Tryouts bring out serious players

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By Tom Hanlon

On Nov. 18 volleyball players did their best to make it onto a team for Northern New Mexico Fusion Volleyball, a girls’ Junior Olympic Volleyball program.  
Fusion is a non-profit organization sanctioned by the U.S.A. Volleyball organization.  Its goal is to train and provide competition for athletes ranging from elementary school to high school.
Assistant Coach Kyle Stokes said, “The point is to get the kids interested in volleyball and if it clicks with the then they get better and progress.”  
The program offers smaller teams, select coaching and highly competitive play.  NNM Fusion is a club that participates in the Sun Country Region Volleyball Association of U.S.A. Volleyball, one of 38 regions in the United States.  The Sun Country Region has club programs in Texas, New Mexico and southwest Colorado. “Most of the competitive play will be in-state, but some of the older, more experienced teams will compete out of state and in regional competitions,” Stokes said.  The season starts in January and wraps up in April.  
Tom Courtney has been director of Fusion for two years. He explained that he and the board of directors pick which tournaments to attend.  They also find capable coaches to instruct the athletes.  
“When we look for coaches, we look for previous experience and how they interact with the girls — and that there is good, positive coaching going on,” Courtney said.   Most of the club’s coaches have many years of coaching experience.  The volleyball club is parent-run and parent-funded. Parents of the athletes take care of all costs including registration, uniforms, tournaments, coach’s fees and practice space — and they provide the equipment.
More than 30 athletes attended the tryouts.  The number of teams the program has depends on how many girls show up.  Teams are then grouped by age and skill level.  There are typically eight to 10 players on a team.  
“If you get 50 kids that come out, that’s about five teams worth of athletes.  Twenty kids is more like three teams,” Stokes said.
Coach Deedi Stokes, who has been coaching for 20 years, said, “We try and keep all the girls at the same skill level during tryouts and if one of them shows a higher skill level then they will be moved up.”
Coach Adrienne Sena said she looks for girls that are talkative and work as a team player.
Returning Varsity team member Allysa Tedder said Fusion is a way to keep playing volleyball after the high school season has ended.  “I really like traveling because we get to go to a lot of cool places in Texas and Colorado.  A lot of my friends play with Fusion too,” she said.
Eighth graders Mackenzie Kennedy and Shelby Vigil both said that they like playing for Fusion because it is very team oriented.  “I like the teamwork, the practices and the coaches are really good,” Vigil said.
In many sports, athletes who have graduated from high school sometimes come back and help coach their old team.  Adrienne Sena is one of those people.  She started playing volleyball in seventh grade and graduated from Los Alamos High School in 2002, then started playing for Eastern New Mexico University.  
“I really liked meeting other players, especially outside of Los Alamos when I played for Fusion” Sena said.  She explained that her coaching style from vast experience is a “live and learn type of thing.  If you make a mistake you learn from it,” she said.
For those athletes who are not quite ready to compete, Fusion collaborates with the YMCA to provide players with the option to participate in the local recreational volleyball program. College coaches of all divisions recruit during the club volleyball season, for those with serious volleyball aspirations.