When they met in seventh grade at Egan Junior High, Allie Miller and Ashley Watson bonded over volleyball. They became good friends and great players who starred at Los Altos High in the early 2000s.
Although they now live several miles apart – Miller works as a high school counselor in San Francisco and Watson teaches first grade in Campbell – the Los Altos natives have figured out a way to remain close friends and close to the sport they love to play and coach.
“We missed being together and coaching,” said Watson, who coached the freshman team at Palo Alto High two years ago. “We both work at schools and thought, ‘How can we (remedy that) over the summer?’ That’s when we came up with Camp A-Team.”
The volleyball camp for girls ages 8-13 is entering its second summer, with three sessions scheduled the last two weeks of July at Egan. Each session spans four days.
“The first year, the thinking was: ‘Let’s go for it and see how it works,’” said Miller, coach of the St. Ignatius High junior-varsity squad in 2012. “We filled all three sessions, and it was a total hit. We took a lot of notes about things to improve on, and we’re looking forward to year two.”
Camp A-Team is not a big operation – Miller and Watson handle everything from coaching to marketing – but the 2004 Los Altos High graduates said the participants benefit from that.
“Since it’s just the two of us, we try to keep the camps pretty small,” Miller said.
Watson added, “We both agreed on keeping the (camper-to-coach) ratio at 6-to-1 to give each girl individual attention.”
Two of the sessions have already reached capacity.
“We have a lot of returning girls and a lot of fresh faces,” Miller said. “Most of them are from Los Altos.”
For many of the girls, Camp A-Team is “their first experience with volleyball,” Watson said, “and can spark that interest, which is really exciting.”
By focusing on the fundamentals, Miller and Watson said they hope their clinics prepare the girls for playing school and club volleyball. Both acknowledged that the sport has grown more competitive in this area since they were kids.
“We start with basic drills and then split them up to work on basic skill sets, ” Miller said. “By the fourth day, we’re scrimmaging.”
The coaches don’t just emphasize passing, serving and spiking, according to Watson, who noted that communication is a key to success in the sport.
“It’s so important to talk on the court so everyone knows where they need to be,” she said.
Watson and Miller should know – they both played integral roles on Los Altos teams that performed well in the playoffs. Team co-captains as seniors, both earned all-league honors.
Watson earned a scholarship to Manhattan College in New York, where she set the school record for most digs in a season.
Miller secured a scholarship as well – for track and field – and competed in the high jump and heptathlon at UCLA for four years. A member of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, Miller nearly qualified for the Olympic trials in 2008.
Their collegiate athletic careers may be over, but Miller and Watson continue to play volleyball. They compete on an adult-league team at Foothill College with a few other former Eagles.
“It’s 10 years later, and we still love playing together,” Miller said. “It’s such a fun sport.”
Camp A-Team has scheduled morning sessions 9 a.m. to noon July 21-24 and July 28-31; the afternoon session is slated 1-4 p.m. July 28-31. Cost is $350 per session, which includes a camp T-shirt. Egan is located at 100 W. Portola Ave., Los Altos. To register and for more information, visit campateam.com.