Students from alternative schools are getting professional beach volleyball coaching and scholarships thanks to Mark Matthews and a few other heroes who brought this program on.
Mark Matthews is the Director of the Alternative Schools Sports League that extends from schools in Los Gatos to Seaside. The league provides interscholastic sports for the school kids. It ranges from beach volleyball in the fall, to basketball in the winter, to soccer and softball in the spring.
“By word of mouth and sharing information with alternative schools that we may think are interested, we get them signed up for these programs,” says Matthews. For volleyball they utilize about 12 courts on Fridays (with anywhere from two to ten players on each side of the court, depending on their skill levels).
In the early days, Matthews started the program with six other coaches. “It was sort of a co-op with the coaches taking turns to organize games with each season. Since then the County Office of Education took it over and made it more formal and now I’m the Director of it.” Matthews has been the Director for almost 20 years now in this format.
Every Friday, coaches join the students on Main Beach to practice and play. It depends on each coach and the players and how much they want to put into it, to determine the level of play. Some of the students come out on a daily basis to practice. Some of them are very serious about it, while others only come on Fridays during the class. Some of the players come down and play with the adults that are out on Main Beach on a regular basis.
"It’s good that there are a lot of different levels that play out here, some of them just like to play around and some of them are a lot more competitive, so you have a range there for sure."
The alternative schools involved are charged $550 per season and that takes care of the expenses including equipment and property rental, etc. Most of the coaches are teachers at their campus and this is an adjunct responsibility for them. The administrators of the schools take turns supervising as well. Today the supervisor happened to be Lysa Tabachnic, Co-Principal of the Branciforte Small School Campus.
“We also have a probation officer come down, Lesley Miller, who also plays volleyball” said Matthews. “She helps kids with their volleyball skills and gives them reminders of their behavior if needed.”
Mason Kelly, 17-year old student in his second year of this league said about it, “this program is really great. Mark has connected a lot of these schools together. It’s good that there are a lot of different levels that play out here, some of them just like to play around and some of them are a lot more competitive, so you have a range there for sure. It allows kids to pick how they want to play. It enables all different kinds of players.” Kelly likes to play on the more competitive side. This program has helped him reach out to the others that play out on the beach.
Many of these students are skilled enough to take volleyball to a higher level, play in clubs and colleges but are not able to afford the costs of these organizations. Jan Furman, Director of the Main Beach Volleyball Club in Santa Cruz said that taking volleyball to a higher level can be very expensive. Students need qualified coaches and club costs are high to cover many other expenses. The Main Beach Volleyball Club, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz and Alternative Schools Sports League have created a way for the public to donate, in order to help many of these students pay for these costs.
“We have one player,” said Matthews, “who plays very well who was involved in a club that ended up moving away. She’s not able to afford the Main Beach Volleyball Club prices, so donations would go to help her as well as other students.”
The Main Beach Volleyball Club is expanding to provide funds for students who can’t afford to play but are good enough to make the team. The tryout fee is waived for anyone involved in the Alternative Schools Sports League. If any students make the team and cannot afford the costs, they are notified in a week or so to be told how much can be covered, based on the amount of donations that have been made. Tryout information is held on their website here: http://www.mbvbc.com/node/30.
Other ways people can donate is by giving the league their used volleyballs. Many of our volleyballs they use are from players who have donated their old ones.
Matthews feels that sports are an important part of life and education. “Especially sports like volleyball that the kids can play the rest of their lives.”
If you would like to donate to this cause, please click on donate button below and direct your donation to "Main Beach Volleyball Club".
If you are interested in donating a volleyball, contact DigSantaCruz at firstname.lastname@example.org for drop-off location.