hone their skills and compete against teams beyond the reach of the Polk County Recreation Department.

Costs for a season were in the thousands of dollars, practices were held three days per week and tournaments were scheduled most weekends for the better part of nine months. 

2018 Polk County High School graduate and athletic standout Reagan Waddell tells me firsthand of the mounting pressures that come from playing for a larger organization, having played for Xcel’s club for six years.

“I enjoyed every single minute,” she says, though admitted that alongside a rigorous academic load, the demanding schedule led her to feeling “burned out.”

Xcel’s and Upward’s programs are highly competitive, as the coaches can pull their talent from a larger pool of girls — theoretically “the best of the best.”  But young players quickly realize that if they want to be part of the club, they must specialize, and devote their time and energy to volleyball and volleyball alone.  

Further, in these larger districts, the players often don’t play together on their respective school teams. 

“Our goal [in forming PCVC] was to make our school team better” Renae says.

PCVC’s presence in the county has been integral in building a volleyball community.  

Molly Hill is the head coach for PCHS volleyball, and coaches PCVC teams with players in eighth grade and below.  

“PCVC is growing so much” that now it seems volleyball is the “it sport” in the county, she says. 

Jon Ezell coached the inaugural 12U team for PCVC this year and assisted Molly at PCHS.  

“PCVC gives all the benefits from club sports, but on a small scale,” Jon says. “We are pushing to develop well-rounded kids.” 

Kenny and Donna Hall are also Polk County Schools employees, volleyball parents and PCVC coaches. Their aim is to “make teams as competitive as they can be, while not taking players away from other school sports.” Kenny goes further to state that his “ultimate competitive goal is to win a state championship for PCHS.”  

Thanks to support from over 30 local businesses, PCVC has been able to maintain lower costs, “keeping it affordable and open to everyone. We don’t want money to be a reason a girl can’t play,” Renae says. 

It’s safe to say that PCVC is at least half the cost of the other, larger programs. A lesser financial obligation for the parents is a perk, for sure, and with a less intense practice schedules, the girls’ calendars are opened for participating in other sports within the rec department or at the middle school and high school levels.  

“You’re able to have a life” Reagan says. 

Mireya Roman is a rising junior at PCHS and has played at every level Polk County has to offer. Through PCVC, Mireya says she and her teammates have “grown as a team. We’re all like a family.” 

Mireya played on coach Molly’s PCVC team during her eighth-grade year, and felt it “really prepared [you] to see what skills you need for the high school level.”  

Mireya’s PCVC team this year was comprised of mostly 16-year-old girls, but, with one 17-year-old, was required to register and play up to the level of the oldest player. Mireya said the girls “made lots of progress.” Playing up an age group “showed us a whole new world of volleyball.”

“PCVC has really built me as a player and as a team player too,” she says.   

Kayleigh Wilson is a rising eight-grader at PCMS and member of PCVC 13U team that played in the AAU National tournament this summer in Orlando, Florida.  

“PCVC helped me as a person to not give up; there’s always hope to come back, to win,” Kayleigh says. “If you give up, you let down your teammates and yourself.” 

Those on the inside know this, but it begs to be written here: PCVC would not be possible without the support of the Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene, high school principal Brandon Schweitzer and outgoing middle school principal Hank Utz.  

By granting use of the facilities and equipment at PCHS and PCMS, the Polk County Schools administration not only contributes to reducing costs, but also offers positive endorsements for the sport and the girls who play it.

“They realize it’s only Polk girls,” Renae says. “This helps the school teams, and is really community-building.” 

Another perk: PCVC team members of high school age have helped with skills assessments (“evaluations”) for the recreation department’s volleyball league and even coached younger girls’ teams.   

“We go out in the community and teach as much as we can, so the new generation of players will be as good or better than us,” Reagan says. 

Through its acceptance and support of PCVC, the Foothills community has embraced the opportunity that Renae keenly pulled from the bleachers.  

From the administrators to the coaches, from the players to the families who support them, the community, together, made opportunity where there was once none. What communities do together matters.  

Said thinker and teacher Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” 

For more information regarding PCVC, people may contact Renae at •

Julie Carroll is a family-centered West Virginia native who’s called western North Carolina home since 2007. She’s a speech-language pathologist and writer who reads, travels and plays in the dirt.