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New FCA volleyball club gives many alternatives

January 15, 2002

New FCA volleyball club gives many alternatives



By MARK KELLER
keller@herald-mail.com


When Chip Zimmer had the idea of beginning a club volleyball program a year ago, he was optimistic that the "Field of Dreams" approach - "if you build it, they will come" - would work just as it did in the movie.

Zimmer's high hopes have more than been answered as the Tri-State Fellowship of Christian Athletes volleyball club will kick into high gear this weekend.

The club's three traveling teams -- two U-14 teams and a U-12 team -- will play in their first tournament Sunday in Gaithersburg.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the club will host a developmental program for those girls not on the traveling teams the next six Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon at Grace Academy.

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Zimmer, a member of the Tri-State FCA Board of Directors and the volleyball chairman, said he has been blown away by the amount of interest in a program which is still in its infancy.

"It's been phenomenal. I would have never expected the numbers we've gotten already," Zimmer said.

The FCA limited preregistration for the program to 50 players. It soon became aware to Zimmer the FCA that 50 spots would not be enough.

"We set the cutoff at 65 because we had to draw the line somewhere," Zimmer said.

He said those 65 spots were filled very quickly.

The original plan for the program was to field two traveling teams and the developmental program, but the overwhelming response made it possible to add a third travel team.

Zimmer said there were enough girls to field a U-16 travel team, but "we didn't want to bite off more than we could chew in the first year. There's always next year."

The Tri-State FCA program is a lower-cost alternative to some of the other club programs in the area. Zimmer said other traveling teams can run a family over $1,000 a season to take part. The FCA program costs its players only $200, thanks in large part to the help of corporate sponsorship.

"There were a lot of terrific players who couldn't make that kind of a financial commitment," Zimmer said.

More importantly, though, is that the FCA program has a spiritual base, something Zimmer said he thinks has become more important to people in the post-Sept. 11 society.

"The girls, the sponsors, the families like the idea of the spirituality beneath it all," Zimmer said. "People recognize now that priorities have been re-evaluated. With this program under the FCA umbrella, it makes it very attractive to the girls and their families."

The traveling teams will participate in about eight tournaments - mostly in the Gaithersburg and Columbia areas - through early May.

The developmental program will begin with a half-hour devotional, focusing on pre-teen issues. An hour will be spent with a visiting coach, who will focus on one volleyball skill or aspect of the game in drills or discussion.

During the final 90 minutes of the day, the girls will be broken into teams for intramural competition - all of which will be officiated and coached by members of the traveling teams.

"We think that it will be good for those girls to serve as coaches and referees and to learn those leadership skills," Zimmer said. "It's not all about volleyball. Volleyball is the vehicle which gets them here."

Zimmer knows about the impact of volleyball in the Tri-State area, particularly in Washington County. The recent run of state championships by Smithsburg and Williamsport high schools has interest in the sport at its peak and Zimmer even more optimistic about the future of the FCA program.

"It's exploding. It's exciting the way it's come together. We have girls from all over the region," Zimmer said. "There are groups in Cumberland and Frederick that have expressed interest in starting the same type of program.

"If we can duplicate in three different places what we've started here ... wow, that's just incredible."

The Tri-State FCA encompasses nine counties: Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland; Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia; and Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania.

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