ROCKINGHAM – The Richmond Senior High School campus has been buzzing over the past two weeks as annual youth football and volleyball camps have returned after a summer off.
Volleyball head coach Ashleigh Larsen held a three-day camp June 14-16, while soccer head coach Chris Larsen hosted the program’s 20th summer camp for four days last week.
The two coaches, who are entering their fourth year at the helm of their respective programs, said the goal was to help develop interest in sports in the region while giving local athletes a chance to have fun and to develop their skills.
Lady Raider Volleyball Camp hosted 55 campers aged 7-14, and Ashleigh Larsen said it was a good mix of elementary and middle school athletes. This number was approximately 15 campers more than in 2019.
“I thought the camp went really well and all the girls seemed interested,” said Ashleigh Larsen. “The number of young girls who participated was good and we saw some familiar faces from our last camp.
“Everyone was impatient and excited to participate,” she added. “The younger group was loud and had a lot of fun, while the older group fed off the energy of the college girls.”
Several current college players attended the camp, while second-year assistant coach Madelyn Chappell worked with the younger ones. Larsen spent the three days coaching college players and aspiring freshmen.
Day one focused on shock, set-up and other basic skills, as Larsen said the sport was new and unfamiliar to many campers after a full year off due to the pandemic.
Over the next two days, players developed their hitting and serving skills, before bringing them together on the final day with a series of match-type games and activities.
“Coming back to the gym was kind of an unreal feeling,” said Ashleigh Larsen. “Last year we were doing temperature checks and only had 25 fans in the gym. It was great to see so many people being able to participate in the camp.
“The camp made the older girls eager to resume the season,” she added. “Although we don’t have a clear idea of what the season will be like, I noticed the girls had a whole different mood about them.”
While camp is over, the Lady Raider Volleyball team will continue their off-season training Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with the exception of the two mandatory NCHSAA dead periods this summer.
Assistant Coach Madelyn Chappell (left) works with young campers in the Richmond Gymnasium. (Photo provided)
Last week, the Richmond soccer and football fields saw a record number of young athletes participating in the mixed soccer camp.
Chris Larsen said 160 campers, ages five to 18, showed up for the four-day camp. About 100 of these participants were in the youngest age group, which ranged from five to 11 years old.
“The whole week has been a really positive experience,” said Chris Larsen. “I was happy to see a lot of community participation. Coach Bennie Howard started this camp 20 years ago and the biggest group we’ve ever had was 130. It’s a great feeling to have so many kids involved.
“A lot of the kids seemed to like being outside kicking the ball, and for the most part we had a great weather which made the camp a success.”
Assistant coaches Michelle Denson, Tad Hamilton and Howard worked with the young campers. Larsen also brought in coaches Colin McDavid (Hoke County) and Jeremy Blake (Pinecrest) to help put together the junior and junior varsity boys and girls teams.
“The most important thing we focused on with each group was to work on the fundamentals at the appropriate skill level,” Larsen explained. “The groups worked on trapping and dribbling, as well as basic football concepts like defense and knowing how to work with pressure.
“For everyone, we wanted to build in the in-game stages of the game,” he continued. “The younger group was about getting the kids kicking the ball and making it a positive experience to encourage them to stick with it and keep playing.”
Bringing in coaches like Blake and McDavid, Larsen explained, has been beneficial in giving the Richmond players a new perspective that will hopefully help them in the seasons to come.
The Richmond men’s soccer team will begin off-season practice Monday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., which is open to all eligible JV and college players.