BREMERTON — Olympic Premier Volleyball Club executive director Michelle Miller considers the 10th anniversary of the program in Kitsap a milestone.
It would be hard to argue her point.
The club has had a direct hand in hundreds of players improving their skill set and reaching personal and team goals along the way.
At the heart of the club’s success is a deep commitment from Miller and her coaches to the players and families who have sacrificed time, money and effort for a significant payoff down the road.
“In a small area like this it is kind of cool that basically the same people, the same board and a lot of the same coaches, have been around this whole time,” Miller said during practice for the U16 and U15 teams at Peace Lutheran School earlier this week.
“We are doing more than we ever have,” she added. “We’re doing summer programs, outdoor programs, we’re just getting a lot more kids playing which is awesome.”
Miller knows all about the time and energy it takes to play club volleyball. Miller was an all-Metro League and all-state outside hitter for the Bainbridge Spartans and played Division I at the University of New Mexico.
She also played club volleyball starting with her eighth-grade season and knows what it takes to perform at a high level. She took over as director two years ago and wasn’t surprised to be in that position.
“I was 14 (when) I started running summer camps,” she said. “I’ve always been doing it. It’s cool to be trusted with the responsibility.”
Olympic Premier expanded to 11 teams this year and has roughly 120-140 players. The club also added a satellite program on Bainbridge Island. The program is for players who couldn’t commit to a full season due to limited time or finances or are multi-sport athletes but still wanted the opportunity to work on their game. Satellite players practice once a week and play in a tournament once a month.
If the commitment from the coaches to the players is the heart than those same coaches are the backbone.
Miller said they’ve been able to keep the same core of coaches year after year which can be uncommon in club coaching. The coaching staff includes numerous high school coaches (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules prohibit high school coaches from coaching their players in the offseason) as well as former and current Olympic College players.
Miller, Julie Miller (U15, and former Bainbridge High coach), Mikaela Strutz, Dragan Karadzic, Keith Peden, Kim Renken, Lizzie Solaita, Dominique Atherley and Dardo Olivera are the current head coaches for OP.
Bainbridge sophomore Paige Bouma, who plays for the U16 team and is coached by Miller, said the opportunity to play in a national tournament is a reason why she plays club volleyball.
Bouma, who said the idea is “super exciting,” knows her success comes not only in her own dedication playing as much as possible but also by quality coaching.
OP coaches spend as much time, or more, on the court playing and continuing their volleyball education through clinics and sharing resources than coaching — and that’s nearly a full-time commitment.
“We’re sharing our successes and sharing our struggles,” Miller said. “We have a group that talks pretty much every day.”
The players see that passion and appreciate it, Bouma said.
“It’s super helpful when they’re actually able to show you something instead of just telling you,” she said. “You can see exactly what you need to change or they’ll show you exactly how you need to move your hand or how you need to move your footwork, which is really helpful.”
Bouma said she enjoys that the club isn’t numbered in the hundreds because players receive more individual attention.
“It feels super personal,” she said, adding she’s known Julie Miller, who coached at Bainbridge High and is now the club’s U15 Elite coach since she was younger.
“I used to play parks and (recreation) with her when I was little, so I’ve known her since I was tiny and not super good at volleyball,” she said.
Kingston freshman Olivia Call, whose father Ed Call coaches varsity at Kingston, grew up around the sport and couldn’t imagine spending her time doing anything else.
Call can relate to the coaches because their passion for the sport is what she feels every day.
“I really like the club director is a young, female athlete because all of us girls have somebody to look up to,” she said. “It’s nice that she coaches all of us. She’s just a really good example to follow.”
At the end of the day, any club program is about development, and that’s something OP takes seriously, Miller said.
“Winning is great, and it’s fantastic, and it feels good but if we’re not developing the kids to prepare for their middle school, high school and college seasons we’re not doing a good job,” she said. “We’re focused on doing things the right way versus winning points the wrong way. We call it process over outcome. So if the process is correct, the outcome will come later.”
And with a decade of success under its belt, Olympic Premier sees the outcome decidedly in its favor.