During this past summer, NEW Hmong Professionals and CrossCourt Conversations launched the first Hmong youth volleyball camp in our area. While the Hmong have been living in the Fox Cities for over 45 years, there has never been an organized camp that provided training on the key skills involved in playing volleyball.
The need for this camp came from spring surveys conducted with 7th and 8th grade Hmong students where volleyball was listed as the No. 1 sport they wanted to learn more about and play. This feedback aligned with grassroots organizations NEW Hmong Professionals’ and Crosscourt Conversations’ goals of engaging and empowering Hmong students in diverse sports that would stimulate critical thinking, character building and positive decision making.
The camp was funded with a $4,000 grant from the Bill Fitzpatrick & Bud Kohn Fund for Underprivileged Youth. The fund was established in 2012 by Bill Fitzpatrick Jr. in honor of his father Bill Sr. and his father’s colleague Bud Kohn, who were well-known in the Little Chute sports community. The fund’s purpose is to alleviate financial barriers to youth participation in sports. This was the first grant the fund had issued because the fund’s committee was waiting for the right opportunity.
“These two men shared much success as they coached together at Little Chute High School for many years,” said Bill Jr. “Although the success of their teams is legendary, those who played for them, as well as many of their students, will attest to their integrity, honesty and compassion for the underdog and underserved. It is so fitting that this fund in their names helped to support the NEW Hmong Professionals volleyball camp.”
The impactful volleyball camp not only focused on training and skills, but also on character education. The camp ran for two months for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday at Kiwanis Park in Appleton. Initially, enrollment was set at 28 students due to the capacity of coaches and volunteers who would be available to create a memorable experience.
However, more than 50 Hmong students signed up, so enrollment was increased to 36 students with the remaining put on a waiting list.
The first day of camp started with a student and parent meeting that reiterated the commitment to completing this camp and the discipline and support needed to accomplish this, and an introduction to the two Hmong coaches. Many of the parents were very excited and expressed tremendous gratitude for this opportunity for their children.
A typical day at camp began with warm-ups and stretches, then a physical workout. The participants divided into groups where they worked on volleyball skills and drills. Then, they gathered for discussion around character-building topics such as self-awareness, self-respect, emotional intelligence, relationships, problem solving, respect, perseverance and resiliency and more. One parent shared, “My girls complained about being super sore from practice, but they were so excited for more practice.”
The finale of the camp was a family gathering that included Hmong festivity foods and a mini tournament. Parents brought food to share, helped grill and cheered on their children playing volleyball. Relatives and siblings from as far away as St. Paul, Minnesota, came to watch. In addition, NEW Hmong Professionals partnered with the Multicultural Coalition to bring community resources and vaccination opportunities for families and friends at the tournament and in the neighborhood. More than 250 people enjoyed the volleyball games, community resources and authentic cultural foods.
After successful completion of the volleyball camp and feedback shared by Hmong parents and athletes, NEW Hmong Professionals and CrossCourt Conversations hosted a three-day intensive training session for Hmong youth preparing for school volleyball tryouts.
Overall, the camp was a huge success that engaged and empowered Hmong youth participants to always do their best and never stop learning and perfecting their skills in volleyball and in life.
One parent shared, “Thanks coaches for giving our young ones the opportunity to train and grow their volleyball knowledge. I have definitely seen an improvement and look forward to their continued success.” Another parent said, “Thank for offering this! Boys enjoyed the camp and the tournament gathering to conclude the camp.”
At the request of many parents and youth, NEW Hmong Professionals and CrossCourt Conversations will host more volleyball camps throughout this school year at a local middle school. These camps will help middle school students strengthen their volleyball skills and practice their character building. Our first volleyball camp starts this fall.