Jade Patteri and Mary Antonovich are best friends who often play volleyball in the backyard of their homes.
Although Patteri, 11, a Burbank resident, has played competitive volleyball, Antonovich, who lives in Glendale, has never been a member of a team.
However, it was Antonovich who found out about a volleyball camp being held this week at Providence High and convinced her friend to attend.
“I told [Jade] about the camp because I know how much she likes to play volleyball,” Antonovich said. “This is my first time playing like this and I’m having so much fun. I have really learned a lot about volleyball. I think we’re both going to try out for a club team.”
The two were among 23 young athletes who took part in a camp at Providence that began on Monday and concluded Friday. The camp, which was open to athletes in the eighth grade and younger, was run by longtime coach Mark Mina. Along with being the current head girls’ coach at Immaculate Heart, Mina has also coached at Providence, Pasadena Poly and La Salle. In addition, he is also a club coach with the San Gabriel Boys Volleyball Club and Club West Pasadena.
During the five-day camp, athletes learned fundamentals that included serving, digging and passing and took part in various drills. The youngsters also participated in scrimmages and played games.
Mina said he is happy with how the camp — which is run in two sessions — has progressed in just one year.
“It’s amazing how much the camp has grown. Last year when we started it was just eight kids,” Mina said. “Now this year we had 21 kids in our first camp and 23 in this one. We are hoping to continue to grow and establish ourselves in the Burbank area. What we’re trying to do is build more interest in volleyball at the younger level.”
The camp caters not only to players who don’t have a great deal of volleyball experience, but also to athletes who have participated in the sport and want to hone their skills.
“What we usually try to do is push the fundamentals, but we also want to make it fun for the kids,” Mina said. “We really try to emphasize serving and passing. If you’re going to be a recreational volleyball player or even if you are fortunate to play for a team at the highest level, serving and passing are probably the two main components you will always, always need to be successful as a volleyball player.
“But with a camp, you kind of have to gage what type of players you have on the first day. If you have kids who are really serious we usually break them off and we give them a little more advanced training. But this is usually more of a beginner’s camp, and we gear more to the players who have less than two years playing experience and who don’t play for a club team.”
Mina said the camp also allows athletes to get acclimated with Providence, and it gives them an inside glimpse of the school if they decide to attend the institution.
Andrew Bencze is the Providence athletic director. Although Mina is no longer a coach for the Pioneers, Bencze said Mina is still dedicated to the camp and he is committed to making it a success. Bencze added that Mina provides a wealth of volleyball knowledge for the young players.
“We want to run a qualify camp, and I think Mark has the experience to reach the kid who has never played before, and help the player who has a lot of experience get better,” Bencze said. “A camp needs a coach with that kind of diversity, and Mark has that.”
For the athletes, many said they were able to improve their skills and enjoyed taking part in the camp.
“I think I improved my serving, because I’m serving a lot better now than I was before,” Patteri said. “It’s fun and it’s hard, and they really push you so you can get better.”
Camper Chris Haysvelasco, 8, from North Hollywood, found himself in a unique situation. At the camp, he was the only boy among a group of girls. Despite finding his situation “a little weird,” he said he learned a lot during the week-long camp.
“I learned jump-serving, hitting, bumping and things like that,” he said. “We also played a lot of games of volleyball.”