MELISSA — Melissa Lady Cardinals head coach Frank DePaolo welcomed an enthusiastic bunch of girls, in fourth through eighth grades, to volleyball camp on Monday, June 12, at the Melissa High Birdcage. The four-day instructional camp was separated into grades four through six and grades seven and eight, with the younger girls kicking off each day at 8 a.m.

“Really what I’m hoping to impart for them is that our program starts down here in the second and third and the fourth grade,” DePaolo said on Day 1. “We start our camp in fourth grade and that’s right about where they can start going and doing their first leagues and stuff like that. … I want them to understand what they see on the court — our varsity court — starts down here at the fourth-grade level.”

To that point, DePaolo said he’s hoping to find a parent who might be willing to get involved with a new program he’s found called Volley Tots.

“It’s for first, second and third-graders,” he said, “kind of starting with the skill levels. Soccer does a really good job of grabbing them really young, so we have to compete against kids getting in the fourth grade having played soccer two years already. I’m trying to create something where we can do that for volleyball.”

Assisting DePaolo for the camp were coaches Heather Lane, Ashley McCarter, Jacqui Nichell and Jennifer Henry. Nichell is a 2011 Melissa graduate and a former Lady Card volleyball player.

DePaolo said seeing the campers’ rapid progress throughout the week is what is most fun for him.

“I’ve got a couple of girls today that came in that had never played volleyball before — and just to see them go from, ‘Oh, I can’t do this’ to ‘Oh, wow. Watch me!’”

A camp highlight came Wednesday when one of DePaolo’s former players at Celina, Lauren Schultz, spoke to the girls on goalsetting and overcoming setbacks. She currently attends the United States Military Academy at West Point.

“It’s a very, very difficult program,” Schultz told the girls of West Point, “but it’s a blessing and I’m very happy to be there. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Athletics has made be who I am. … I know, you’re here, you’re at a camp during your summer days. But I just want to tell you, something that’s always helped me in athletics is just keeping perspective.”

She went to say that when it’s tough to get out of bed for practice, just be glad you can get out of bed, and be thankful for parents and coaches who sacrifice to help you succeed.