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Program aims to make volleyball stars out of all girls

Madison Starlings founded for lower socioeconomic levels

MADISON, Wis. - One group in Madison is intent on sharing the volleyball court with all girls, especially those who might otherwise be on the sidelines.

The girls who make up the Madison Starlings wouldn't be serving and spiking their way to success without the program.

"People always say, 'volleyball's such an easy sport,'" said Starlings volleyball player Infinity "Finn" Gamble. "I don't think so, because the ball comes at you like 50 miles per hour. And it's kind of just like, you got to go for it."

"I like center front, that's my best one, because you either get to set it or spike it over," continued Gamble.

The group's goal is to give any young female player a chance, even if their families can't pay for expensive play.

According to their web site, the Starlings concept was initiated by Byron Shewman in 1995.

The former USA Men's Volleyball Team member sought to establish a volleyball/academic program that would largely serve girls from lower socioeconomic groups.

Olympian Kim Oden joined Shewman and co-founded the first club in San Diego, Calif., in 1996.


"Everybody has an opportunity to play, regardless of the money, if they can afford it or not," said Gamble.

Madison Starlings head coach Bruce Kong is used to playing, but now, he's running practice.

"I love playing, you could say that," said Kong. "But I wanted to teach kids, I wanted to teach our younger generation how to play because there are a lot of kids out there that want to play but don't have the money to or don't have the time to."

Starting up the Starlings in Madison means that every volleyball hopeful in the area has the potential to be on the court before high school.

Win or lose, these players prove that you can't beat the confidence that comes with being part of a team.

"Once you get that ball right over the net, and you see how powerful you hit it, it makes you feel like a sense of pride," said Gamble. "And then everybody on your team high fives you and says good job. And even if you mess up, they're there saying, 'just get it next time.'"

The Starlings is a national league with all of the teams with the mission to make volleyball accessible to players of all financial means.

It's only $15 to join, and organizers are currently looking for coaches.

Anyone looking for more information or to help coach can call 608-233-3953.

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