Lakeside head volleyball coach Rhonda Thigpen held a clinic for the Rising Rams program on March 4.
Rising Rams are second- through sixth-graders who will be the next generation of MTXE volleyball at Lakeside. This is the first year second-graders are in the program.
MTXE, an acronym for mental, toughness, X-tra, effort, are the words Thigpen's programs live by.
"There were probably 50 kids there," Thigpen said. "We have more than that we have about 120. Just attending the clinics, these are just little free clinics I do monthly on Saturdays. My team helps me. The first year I did it I had 100 kids and now I am up to 120 and I have to cut it off after the draft. I have to make sure there are enough teams. I want everybody to be on a team and I want it to be competitive."
The Rising Rams draft is in May.
"At that time, we have volunteer coaches. When we draft we put them on teams. I give clinics for the coaches. Everybody that coaches have to go through a clinic with me. I want them to be part of the system, MTXE and understanding what the kids are coming to understand. We have meetings where they get to meet all their teammates before the school year is up. Then they are off for the summer," Thigpen said.
"We start practice in August with them," she said. "We start games first of September and they run through the middle of October. They play every Saturday. When that is over we take November off and then I do a Christmas clinic. January, we are off and in February we do a Valentine's clinic."
The program has 14-16 teams each season.
"The second-grade group is new and I think I will have two to three teams," Thigpen said. "I run them half-and-half, half younger and half older. I never want to have more than eight to nine on a team. I do not want kids sitting around."
This is the fifth year for the Rising Rams program.
"I am blessed that I have good board," Thigpen said. "I have the Rising Rams Volleyball Association and my board consists of volunteers that have kids that play. They work with me and we do all these fundraisers and events. They supervise at games. They are a great group I could not do it without them."
Thigpen said she posts the clinics throughout the school system. "We post it on our website through Facebook. All the information about the clinics will be on Rising Rams Facebook. Players do not sign up for the clinics, but they have to sign up for the draft." The clinic is free.
"I just have to watch because it is not open for anybody but Lakeside kids," Thigpen said. "One year I looked up and had two kids from Greenbrier. Now everybody knows this is for Lakeside kids."
Thigpen's varsity MTXE program has been very successful at Lakeside due in part to her Rising Rams program molding the future talent to ensure the longevity of Lakeside's rich volleyball history.
"I have seventh-graders all the way up to our seniors who volunteer and coach," Thigpen said. "They help me with these clinics. That is a Saturday morning and they do not have to do that, but that is giving back to the program. The more you give back to the program the more it means to you. I have got great girls."