Deb Matejka-DesLauriers has some advice for the high school athlete who wants to excel or make it to the college level: do more.
"A lot has to do with self motivation, discipline, passion for the game, wanting to get better and not doing the bare minimum," she said from the floor of the Stony Brook University Arena, where she and her husband, Kevin DesLauriers, run a series of summer volleyball camps under the auspices of the Long Island Volleyball Academy and Stony Brook University, where Matejka-DesLauriers coaches women's volleyball. "You've got to go outside the box to be good."
Matejka-DesLauriers is entering her 11th season as the women's volleyball coach at Stony Brook, where she has taken the Seawolves to the America East championship finals three times. Kevin DesLauriers is the director of the Long Island Volleyball Academy and an assistant coach for the Seawolves, and over the years the couple has seen many young players come through the summer camps or the club and earn their way onto college teams.
"I've had kids who were 12 years old on my club program, or started at this camp, and now they're getting scholarships to school," Matekja-DesLauriers said. "It's awesome."
The volleyball camp is one of several Seawolves summer sports camps directed by Stony Brook University head coaches. The list includes girls' and boys' basketball, lacrosse, and soccer; football; baseball; volleyball; tennis; softball, and strength & conditioning. The camps are held in July and August, and include day camps and overnight camps, as well as specific skill camps within some of the sports.
The volleyball camp is actually a series of camps held over three weeks, and includes specialty camps for setting; defense, passing and serving; and attacking and blocking. There is also a "grassroots camp" for kids in grades 1-6, an individual skills camp for grades 9-12 and an advanced skills camp that mirrors the college experience.
Matejka-DesLauriers said the specialty camps have become very popular.
"The specialty camps are great because you see the development from the first day to the last day, and it's nice to see," she said. It's definitely been exploding."
"The advanced camp is more like the college experience, where we'll set up a normal preseason day," Kevin DesLauriers said. "It's more intense, much faster-paced. The coaches are pretty intense; we push them pretty hard. We talk a lot about character and drive."
The volleyball camps also feature instructors who, a few years before, were campers themselves. Gabriella Lutjen of Smithtown is headed to Marist College and said the camp taught her all the basic skills, as well as friendship and team commitment.
"It set me up for college," she said, adding that she enjoys passing her knowledge on to the younger athletes. "I love it. It's giving back, passing the passion on to younger kids."
Justine Hoffman of Wading River just graduated from Stony Brook, where she played for Matejka-DesLauriers. She said the camp is not only about the skills but "the little things that coaches are looking for, especially if they're serious about volleyball. They want the kid who's going to run and pick up all the balls or run back from a water break. It's little things like that that help a team."
"I made a lot of friends here," Hoffman added. "I'm hoping these kids get everything out of it that I did. It stays with you forever."