Rocco Lucci, the director of Niagara Frontier Volleyball, says that players come from Erie, Olean, Warsaw, Rochester and Wilson to West Seneca’s Buffalo Niagara Court Center to participate in programs.
Yet there are only a handful that come from a much closer distance to participate. The City of Buffalo definitely is underrepresented.
“There are a few players that play in the Buffalo Public School leagues that play in our club,” he said. “They are very talented. We would like to see more city kids come to participate.”
Buffalo obviously has plenty of top athletes at its schools, and some of them play volleyball. For example, City Honors has a long tradition of success in girls volleyball.
But many of those athletes haven’t become part of club volleyball, and one possible reason is logistics. Transportation to and from the West Seneca complex may not be available, perhaps because a parent is unable to drive the student a few miles to practice several times per week.
Then there is the matter of travel expenses. Club teams often take trips around the country to take on top teams from other regions. The dollars can add up in a hurry, what with airfare, hotels, food, etc.
“Anyone who has kids involved in travel sports knows it is expensive,” said Stephen Pierce, coach of the Eden girls volleyball team. “That’s one of our next goals as we look at the next eight years of our club and try to improve. We want to find ways to improve the way we tap into the great city talent.”
Robert Pierce, coach of the Eden boys team, said “Starlings” is looking to come into Buffalo. The organization has grown from one team in San Diego in 1996 to the largest junior volleyball club in the country. It serves 3,000 girls in more than 50 clubs across the nation regardless of their socioeconomic background. No girl (ages 10-18) is turned away because of an inability to pay.
It might take some work for Buffalo’s volleyball players to join in year-round programs. But if they do, a region with a great volleyball tradition can only become stronger.
“When those kids play club, they know they’re getting better,” Lucci said. “That club kid is playing from December through the middle of May. When they go back to school in September, they are a lot better.”