LMYA Trainers Learn Leadership Skills


Kelly Pien, Opinion Writer

On a weekday afternoon, Natalie Meniktas stands on the sidelines of a volleyball court in the Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School (JM) gym. She shouts encouragement and advice to the 4th-8th grade girls, occasionally stepping in to correct form or teach a bump pass.

“Call it nice and loud!” the senior shouts.

Meniktas is one of 38 Lafayette-Moraga Youth Association (LMYA) volleyball trainers who assists parent coaches during practices. According to LMYA Volleyball Commissioner Eric Standring, 15 Campolindo students are trainers this year. Other trainers come from Miramonte, Acalanes, and middle schools, according to trainer and sophomore Maddie Koelzer.

Meniktas describes LMYA as a “more low key” opportunity for kids from Lamorinda to play sports. According to the LMYA website, the volleyball program is open to students in 4th-8th grades.

Trainer and freshman Janelle Gong said she and teammates from JM volleyball were approached by Standring to help with the program since they “were familiar with volleyball.”

According to Gong, trainers fill out a Google Doc form every Sunday, indicating availability for the following week.

According to Koelzer, trainers go to either the JM or Stanley gyms to help coaches during their assigned hours each week. What the trainers do at each practice “depends on how prepared the coaches are,” Koelzer said.

Meniktas said, “Some parents have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, so they just sit down and we run the practices. Some of the parents have played volleyball before, and they’re really involved, and we just help demonstrate things. They have more of a game plan as to how they want their practices to be run, and we just give pointers and help the kids out.”

Meniktas added that they “help parent coaches with whatever drills they want and help demonstrate, and give the girls extra guidance from more of a volleyball perspective, since a lot of the parents have never played before.”

Because there are so many trainers, not every trainer works every week, according to Koelzer.

“I really like working with kids. I like seeing them improve, and they’re really supportive and they come out to my games when we play and it’s really fun,” Meniktas said.

“I love children and working with kids so it’s fun,” Koelzer said.

“It’s a lot more fun because the kids don’t really know a lot of stuff, so you can teach them the right technique, and they get better every week,” Gong said.

In addition to the regular trainers, Meniktas, Koelzer, and Caitlin Januszewski are also “crew leads,”  students who schedule the trainers’ weekly practice and gym assignments. According to Koelzer, there are 7-8 crew leads in total, 3 for the JM gym and 4-5 for the Stanley gym.

“We like trainers to learn leadership skills between their peers,” said Standring. “These leads are like big sisters for the younger trainers, and can offer help to the confused.”

“The thing that’s nice about being a crew lead is that you can assign your own hours,” Koelzer said. “You can pick and have priority over those who aren’t crew leads and just assign yourself hours. So that’s really nice.”

According to Standring, some trainers are also officials and score keepers for matches. “Like crew leads, officials get paid more than Trainers because they contribute more, and work under more pressure,” he said.

Koelzer has learned about taxes (the trainers are required to fill out tax forms), time management, and coaching from her position. She said, “I’ve always been on the receiving end of coaching so it’s cool to see the other side of it.”