'Tis the Season to be Camping

July 21, 2011

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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — If this week was any indication — the temperature, the energy, and the attendance – things continue to look up for the Iowa volleyball program.

Head coach Sharon Dingman and the Hawkeyes recently hosted their fourth Iowa volleyball individual camp, and like the three years before, this one was a record. More than 220 players entering grades 5-12 invaded the UI campus this week. In addition to the usual in-state crop, campers came from as far as Illinois, Texas and Washington. Some were rookies, others were camp veterans, and it took plenty of both to pull off the most successful camp in program history.

“We’re really excited about this year,” said Dingman. “Each year we’ve hosted the camps they’ve grown. I think Hawkeye volleyball is a good brand right now. People are recognizing what a great camp we run and everyone involved — the campers, the staff and the players — deserve a lot of credit. It’s something we get excited about.”

The record three-day camp got a big contribution from Wendy Dennis. The mother of three had heard positive rumblings about the Iowa camp from other Cedar Rapids parents, so when summer registration rolled around, daughters Abby, Katie and Dani were all prepped to make their camp debut.

“The girls love it,” said Dennis. “They’ve said nothing but great things. I think they’ve met some good friends, and I think they’ve enjoyed working with all the coaches. Everyone has been great.”

The Dennis girls are part of the resident crowd, which means they also get to enjoy their overnights in the college dorms and experience an abbreviated campus life.

“They’ve been calling and texting, so it’s been a pretty big deal,” said Dennis. “They’re all old enough now to do it and enjoy it together, so I think that’s made a difference.”

The volleyball attendance boom has been a common trend on campus. Josh Berka, Iowa’s director of sports camps since 2005, says most camps have experienced moderate growth while others have enjoyed record numbers.

“A lot of sport camps are going very well this year,” said Berka. “In some areas we are feeling the effects of the economy, but overall we are definitely holding our own versus past years.

“A lot of our Olympic sports have really done well. Football always draws nicely, and the recent excitement surrounding the men’s basketball program has helped, but all the teams do a great job of providing a positive experience. And from a facilities perspective, having our new aquatics center has been a huge boom to our swimming program. Swimming had record numbers, as well.”

Dingman and the volleyball program will feel the benefits of a new facility when Carver-Hawkeye Arena reopens next week following a $43 million renovation. The volleyball team opens training camp August 8 before hosting its season opener August 26 at the Hawkeye Challenge. Until then, Dingman continues to build the Hawkeye brand, seizing every opportunity to promote Iowa volleyball and improve the level of competition throughout the state.

“The camp has a direct impact on our program,” Dingman said. “More than anything I want the campers to enjoy volleyball, and as long as they do we’ll be able get our names out there and show people that we have some good things going here and they’ll want to come back and support us.

“What’s great about camp is they get to connect to our players, so they have a reason to come back and watch Mallory Husz or Tiffany Nilges or Megan Eskew because now they know her and they’ve worked with her at camp. It’s fun to sit in the stands and think, ‘hey, there’s my camp coach.'”

Season tickets for Iowa volleyball go on sale during the final week of July and can be purchased at hawkeyesports.com or by calling the UI Ticket Office at 800-IA HAWKS. Fan interested in attending future University of Iowa sports camps can visit iowasportscamps.com or call 319-335-7961 for more information.