Kim Luthy started the Volleyball Academy at Walnut Middle School with teaching the fundamentals of the sport in mind.
Little did she know that she would be teaching her college team members the fundamentals of relationships and mutual support.
In the classroom Luthy is a seventh-grade science teacher at Walnut, but teaches a lot in the field. Luthy said in the fall that many students come with “very limited volleyball experience.”
Last school year was Luthy’s first as an eighth-grade volleyball head coach. The girls were enthusiastic, asking to play in some tournaments. It was a Halloween tournament in Columbus where the girls got their first win.
Without this season, the Walnut Volleyball Academy might not have happened.
“It’s not that our girls aren’t athletic or dedicated or don’t have the ability,” Luthy said. “It’s that they come to us without that fundamental skill set.”
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“I had a few girls staying late,” Luthy said. “We would just work on volleyball, we would just do simple skills, just fun things, play games.”
Eventually playing volleyball skills with Luthy became Walnut Volleyball Academy.
“I didn’t think many people would show up on a Saturday,” Luthy said. “The first week, I mean 60 girls showed up.”
Sixty college girls might be hard to deal with, but Luthy had help.
“I had my eighth graders to help me.”
“Here’s what’s really cool about them,” Luthy said proudly. “Most of them are not going to play volleyball in high school. Most of them just came to support me out of the kindness of their hearts.
There was a group of eighth grade girls showing up on those Saturdays.
“They knew my drills, so I could put them on a pitch.”
Walnut’s assistant volleyball coach (and academy coach) Kim Madison was another reliable person who would “show up” to support Luthy’s effort. Eventually, Luthy’s volleyball team and her colleagues at Walnut Middle School will show up for her in an even bigger way.
During the school year, Luthy’s father died.
“The administrative team here and my assistant coach…I think it would have been very easy for them to say, ‘OK, well, you know, Kim’s not here. So we will go ahead and cancel the last two weeks,” Luthy said.
“The whole building – they were so supportive of everything with it. I had teachers hanging my posters in their classroom,” Luthy said in tears. “Kim Madison didn’t even ask, like, ‘Hey, can you plan this for me?’ She just took over.”
Before spring break, Luthy moved back to Walnut, “just to get a little ‘normal,'” she said.
“I walked into my class (on the second day) and my volleyball girls were there with flowers and candies and their signs all over my room,” she said. “I think it comes down to what I put in these girls, I come back.”
In Luthy’s absence, the students also took the lead, Lemburg said.
“They were respectful to the (substitute) teachers there. A few kids wrote ‘I heart Luthy’ to them,” he said. “They missed her, and they did everything they could to make sure when she came back, it was easy to come back.”
Changes were also happening in other areas of Walnut.
“You see them interacting more in the hallways,” Luthy said she started noticing. “You would see kids who didn’t necessarily talk to each other before. All of a sudden they talk to each other and create this team atmosphere and family atmosphere.
Soon more girls began to participate in summer weightlifting. Luthy, a former college athlete herself, took advantage of the enthusiasm.
“I always said to my eighth graders, ‘I want you to watch Nebraska volleyball, I want you to watch on YouTube – see how they treat each other,’” Luthy said. “In women’s athletics, relationships are a huge element. I think sometimes that gets pushed aside when we talk about competition and winning.
Although character, drive, and ability don’t come from a family’s income, sometimes opportunities do. Some of the girls wanted to join club volleyball teams – where some of the best players compete, but club sports can be extremely expensive.
A relative approached Luthy. “One of the mums was like, I really want my daughter to play at the club, but we can’t afford it.”
Luthy knew exactly where to turn. “I’m like, we can handle this – we can.”
She connected with the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, which supports activities and efforts throughout GIPS.
“I went to the foundation just for dues, and they fought back,” Luthy recalls. “’What gas do they need? What do they need for food? Are there any tournaments where they need a hotel room? The support is there. »
Walnut Volleyball Academy itself is free, the return is huge.
“Giving them this opportunity, where they see the older girls…it could be me, there are people who look like me helping out here – they’re coaching me,” Luthy said. “I think that’s why we started seeing kids from other schools coming.”
They were from Starr Elementary, Stolley Park Elementary. A few girls from Westridge participated in the beginning as they already had friends at the academy.
Luthy found it rewarding – and a lot to deal with.
“As for being overwhelmed, yes, absolutely.”
The girls supported her; his colleagues too.
“I didn’t ask any adults to help me because I never want to put the burden on anyone to say ‘no’. I never wanted to do that,” Luthy said.
She moved on without expecting people to help her. Again, “this burden”.
Eventually, Lemburg discovered how much time and effort Luthy devoted to the academy.
“The next thing I knew was there was paperwork filled out on my desk, for me to get hours,” Luthy said. “No one said ‘no’ to paying us for that extra time to be there. Our managers were always phenomenal in that regard and made sure we were taken care of.”
Extracurricular activities like volleyball help students take care of themselves and others, Luthy said.
“It doesn’t matter what extracurricular activities you do. I think it’s a way of connecting the student to the school and the community.
Succeeding outside the classroom can inspire students to do more, Luthy said.
“Academics aren’t easy for everyone, are they? When kids can find something they feel accomplished, it motivates them. It helps them feel that little bit of power – hey, I’m good at that.
Luthy practiced athletics for years, long before he came to Walnut. There’s always something to discover, though, she says.
“Volleyball is one of those sports that until you’ve experienced it, you don’t understand what’s in it,” she said. “Not only are these girls learning the sport, but – oh my God – they are such good humans. They know how to take care of each other.
“They know how to take care of each other, and they can take care of adults too.”
For questions regarding the Walnut Volleyball Academy, Coach Luthy can be contacted at [email protected]
Jessica Votipka is an education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.