Club-level volleyball growing

Photo of FAMU Women’s Club Volleyball practice area courtesy: Raimah Sterling

Club volleyball at Florida A&M falls somewhere between recreational play and varsity-level competition. It provides players with an exceptional opportunity to develop their skills, build lasting connections, and cultivate an appreciation for the game beyond the court.

Aniya Thomas, a third-year biology pre-med student from Fresno, California, is the president and head coach of FAMU’s women’s club volleyball team. She started her coaching journey after the head coach, Anjonal Bruno, graduated from FAMU.

The team was created in spring 2021 by Bruno for those who could not join the university’s varsity team. It was also started for those who needed a safe space, a place to get away, to be surrounded by good vibes, and for those who wanted to get back into the volleyball life.

“It was the second semester that the club had begun. After Anjonal left for graduation, it was just us and the people she had left the club to. It was not a lot of help or organization at that time, but now, coming into the new year, I wanted to make sure we started right,” Thomas said.

Being a coach is a challenge, she said.

Even though Thomas is new to the coaching world, she is learning to look at it from the players’ perspective and communicate more as a coach.

The team is for those serious about improving their skills, learning new drills, competitiveness and working together. Mentorship, technical experience, and strategic insights are also offered by the coach and club members, who are frequently volunteers or former players.

“I feel pretty good now, especially since I could take us to our first tournament since the club began. So, I feel like I am actually starting to make the person who created the org for a reason proud for that,” Thomas said.

The team recently traveled to Tampa to participate in the University of South Florida’s tournament. They were invited to come and play with other teams. The tournament ignited a fire in the team, brought in excitement, and gave them new experiences.

The team did not make it to the top, but with this experience, they are currently training, preparing, and planning to do better at their next tournament.

“I think it went well. It could have been better, but we also did not have enough time to train and prepare for that. However, I think with the next tournament, I think we are really going to crush it,” Valerie Howard said.

Howard is a second-year pre-physical therapy student from Dallas,  and the team captain. She has been playing volleyball since the fourth grade and has always had a love and passion for the sport.

Being a captain is like second nature to her since she loves helping and guiding people to be their best.

The team is still growing and learning new ways to promote itself. The club is looking to create events, collaborate with other clubs, and raise funds.

The team does not have much of a social media presence, but with help from others, the club can and will expand more, Thomas said.

For those who want to play or help, go to the recreational center for more information. They are currently practicing Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. at the recreational center.

The club sport has an effect that goes much beyond the limits of a match. It provides an environment for self-improvement, a platform for passionate interests, and a supportive network for enduring connections.