Home » Archives by category » Main Features » Volleyball
By LES TIMMS III
The home page of the Club South Volleyball powered by Upward Stars website reads like a who’s who of success on the national stage.
• 61 National Qualifier wins
• 40 coaches on staff
• over 5,000 coaches trained
• 15 top ten finishes
• 142 All region, All state players
• over 250 wins
• 89% scholarship success
Accolades flash across the screen and fade to be replaced by yet another, symbolic of a prestigious past sure to continue with a brighter present and future.
In July, Upward Unlimited, long known for its childrens sports ministries in churches across the U.S., finalized the purchase of Club South Volleyball from long-time owner Jimmy Peden.
The transaction began a new era into a more competitition-driven division of Upward called Upward Stars, and is allowing the national ministry to put resources locally into an already successful organization.
“There comes a time when kids, as they get older, cross the line into a more competitive world,” said Caz McCaslin, founder and president of Upward. “We realized we were missing out on a need to have a positive impact on young people and their families at a more competitive level.”
“Upward Stars originated one year ago. And we now have basketball teams and are holding elite soccer academies,” said Bill Palmer, acting club director and vice president of Upward Unlimited.
The sky is the limit, and plans are to take Upward Stars in places around the country where Upward Sports serves over 2,600 churches, 500,000 young athletes and families, say McCaslin and Palmer.
But first, Upward is determined to grow where it is planted.
On Oct. 13, the 50,000-square-foot Upward Stars Volleyball Center opens in the former Waccamaw Pottery (current home to Restoration Church) when it hosts the Peachtree Conference Middle School volleyball tournament.
The renovated space will be brand new for volleyball, and will house seven new courts, seven new net systems, a 3,000-square-foot speed and agility performance area for athletes, offices, and seating for parents and spectators, plenty of parking, and a convenient Interstate 26 location.
And it’s going to be “big.”
Angie Thompson, head volleyball coach at Dawkins Middle School, and a Club South coach, is looking forward to the tournament christening of the venue.
“It’s going to be big because it’s the opening of the new Club South,” she said. “Every team in our (11-team) conference will be there, and some of those players have not been exposed to Club South or Upward, so that will be a good experience for them to see.”
Tryouts for the new club season begin for the younger age groups in late October and extend into November for ages 14-18.
Corey Helle, Wofford College volleyball coach, and head of coaching for Upward-Club South, had a vision for what the new facility should be months ago when negotiations began.
“All top clubs have dedicated training facilities, so when we started talking to Upward, one of those was having a good facility,” he said. “If we want to be one of the best, we’re going to need to have our own facility. A good facility is important, probably second in importance to coaches and the leadership.”
Seven courts will showcase the facility. In one corner, a training center is being set up with the latest in equipment for athletes to become stronger, faster, quicker. Adjacent to this will be an office, and a viewing area for parents.
Parking for the Upward Stars Volleyball Center will be available toward the rear of the Restoration Church complex.
One goal is to create a “college atmosphere” for the athletes, in addition to offering recruiting services, said Helle. With Helle’s contacts, the Wofford coach says he will be able to help the National team players get in touch with college coaches to advance to the next level.
Also, “we’re going to stress not only our training program, but coaches who can mentor and offer life lessons to these kids. We want to continue our Christian values through the coaching process. I think that is something parents will be able to see,” said Palmer, a long-time volleyball dad who followed his daughter Stephanie for years through the Club South program. Stephanie is now a junior and starting setter on the Winthrop University volleyball team.
Palmer notes that the club will offer all levels of development and training to help all players become “the best they can be.”
Peden, who built Club South into a volleyball juggernaut from nothing, is thrilled to see his “baby” grow up.
“This is extremely exciting from my perspective,” he said. “This was like a child to me. I built it over the years and had concerns of selling it. But I feel like it will ultimately be successful beyond my wildest dreams. They have every resource to make it happen. Their goals and dreams far exceed what I could do myself.”
Peden has been serving as an advisor to the new group, and he’s pleased. “When people walk into the new facility there’s going to be a ‘wow’ moment,” he said. “It’s really going to be nice; one of the top volleyball facilities in the South.”
For more information, go to clubsouthvolleyball.com .
SPARTANBURG, SC — Club South Volleyball, established in 1996 and formerly owned and operated by Jimmy Peden, was sold to Upward Unlimited. Since its inception, Club South has experienced significant team growth as well as developed a strong reputation for being one of the top volleyball clubs in South Carolina as well as in the southeastern part of the United States. Club South has earned this reputation by providing a training program as well as coaches that can help each athlete accelerate their individual athletic ability into the next level of competition.
Upward Unlimited, parent organization of Upward Sports, established in 1995 has grown to be the world’s largest Christian sports league for children. Beginning only with basketball, Upward Sports has added flag football, cheerleading and soccer to their program offering. With over 2,500 church partners across the country conducting over 5,000 leagues or camps, over 500,000 children have participated in Upward Sports for each of the past three years.
This purchase combines the training, coaching and high level competition found in Club South with the first-class, organized and detailed administration exhibited by Upward Sports leagues across the nation. Upward Sports offers children (typically in K5-6th grade) to have a positive, introductory sports experience in which sport fundamentals are taught and life lessons learned. Upward Stars (a new division of Upward Unlimited) will provide an opportunity for athletes (ages 10-18) who are ready to take their skill and understanding of the game to the next level of competition a chance to do so with the support of a national sports organization founded on Christian principles and values.
Club South Volleyball powered by Upward Stars is committed to developing athletes to reach their highest potential and to compete at the highest level. By doing this Upward Unlimited will expand its offering to parents and families from an introductory sports experience (Upward Sports) to a new program committed to developing the young athlete to their fullest potential (Upward Stars).
You will find more information on Club South Volleyball and Upward Stars on the following web sites:
ClubSouthVolleyball.com or UpwardStars.org.
By LES TIMMS III
Just weeks after state high school champions are crowned in volleyball, the process begins anew once again.
Thousands of girls, some as young as 9 years old, and others up to 18-year-old high school school athletes, gather in gyms around the Upstate during the month of November to see who can leap the highest, hit the ball hardest and pass and dig with the best.
The Westside Club in Spartanburg, home of Club South, and the gym at Oakbrook Prep, home of Upstate Volleyball, are abuzz with activity as coaches evaluate talent for yet another season, which officially gets under way in January. It culminates in June with a trip to the AAU national tourney in Orlando, Fla.
The cream of the crop, those players with the higher scores, based on height, jumping ability, serving, hitting, defense and other facets of the game, are often asked to join the top teams. At the end of two or three tryout sessions, all girls are placed on their respective teams based on their abilities.
Welcome to yet another year of club volleyball.
Such is the controlled but chaotic life of club volleyball directors Jimmy Peden and Greg Mosely.
Peden is the co-founder and director of Club South, one of the largest clubs in South Carolina with nearly 1,000 members, while Mosely, who also serves as head volleyball coach at North Greenville University, guides the smaller Upstate Volleyball club. Both clubs are based in Spartanburg.
As the club season gets under way relentlessly in January, trips to Atlanta, Columbia, Charlotte, Sevierville, Richmond and Baltimore, among other locales, become the norm for caravans of kids and parents who take to the interstates and backroads to eventually join hundreds of other parents to watch their kids compete against kids from other club teams.
It’s also big business for cities with a convention centers, pumping millions into local economies.
For Peden, it’s business as usual.
Sixteen- to 20-hour days are the norm for Peden this time of year. After the Southern Classic tournament in March, in which Club South hosted 370 teams over two weekends, Peden turned much of his attention to his other, equally demanding job, commissioner of the Palmetto Volleyball Association.
The Palmetto region holds its season-ending tournament the final week of March in Charlotte during which it rents the downstairs of the Charlotte Convention Center and every club team is given the opportunity to compete for the championship.
Thousands of volleyball visitors invade the Queen City and stay in downtown hotels that have to be booked months in advance. Downtown restaurants are full, and shopping venues are packed with visitors enjoying the springtime weather, netting millions of dollars for the Charlotte economy.
Growth of sport
Volleyball, a sport mostly played by females, continues to grow in popularity in South Carolina where successful club teams usually breed highly successful high school teams.
Paula Kirkland, head volleyball coach at Dorman High School, credits club volleyball with helping the Lady Cavs field competitive teams year after year.
“I often tell people that the first three championships at Dorman I take credit for. The ones after that are in part due to contributions of the various club programs,” Kirkland said.
“There is no way to replace the number of touches (a player can get), and that among other things is what club participation can offer a player. The competitive edge and and increased opportunities to play are the biggest contributors to this maturing. The players get better.”
Angie Thompson, coach at Dawkins Middle School, has won the Peachbelt Conference title year after year with Dawkins.
“We have players who play club volleyball who normally wouldn’t be able to get a lot of playing time on a school team,” Thompson said. “They get a chance to play and improve.”
She also coaches a club team of 12-year-olds, some of whom could be playing for her Dawkins team in the near future.
Mosely started the Upstate Volleyball club in 2007 with 16 players. This season he has “90 athletes who train and play at our club.”
Upstate is unique in that it offers an environment of Biblical values and high level of training. This year, the club is competing on a national level with its 16-year-old team.
“The decision (to field this team) was made so as to provide exposure to a higher level of competition and game speed for athletes who may desire to play in college,” Mosely said.
Corey Helle, head coach at Wofford, has coached a Club South team since the club’s inception. The vast majority of the players on the top 18 year old team usually are awarded college scholarships.
“It’s virtually 100 percent the past several years,” he said. “The few that do not play in college do so by choice.”
However, Helle notes that it is “very difficult to get a scholarship on any level. It takes years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication – with some luck thrown in.”
Club South for years has achieved success on the national stage with some of its top teams finishing among the top 10 in the country at the AAU competition in Florida.
Upstate will take its 16 National team to Orlando this year for the first time after having come off a strong fourth-place finish in the Palmetto Region tournament and the much stronger Big South in Atlanta, where it captured the Silver division title and 13th place out of 72 teams.
Club South’s top 16-year-old team, coached by Wofford assistant Tara Brooks, is coming off impressive victories in both the Big South and Palmetto Region tournament.
Club South will be taking all of its national teams, including a team of 12 year olds to compete in June in Orlando.
Although the majority of girls who play club volleyball may never compete for a college team, it doesn’t matter. The sport teaches more important lessons.
“Team sports … teaches you how to get along with people, work together as a team, which you can carry into the workplace,” said Peden. “It’s also a sport you can play a lifetime.”
Peden is looking to hand the club reins over to someone else in the future as he winds down a career, which began 20 years ago as a Dad helping his daughter Amber find an outlet for her athletic abilities. It didn’t hurt that she was a 6-foot-tall, sixth-grader at the time.
“Never had I intended for this to another full-time career, but I wouldn’t stop it for the benefit of the kids,” he said.
Peden says that although he will eventually retire from the 20-hour days of Club South, he will continue to serve as commissioner of the Palmetto Volleyball Association.
As Helle says, “it’s a great time to be a volleyball player in the U.S.”
Many others might agree.