The Best of the Best (Illini Elite): Volleyball

By:  Allie Shannon, Kara Johnson Staff Writers

Illini Elite is a volleyball club in Bloomington, IL. People from all over Illinois make long drives to participate in this cub that’s recognized country wide. Club season is from November to June and includes big tournaments in places such as Texas and Florida. Illini Elite is the first step to get these young athletes ready to play at the college level.

Practices are three days a week from 4:30pm-8pm. They consist of warm-ups, stations, special groups, competition and weight lifting. For warm-ups they do what is called a dynamic warm-up. Instead of just stretching it is different activities that warm the body up. Next are special groups, which is when the girls split into their specific positions and focus on the skills their positions do. The different positions include setters, middles, outsides, and liberos. By around six o’clock they do team stations. Every practice stations will include different drills mostly working on basic skills. Some practices they will scrimmage other teams. Then for the last hour they do various weight lifting exercises in order to build muscle and prevent injuries.

Many sports teams tend to do at least one team bonding activity to get to know each other and become close. However, these girls take team bonding to the extreme. Within the first few months of getting your team you are required to go and participate in a two day camp called OWLS. Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School, or OWLS is a camp that many of the Illini Elite teams 15 years of age and up go to. It helps work on your teams communication and trust. The girls bundle up to spend the whole day out in the snow and cold to complete different challenges. The challenges are designed to get you to think outside the box and rely on your team to help you complete it. Challenges include high ropes courses, rock walls, and other frustrating challenges.

“It’s really frustrating but after you complete the challenge you feel really good about yourself” says junior Kelsey Olion.  Illini Elite is a club that is recognized all around the country for their good players and intense competition. They participate in tournaments all over the country, the majority of them being in the Chicago area. They also participate in a Junior Volleyball Association that travels to a different city every year. These places include New Orleans, Kentucky and this year they will travel down to Texas to compete. The last big tournament ends the season in what better place than Orlando, Florida. The girls stay in a Florida home for a whole week and compete in a national tournament for four days. Thousands of teams from all over the country travel to Florida in the hopes to play some of the best teams and to take home a national title.

“Orlando is the tournament I look forward to all season but I hate when it ends because I’m going to miss my team” Olion exclaims.  Illini Elite is a great opportunity to help prepare you for the next stage of volleyball. It is a big commitment, but it has lots of fun memories you’ll remember for the rest of your life.