As moratorium week sets in, giving high school athletes a mandatory break from summer training activities, it will be the first week this summer in which the Woodburn High School volleyball team has not been active in some form or another.
Since the end of May, the Bulldogs have been hard at work preparing for the fast approaching fall sports season. After beginning the summer with weekly open gym opportunities, Woodburn volleyball coach Doyle Tracy transitioned in the middle of June to summer training sessions that have run three times a week through the beginning of the moratorium.
Between games, drills and conditioning, Tracy has seen more than two dozen participants taking part on a regular basis.
With many of the athletes set to join the Woodburn volleyball program for the first time this fall as incoming freshmen, it gives the Bulldogs a strong start heading into fall practices in August by providing new players the base of knowledge needed to jump into training immediately.
"Due to many incoming freshmen joining us over the summer, we will not be needing to spend as much time in an introductory period before moving on to general practice schedules," Tracy said. "Not having to spend practice time teaching drills and skills to all the players will enhance our productivity early in the season."
Tracy is entering his third season as head coach of the Woodburn volleyball program, and this year's program is on strong footing. His first season had the difficulty of starting a program under a new coaching staff and a new system. Last year the Bulldogs entered the season with just two players who could boast varsity experience with Woodburn.
This year, the Bulldogs bring back five members from last year's team — seniors Devanee Ott-Parker, Domnika Krivoshein and Jennifer Martinez, along with juniors Susanna Matveev and Bailey Woolley — and every athlete in the program has been learning under Tracy and his staff for more than two years now.
"Having five varsity returners will mean a higher level of work early in the season, which will go a long way to improving our skill set as a team," Tracy said. "It's a bonus that the newer players will be familiar with the returners and be more comfortable stepping onto the court with them. It should help us to communicate well on the court, which is a large part of success."
It's difficult to put into measurable form just how important that consistency is for a high school program. Familiarity with the coaching staff, comfort within a system and the friendships built through mutual work on the court through practices and games are intangible benefits that reap strong gains during the season.
"Not only do the players have trust in us and familiarity with our styles, but the coaching staff works together well and enjoys the time we spend together," Tracy said. "That's really helped to create a healthy atmosphere for the players and coaches alike."
Tracy has seen his players grow by leaps and bounds in the past two seasons. The girls who entered high school volleyball the same time that Tracy took over the program are entering their junior season and are at or near their athletic peak. Players who don't have to focus on the social pressure of working within a team structure can turn their attention more toward improving as players.
"There's a comfort level with the players that helps them focus on improving more than if there were a new coaching staff," Tracy said. "They know what we expect of them and they know our sense of humor. It is helping to not only make them feel more at home and able to focus, but the new players are seeing that comfort and learning to fit in much faster than they normally would in a new environment."
Tracy sees the growth every day as players continue to mature and become stronger athletes. He has seen the effort put in during each practice, seen the social bonds built between players and members of the coaching staff and seen the girls entering his program become leaders on the court, which will one day transfer to other aspects of life as they eventually leave Woodburn High School.
The Woodburn coach is proud of that growth and thinks that crowds who come out to Woodburn High School for the coming 2017 fall season will notice that on the court.
"Some of our past players have stepped up, not only as strong players, but also as leaders for the team and community," Tracy said. "I'm excited for the spectators to see the growth our players have had over the last two years."