The program started with 80 participants. Now, there's over 150.
Anabelle Martos carefully eyed the ball as she prepared for her next serve. The Pink Panthers needed one more point. Martos struck her serve cleanly, lobbing the ball high over the net. The other team, the Dragons, wasn’t able to return it. Anabelle smiled and danced around as her sister and teammate Stephanie dashed over for a congratulatory hug.
The Pink Panthers had won the match.
“The first half, they were kind of slow. They weren’t really cheering each other on,” said the girls’ mother, Vanessa Martos, who doubles as the coach of the Pink Panthers 9U volleyball team. “But once we started cheering each other on, it brought energy back into the game.”
“You’re creating camaraderie. You’re teaching them life skills. They’re learning to deal with a coach who is not a parent. You have another authority figure for kids to learn from. There’s different scenarios in sports that help the kids learn lessons. You’re learning sportsmanship. Overall, it helps them grow, become better citizens and help the community.”
Port Orange Parks and Recreation's Josh Anderson on the value of youth sports
Port Orange Parks and Recreation celebrated the opening night of its youth volleyball program on Tuesday, June 5, at the Port Orange Gymnasium. Matches will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays until about mid-July, with teams split into three age divisions: 9U, 12U and 16U.
Athletic Supervisor Josh Anderson said some of the goals of the program are for the athletes to make new friends, learn the game (for the younger kids) and to fine-tune skills (for the older kids).
“Overall, though, rec-based programs are all about having fun ... and socializing with people in the community,” he said.
The program is now in its third year, and the growth it has experienced has been shocking, according to Anderson.
The program started with 80 participants. Over 150 showed up on Tuesday night.
The growth has gotten to the point where the program is running out of space. To combat this issue, the city is modifying one of the three courts at the gym. The project is expected to be completed by June 28. In addition, Anderson said the program is considering adding more days to the season if growth continues.
“It’s turning out to be a really great program, and I think everyone has had a really good time with it,” Anderson said. “The girls are learning a little bit about volleyball, they’re having fun and meeting new friends and families in the community.”
He added: “It’s been a good three years so far for this program. I’m anxious to see how far it can go.”