Some 70 Mark Twain Elementary School students listened to gym teacher Mark Odell explain how to serve a volleyball.
"Bend your knees comfortably. Show me the fingertips and the control you have with the open hand. Now we're not actually going to hit it," he said. "Everybody, crouch slightly, and go!"
Half a dozen bright yellow balls launched into the air of the gymnasium Tuesday.
This is the third week of a four-week intramural volleyball club at the school. The club began six years ago when maintenance supervisor Doug Sausedo approached school administrators with the idea.
"We had some Drug-Free Schools grant money, and that's how we got the program started," he said. "We wanted to do a boy/girl sport and tossed around the idea of flag football, which some girls said they wanted to play. But we went with volleyball."
The club is open to fourth- and fifth-graders free of charge. Students practice Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to learn how to set, bump, and spike a volleyball and how the game works.
Fourth-grader Abby LaFoon said she is learning sportsmanship.
"Volleyball is really a team sport," she said. "You can't do it without your team. You can, but it's very hard."
Tacher Bridget Brush and former California volleyball coach Melissa Clapperton are also working with students.
"It's nice to see the kids in the after-school program," Clapperton said. "I think they're having fun. Plus, I don't think the girls do a lot of team sports, so this is good for them. Hopefully, they'll like it enough to keep going on. Volleyball is a fabulous sport."
The number of students participating each year grows. The first year of the program there were little more than 20 participants.
"It's just got to be popular," Sausedo said. "The kids are looking at it differently."
The school received no grant money this year for the program. But due to help from John Erle Daniels Construction and from Enviroscapes Systems and Products, students received T-shirts on Tuesday sporting "Mark Twain Elementary Intramural Volleyball" on the front and back.
The Parent-Teacher Association is defraying costs initially handled through the grant and will purchase pizza for next week's end-of-season party.
Next year, school organizers may look at expanding the program to four days a week to accommodate all the students.
Fourth-grader Kamryn Forrest may be back.
"I like that we actually get to learn to play the real game of volleyball," she said. "My sister was in volleyball a long time ago, and I thought it looked really fun and I just wanted to try to learn it."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.