Local volleyball enthusiasts recently had an opportunity to spend several hours on the sand-filled courts at Riverside Park in Coral Springs with members of the Florida Atlantic University women’s beach volleyball team learning the finer points of the game. The volleyball clinic was sponsored by the Sand Turtles volleyball program, which is based at the park, to help raise money for the FAU women’s squad. Sand Turtles regular members, as well as newcomers to the organization, were invited to participate in the instruction.
“It was awesome,” Sand Turtles club founder Mark Lewkowicz, said. His daughter, Julia Lewkowicz, is a freshman at FAU and a member of the Owls’ team. “We had a very nice time and we ended up raising about $1,000 for the FAU team. It will help with their travel expenses.”
Of the 16-player FAU roster, half hail from South Florida. Every member of the team showed up for the clinic.
“They are very driven to volunteer and give back, but they haven’t really done things to raise money for themselves,” said Lewkowicz.
Youth players taking part in the clinic were split into groups based on skill level. One group was for beginners; the other for intermediates. The beginners started with easier drills like tossing the ball to the sides, while the intermediates did passing, setting and hitting. Both groups also worked on their footwork with the help of the FAU players.
After the clinic, Sand Turtles players and parents were invited to put their skills to the test against the FAU women in a “Queen of the Court” format, where the winning team stayed on the court and the losing team surrendered its place to a team on the sideline. Some of the FAU players also played on the teams with the local players to make the games more competitive.
Organizers collected a $10 donation for the clinic and a $5 donation to participate in the Queen of the Court format. There was also a raffle, with all proceeds going to the Owls.
According to FAU beach volleyball team coach Capri Grotowski, this is the first event where the proceeds have gone directly to the team.
Grotowski guided the Owls to a 9-6 dual match record last year, tripling its dual-match win total from the previous season. The beach volleyball program began at FAU in 2012, one year after the NCAA recognized it as a sport.
Grotowski said she enjoys the fact that the Owls’ players are so willing to step up and lend their expertise to aspiring youth.
“I always enjoy it when you see kids out there playing volleyball,” she said. “I thought it was really good for our girls to see that too.”
The Owls’ beach volleyball team won last year’s Owl Cup, which is handed out to the team that has excelled in community service, supported the other teams on the Boca Raton campus and also demonstrated its success in the classroom.
The women’s team also helps the community in other ways, including volunteering at the local Ranse Jones volleyball tournament, reading at schools and beach cleanups.
The Sand Turtles organization began in 2009 when middle school programs in Broward County fell victim to budget cuts. Since then, the Sand Turtles have added programs in Coconut Creek and Boca Raton, which cater to both youth players and adults.
“I would like to do this on a yearly basis for them,” Lewkowicz said. “We have a lot of beginner-level players, and it was great that they got to see the collegiate girls…girls that are experts at doing this. I think it was really good for them to see the ball control that the college players had.”
The Sand Turtles program in Coral Springs meets four times a week and is composed of 45-50 players with beginner and intermediate classes. The Coconut Creek program has expanded to 36 players and the Boca Raton program has twice-a-week sessions with 13 players.
For more information, visit SandTurtlesVolleyball.com.