Courtesy of Nicole Wilkinson Photography
More than 100 campers attended the seventh annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Volleyball Sand Camp at Triumph Volleyball Academy in Madera on the Landon Courts. The campers enjoyed four days of volleyball and worship during the hottest week of the year.
The Triumph Volleyball Academy just wrapped up its seventh annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sand Camp and will look to expand by next year.
The four-day camp drew more than 100 players, which is about max for the six-court facility, according to TVA co-founder Steve Guglielmana.
“We had to order more balls this year because we have so many kids,” he said. “We’re about maxed for six courts.”
Guglielmana started TVA as a way to honor God and also play volleyball.
“We call it an academy, not a club,” he said. “We don’t want to make it exclusive. We want to develop a volleyball culture. We do two things: We honor God and play volleyball by it. It’s been good going together.”
Guglielmana also credits Nate Perez for helping start TVA and staying with it.
“We have done youth clinics in the sand, developing players by working in the sand and last year, we formed a travel team,” Guglielmana said. “We have three travel teams and we’re growing. People want to jump on board, especially after the success we’ve had. The boys indoor travel teams will be growing. We are looking for players with the right outlooks. We also did a beach academy, which just ended. They get training and get their tournaments paid for and TVA gear. We host tournaments to be able to provide opportunities for local kids to play, even at a lower level.”
The biggest event TVA hosts is the FCA Sand Camp, which also brings in FCA volleyball players from the college ranks.
“There’s a group from Huntington Beach that sent seven young ladies and two from the Valley that were the huddle leaders and ran the courts,” Guglielmana said. “They are interns from different parts of the country and collegiate players. They love interacting with the players. They run clinics down south and come here to run the clinic. Every kid gets a T-shirt, a bible, gets fed every day, play volleyball and the Otter Pops at the end of the day are biggest treat. It’s pretty awesome.”
The camp ran for four days during one of the hottest weeks in the Central Valley. However, that didn’t stop the camp from bringing in a record amount of campers.
“We run this during the dead period when coaches can’t contact their players,” Gugleilmana said. “The players usually condition in the morning so we moved it to the evenings to help allow that. We have more kids because of that and more people are learning about TVA, the camp and get excited about because we don’t yell at the kids to perform. We are loving the kids. The parents and athletes are more appreciative when we show them love.”
Success at Triumph has grown and so has the interest to be involved with the program.
“It’s been an amazing trip that God has played us on to have both beach and indoor available to us,” Guglielmana said. “Our academy has grown so much that we’re really close to getting lights put up. That will really help in the heat of the summer. We have our conditional use permit approved by the county and now we have to get our building permit for bathrooms and showers, which we have plans for. We will be out getting donations for materials and sweat equity to swing a hammer. We also have three more courts in the plans to give us nine sand volleyball courts.”
During the first part of the camp, there was water games to keep the campers cool.
“We had a fire truck hose the kids down,” Guglielmana said. “That was really special We played some games and had fun. I have a lot of worry about the heat index. We go in the middle of the day and try to be smart. We have water on the sand so the sand is going to be cool. They are hydrated and take a lot of breaks. We haven’t had any issues. We’re in the middle of the summer and are able to run this camp. It’s worked out really good.”
Then, the campers gather for a worship session and then break into huddle groups for another worship session.
“We get into the bible and get into a lesson,” Guglielmana said. “Then, the huddle leader goes into depth of what the talk was all about.”
Then, the campers are fed dinner and close out the camp with about two hours of volleyball on the sand.
“Put it all together playing volleyball and by the time they leave here, they have new relationships, friendships and everyone is on the same page,” Guglielmana said.
Gugliemana said that he has players from throughout the area, including Yosemite High School in Oakhurst, Minarets High School and Merced High School with players from Madera, Central, Fresno and Clovis unified.
“It makes it special when someone wants to come down here and do the sport of volleyball from a little different viewpoint,” he said. “It’s a God-driven volleyball experience. To see that reaching out to other people is great. Day one, the kids come and don’t know each other. By the end of the day, some of them have made best friends.”
In addition to added three courts and a bathroom facility next year, Guglielmana may expand to a separate boys and girls camp.
“In the future, the one thing we have planned, because of two weeks of dead period, there are way more girls than boys playing volleyball,” he said. “We have two courts of boys and four courts of girls. We can do a girls camp one week and a boys camp another week.”
The courts all started when his late son, Landon, wanted to have sand courts so he can give clinics and lessons over the summer to earn extra money.
“This has grown way beyond that,” Guglielmana said. “It’s satisfying to see the kids here. We’re still growing. We really see in the future, the sand complex, Landon Sand Courts, having an aspect for physical training for all sports. It will be where other athletes can train here for a week and find out more about their bodies and learn how they were designed. They can learn how to move and perform better. If you work on your core, it will help you in every sport.”