All levels of sports garner great attention as people love to root for their favorite teams from the professional level all the way down to youth league.
In Kentucky and really most other states, certain sports like basketball and football take precedence. It makes sense, the sports are very popular and competitive, but what about some of the other sports that schools offer? When it comes to these various sports like volleyball, softball, lacrosse, baseball and even e-sports, the major community support and funding isn’t always there as it can be for the major athletics programs.
A local volleyball coach at the high school and middle school level in Madison County is looking to make a change for the better for the sport of volleyball.
Janet Thacker is the head coach of the varsity volleyball team at Madison Central and is involved in coaching and helping out younger volleyball players in the middle school ranks too. Thacker’s goal isn’t just to make volleyball more popular in the area, but to also make it more accessible to younger kids in Madison County.
“Volleyball is really taking over in America, it’s growing faster than basketball. As a local community, we do offer youth sports like basketball and softball, but volleyball is growing faster than both of those sports”.
Janet is no stranger to being involved in athletics, as from the time she was only 8 years old, she began playing softball, continuing to play the sport competitively into her thirties. She then started coaching youth softball, also helping out with coaching baseball around this time. Eventually, Janet’s daughter made a decision to focus on the sport of volleyball, which promoted Thacker to do the same.
“I love all sports and believe that any sport can teach our kids and local youth great life lessons, patience and how to work hard”.
With that mindset, the switch from being involved in coaching softball and baseball to then coaching volleyball came quickly to Thacker as she got to follow her daughters playing career through the sport. This was a change from when Thacker attended Madison Central, as at that time, volleyball wasn’t even offered as sport for students to play. Instead of missing out on the sport, Thacker took initiative and joined a co-ed city league in Richmond.
“In 1988, there was a Tuesday night volleyball league at the old armory building down on 2nd street. I was awful at the time, but they had an open gym on Sundays and I would spend 4 hours every Sunday playing and practicing Volleyball. The league became really strong for many years before it finally kind of fizzled out. In 1999, I began playing Wallyball”.
It’s obvious that Coach Thacker has a passion for not only playing, but also coaching and being apart of the sport of volleyball. Now being a head coach, she is trying to build a stellar volleyball program at Madison Central and make them consistent winners. This comes with players who have lifelong experience and a passion for the game.
Unfortunately, in the area some of the girls who play volleyball have little to no experience until they hit middle school and make the team.
“As a middle school coach each year we are challenged with our 6th grade players due to the fact that some of the players have never touched a volleyball in their life until joining the team. Because of this, we usually have to have separate practices at the start of the year to get the players caught up to speed on the basics of the game” Thacker said. “In the past, it’s taken months for new volleyball players to understand the game”.
While the solution to that issue isn’t an easy fix, Janet has one in mind. She plans to kickstart a new juniors local volleyball league. This league would accept both boys and girls from ages 8-12 to get them prepared properly for the transition to middle school or local club volleyball.
“This league’s goal is to teach the fundamentals of volleyball, the verbiage of the game and just the basics of how the game works. We will select teams, practice with those teams and play against each other to get better game experiences”.
This league will not only be for girls, but boys too. Typically, boys volleyball isn’t thought of as a big sport in Kentucky, but the idea is starting to spread for youth boys volleyball in the area.
“Boys volleyball is coming along in Kentucky. There are already some high schools in the area that have boys volleyball teams. Some club teams in central Kentucky are starting to create boys teams too. There are also several colleges within two hours of Richmond that have scholarships available for men’s volleyball”, Thacker said.
With boys being added into the mix, the youth team can begin to prepare for middle school volleyball and beyond, including club volleyball opportunities.
The issue is, players usually have to travel out of the county to even join a team.
“If a Madison county young girl/boy wants to participate in club volleyball right now, they have to travel deep into Lexington or Scott County to play”, said Thacker.
The league’s creation can help foster a club volleyball environment for Madison County, which could sprout some local club teams. It’ll take lots of hard work and dedication for this league to work, and Janet already sees the vision of where youth volleyball can be down the line in Madison County.
“In 2 years, I hope to have at least 4 teams competing in tournaments all around the state of Kentucky. My goal is to create a junior volleyball club that can establish our local youth in this sport”.
The foundation is there and Janet Thacker is working tirelessly to create this unique league for the county. For every young volleyball girl or boy, this league could be an opportunity for a lifelong love for the sport and even a long career of playing.
The league could always use sponsors. For any local business or individual wanting to sponsor this up and coming youth volleyball league, reach out to Janet Thacker or message @MCHSvolleyball on Twitter.