SUBMITTED BY KELLEY REED
The Rockford Junior Olympic (JO) volleyball club program for grades 3-12 reached new heights this season when participation cleared the 70-player mark and the club played host to its first tournament.
Rockford started a JO club program in 1994 with a total of two teams, according to Dawn Engebretson, former program coordinator and current coach of the age 10 team. The youth volleyball club has been a part of the Rockford Area Athletic Association (RAAA) since 2009.
Program director Mary Buenger reports how the Rockford Rumble volleyball tournament March 2-3 was a big success. She said 30 teams took part Saturday and 28 on Sunday. Teams traveled from all parts of Minnesota and several came from Wisconsin and Iowa.
“Among the 58 teams competing were six of Rockford’s own,” notes Buenger. “We had a lot of positive comments about the tournament from the coaches and people attending.”
Two Rockford teams earned medals at the tournament, adding to the successes earned by several other teams earlier in the season. Buenger said how parents, players and coaches put in hours of volunteer work to make the tournament run smoothly.
Rockford’s JO volleyball club is an extension of the regular high school volleyball season. It allows girls to continue to play during the winter months, or join volleyball for the first time at the younger ages.
For the 2012-2013 season there are seven teams ranging in age from third grade to senior high school.
“We have 70+ girls enrolled this season, the most players ever for this program,” Buenger said. “A majority of the girls are from Rockford and Greenfield, but we also have girls from Buffalo, Delano, St. Michael and Minnetrista.”
Both the high school program and the JO club teams are working to build winning programs and create competitive volleyball at all levels, according to Cindi Simonson, Rockford high school varsity volleyball coach.
“It is a chance for the girls to play competitively against other programs in the off-season,” Simonson said. “It keeps them in shape and allows them to further advance their knowledge and skills for in-season competition.”
Teams compete in tournaments throughout the season including events in Onamia, Ogilvie, North Branch, Eagan, Monticello and Big Lake. Local teams were able to stay home and compete at the Rockford Rumble tournament, March 2-3. Games were at the high school and community center in Rockford.
Four teams have earned medals in various tournaments so far. The age 11 team took third place in the Silver Division at the Heartland Mid-Winter Classic. The age 16 team captured second in the Silver Division at the same tournament.
At the Rockford tournament, 14 Black earned a third place medal in the Gold Division, while age 17 won second place in the Silver Division.
Rockford’s JO club program is a member of North Country Region Volleyball, which is part of USA Volleyball (USAV). It is coordinated by a board and also has parent representatives for each team. Current board members are director Mary Buenger, assistant director Kelley Reed and treasurer Barb Gerard.
To learn more about the club go to the volleyball section of the RAAA at www.rockfordball.com.