Just five years in, the Sanford Pentagon Volleyball Academy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has grown exponentially and had an impact on the region, said Mark McCloskey, the program director since its inception.
“Participation in girls volleyball has grown exponentially in Sioux Falls over the last five years,” he said. “The level of play has increased quickly as a result of the opportunities now available for our athletes that weren’t here before.”
Currently, more female athletes play volleyball than basketball in South Dakota and the United States as a whole, according to the most recent statistics from the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“Volleyball’s a fast-paced, fun sport to watch,” McCloskey said. “There’s a uniqueness to the sport since the ball’s always moving. With many other sports, the ball stops. Once a volleyball is put in play, it doesn’t stop moving until the play is over.”
Volleyball has become a two-season sport for many players, due to the growth in South Dakota. The high school season runs from August to mid-November and the club season runs from January through June.
Playing both high school and club season can complement the player’s development.
“Just like all sports, the more you touch the ball the better skilled the athlete will become,” McCloskey said. “However, it’s also important for kids to play multiple sports to develop their overall athleticism. Playing club volleyball in the spring gives them the opportunity to play with and against better players with an increased opportunity to play at the collegiate level and beyond.”
A big reason the volleyball academy has been able to grow is because of the year-round, dedicated space it has at the Sanford Pentagon.
The facility in northwest Sioux Falls can accommodate up to 14 volleyball courts overall and 11 for tournament play. It hosts camps and clinics all year, plus club tournaments, high school events and starting this year, the South Dakota Volleyball Coaches Association all-star game and coaches clinic. It has also hosted an NCAA Division II national championship.
Athletes have access to everything they could need. They have the added bonus of having a certified athletic trainer in the building. Along with this, Sanford POWER and the Sanford Sports Science Institute are located right across the street.
“Having the accessibility of the POWER program across the street is such an asset to our program. In addition, our sports medicine staff is second to none and takes great care of our athletes,” McCloskey said.
With the growth of the sport, the Sanford Pentagon Volleyball Academy has added to its already experienced staff, with the addition of two-time Olympian Courtney Thompson in August.
The volleyball academy will be holding tryouts for its 2019 club season in November. This will give the players a chance to learn from a skilled coaching staff, as well as Thompson. The former University of Washington star has committed to working with players this season both in person and through technology.
McCloskey spent his first 10 years at the collegiate level. He coached across all different levels, including Division I (the University of South Carolina, University of Wyoming, University of Northern Colorado). Also, he coached in some of the best volleyball clubs in the nation (KiVA in Louisville, Colorado, and Juniors in Colorado Springs, Colorado). He is the former senior director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.