By Talie Leeb
It may be an old saying, and a trite one at that, but for Ayanna McClain, an 8th grader at Christ the King School, the third time really was the charm.
Ayanna, an outside hitter for both Christ the King and Chicago Elite’s club volleyball team, had dreamed about attending the Girls Future Select camp for years, ever since a teammate told her about the program, but it seemed like it wasn’t to be. The first year she tried out she was cut during tryouts, and then when she did earn a spot the second year she wasn’t able to attend after scheduling conflicts arose. But this year, she finally made it, and Ayanna was on her way to Nashville.
The Girls Future Select program is an elite training program for young volleyball players across the country, an offshoot of USA Volleyball. Each summer thousands of girls tryout for the chance to participate in the five day camp that bills itself as an opportunity to advance in the US National Team pipeline.
For Ayanna, the high level of play and competition was new but, “it was comforting, took my mind off the fact that I was being evaluated,” she said.
At camp Ayanna and the other players followed a strict routine: warmups and drilling skills like passing, hitting, blocking and serving in the morning, a break for lunch, then classes on motivation and nutrition, followed by more drills and scrimmages.
“I wasn’t used to that level of competition, but it was good competition” Ayanna said. “Physically, knowing that I just played against girls from all over the country was huge, skill–wise I improved, but also I figured it really helped mentally.” For Ayanna, that mental aspect was the biggest part of improving her game.
As she is starting the new school year and a new season of volleyball, Ayanna said that everything about camp — the intense drilling, the atmosphere, the new friends — was exactly what she needed to up her game, and that she can’t wait to go back next summer.