Brendan Yu
Curry Coastal Pilot

Last week, the members of the Brookings-Harbor High volleyball team received some world-class training over the course of a three-day All-American Volleyball camp.

The two coaches who facilitated the camp, Kimika Rozier and Rachel Buehner, are both players with several years of experience of competing. Rozier, who coached the varsity players, was an outside hitter at Washington State before transferring to the University of South Florida, and currently plays professionally as a middle blocker in Germany. Buehner, who oversaw the junior varsity team, is a recent graduate of Oregon State, where she served as the team’s defensive specialist/libero.

For the coaches, the training camp presented a set of unique challenges itself: Unlike the two, who were already developed as volleyball players before entering high school, several of the Bruins were playing volleyball for the first time. Additionally, the program isn’t one of BHHS’s stronger programs — in the past four seasons, the Bruins have only amassed a total of four wins over 60 games.

“It’s definitely different coaching teams who have established winning programs versus girls who have never played before,” Buehner said. “It’s a little bit difficult in the sense that some girls are further ahead than others. So you can’t do all the drills you want to be able to do, but you have to be able to find ways to to challenge the girls who may be a little more advanced while still helping the younger girls reach the same level as the other girls.”

That challenge is one that Rozier, who attended the All-American Camp at BHHS last year as well, readily embraces.

“It’s changing their culture. I think this is the most exciting thing, changing their culture where they’re so used to losing. They’re so used to being here, and really challenging them to say no, you need to change,” Rozier said. “You can be part of this change and culture we’re developing and finding ways to motivate them and instill that kind of winner’s mentality, so for me that’s fun.”

For Rozier, that begins with holding the Bruins to the same standards that she would a state championship team.

“Our job is to come in and just provide that experience and show kids what it could potentially be like — We’re here to even open doors of opportunity,” Rozier said. “You come into schools where it’s not as experienced, it’s not that top sport, you don’t have the top athletes, but at the same time, I’m not going to hold them any less valuable than someone who is super athletic. They need to know that it translates over to life.

“My biggest thing is, I’m coming in and I’m trying to teach these girls life lessons,” she added. “It’s self-confidence, pushing yourself to that limit, getting yourself outside that comfort zone, outside that box, so it’s more about teaching a general lifestyle versus just that sport.”

Rozier’s philosophy was evident throughout the second day at camp, as she wasn’t shy about stopping drills when they weren’t being executed properly and asking the players to reflect on what they were doing.

“The main focus was their mental aspect of the game, (so we structured) drills to really push them in that aspect,” Rozier said. “(They need to be) always thinking, always on their toes. I’m hard on them, when we do our drills we have a goal. For example, with the net cooperation drill, it was about being aware of who is on the other side of the net, where to place the ball, communicating, things like that.

“It’s a lot; I’m challenging them, but I’m breaking them down to build them up, if that makes sense. I always explain to them why I’m frustrated, and why we’re doing what it is we’re doing. I’m kind of trying to just formulate that, to push them mentally, so that they can see that it can be done.”

The drills the players went through not only focused on technique, but teamwork and cooperation. Throughout their practices, both Buehner and Rozier instructed the teams to communicate with one another and provide honest feedback when necessary.

“As a hitter, I can’t hit a really good ball if my setter doesn’t give me a good set and as a setter I can’t set a good ball if my passer doesn’t give me a good pass,” Rozier explained. “It’s a chain reaction; it’s the importance of communicating, letting each other know and being accountable. It’s about holding my teammate accountable as well as holding myself accountable. (It’s) saying that if we see the goal of wanting to be this type of team, a championship team for example, we need to be able to be open and honest and instruct each other. That’s why I’m always hard on the girls, (and telling them) to be aware of where (they are) and what (they’re) doing. It’s so important to just be honest and open and communicate, and that builds momentum.

“You can see, when we did talk, how they were moving their feet faster, how they were really focusing on that technique and everything became more crisp and a lot more energetic and energized,” Rozier added. “Communication is key because it builds the game.”

And when it comes to winning games, both Rozier and Buehner have emphasize to the Bruins that regardless their talent and skill level, a win is never out of reach.

“It’s those teams that can pull deep down inside themselves that can show something else other than talent,” Rozier explained. “We’ve lost against teams overseas where we’re like okay, you’re easy to (beat), but for some reason, they play together, they’re talking, and they’re moving in unison, to me that’s beautiful.

“It’s not just on paper about your height and jump, it’s about your heart, that’s what I’m trying to instill into some of these girls as well.”