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Away at camp

Gilford volleyball coach Joan Forge runs her 'Pass, Set, Spike' camp for the 14th year

The ‘Pass, Set, Crush’ volleyball camp completes its 14th season at Geneva Point Center Thursday. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 18, 2011
MOULTONBORO – It's been nine years since Kat Labrie first arrived at the Pass, Set, Crush Volleyball Camp. Nearly a decade later, Labrie still heads to Geneva Point Center every summer to take part in the camp, as the Misericordia University junior and Plymouth Regional High School alum is now a counselor at the popular youth overnight camp run by Gilford High School volleyball coach Joan Forge.

"It's so much fun coming here as a counselor, the girls really look up to you and it's fun to teach them the sport," said Labrie, who is a hitter on the Misericordia volleyball team. "As a camper, you're so naïve and you come to play and just have fun and it's a great thing. It's just one of those experiences that I think everyone really enjoys and looks forward to every year."

Founded in 1998, 'Pass, Set, Crush' is offered to girls entering the seventh through ninth grades. But the camp, held at the 200-acre Geneva Point Center on Lake Winnipesaukee, is much more than your typical volleyball experience. The daily schedule features activities ranging from kick boxing to yoga, with swimming and canoe trips also part of the fun.

"There are a lot of different things for us to do up here," said camper Theresa Soldan, 14, of Bedford, Mass. "I've been coming here for three years and last year I brought my whole team from back home with me. The counselors are amazing and it's just a great experience."

While days start at 6:30 a.m. with a polar bear swim and fun run, the campers craft their volleyball skills during morning and afternoon skill sessions. Broken up by experience and skill levels on three different courts, Forge and her team of counselors touch on a variety of different issues while incorporating plenty of games throughout.

"I really like the tough volleyball sessions followed by a swim," said Kaila Martin, 14, of Sandwich. "My mom's been coaching here for a long time so I've been coming here since I was like five years old."

While the camp is popular with local players, Forge also attracts campers from all over the country. 10-year old Mackenzie Nunes attended the first of two sessions all the way from The Woodlands, Texas.

"I spend summers with my grandma up here in New Hampshire so I've been anxious to come to the camp for a few years," said Nunes, daughter of former Moultonboro Academy volleyball player Robin Burrows. "Just getting to meet a lot of different people has been awesome."

Gilford's Maddie Harris took part in Forge's day camp when she was in elementary school. As a soon-to-be eighth grader at Gilford Middle School, Harris says she gets a lot out of the overnight experience.

"I used to be a soccer player and then I started playing volleyball and kind of realized I liked volleyball more," she said. "The drills and the scrimmaging we do here is really good, I learn a lot by coming here."

Moultonboro resident Danielle Harrington, 13, may live close by, but she still enjoys her time at Geneva Point.

"I live like five minutes away but it feels like a different place just with everything that we get to do here," she said.

The camp features quite a few repeat customers, and players often see how much they improve over the years as they make their way up from Court 3 to Court 1. As a counselor, Labrie has followed a similar path.

"When I first started as a counselor, I worked with the younger kids and then I worked my way up," she said. "I know what they're going through so that's helpful. It was my first away camp so that was tough but you gotta make that move at some point. It's four hours of volleyball a day so it's nice that we're able to break it up and offer a lot of different activities. It's almost always really hot out so the girls get tired, without fail. They love to be able to go to the beach."

While Forge tries to make the camp affordable for everyone, she does offer one scholarship each summer in memory of Jenni Harmon. Harmon, who was a camper in the summers of 2000 and 2001, died tragically in an automobile accident in 2006. The scholarship "will be awarded annually to a girl entering the seventh through ninth grade who, without financial assistance, would be unable to attend camp."

One unique aspect of the camp is that Forge keeps parents and family in the loop each night as to what's happening, as she takes and posts over 100 photos from that particular day on the camp's Web site.

"We don't allow cell phones during the camp so this way, the parents can keep an eye on their girls and see what they're doing for themselves," Forge said.

The camp's second and final session of the summer came to a close today, although information on next summer's venture is available online at www.passsetcrush.com.

Martin Lord Osman
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