Sky High Volleyball
Chances are, if you stop by Sky High Volleyball during any weekend this time of year, you’ll find dozens of teams competing in one of the many tournaments hosted by the Crystal Lake facility.
A club organization, Sky High Volleyball competes in tournaments throughout the highly competitive Great Lakes Region, where Sky High has been an integral competitor since its creation in 1989.
Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in the world. Its charm comes from the fast-paced nature and high levels of intensity. “It’s such an amazing sport because of the feeling of the team players around you that gives you the sense that you can do anything,” says Mike Wille, one of the many dedicated Sky High coaches. He means what he says. His tone of voice evokes a lifetime of commitment to the sport. “You feel as if you can climb the highest mountain,” he says. “You can hit harder than you thought you could because your team allows you to do that.”
The more than 60 coaches at Sky High pride themselves on being positive mentors for the athletes they coach. “I like to see players grow from saying they can’t do something to saying, ‘Look at me; I can do it,’” says Coach Wille. “That’s where I get my thrills with coaching.”
At Sky High, these feelings of invincibility and discovery are achieved. For almost 20 years, Scott and Sherry Harris, Sky High founders, have been providing opportunities for thousands of athletes from across Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. These opportunities prepare an athlete to compete for college scholarships.
More than 98 percent of athletes playing at the Junior Olympic senior level receive scholarships to colleges in the United States. More than $16 million in scholarships have been generated by Sky High over the past 18 years.
The scholarships, however, aren’t awarded without great effort and perseverance. Sky High provides opportunities for children beginning at age eight or nine. “We offer our VolleyKids program for players from third grade through eighth grade,” says Chas Kennedy, coach and director at Sky High. “We also offer our club program as another step in advanced playing.”
Not only does Sky High act as an outlet for kids to partake in enjoyable fitness activities, but its staff works hard to be a premier competitor on the national volleyball level for middle and high school athletes. Every year hundreds of Sky High athletes travel to nationals to play with contenders from around the nation. Coach Kennedy alone has had 13 teams go to nationals. In 2005 and 2006 the 18 Black and 17 Black teams, respectively, won the national titles. Numerous teams have qualified for national junior championships and All-American selections.
“It was a passion of ours,” says Scott Harris. “We started in 1989 with four teams, and never did I think it would grow to the size it has.” Now, more than 19 years and 54 teams later, Sky High has expanded to three locations: Libertyville, Hoffman Estates and Crystal Lake. Its success stems from the unconditional, communal effort of coaches to produce strong, driven athletes who will be sought after by college teams.
“We have a common goal to set them in that direction,” says Kennedy. “The coaches help to bring the knowledge of the sport into practice and instill it in our kids.”
Not Just for Kids
Kids aren’t the only ones having fun. For the past eight years, adult leagues have been a highly competitive, or a simply recreational, outlet for post-collegiate athletes and adult beginners to perfect their skills and compete with local teams. Tournaments are offered on the weekends and adult nationals take place after the season ends.
Volleyball is a demanding, rewarding sport. At practices, athletes are pushed to pass more accurately, set stronger and hit harder. Outwardly, that is what volleyball is all about. However, for the athlete there is a level of play that exists beneath the glamour of a spike or the celebration of a win.
Deep down, volleyball isn’t only about killing the ball or serving it perfectly. It isn’t all about showing off the medals and championship T-shirts. It’s also about showing off the bruises from diving for a ball before it hits the ground. “A few bruises,” says Kennedy as a smile passes over his face, “those are trophies.”
Volleyball players at Sky High are taught that they can do anything if they push themselves to believe they can. They overcome their fears and commit to something bigger than just themselves.