One weekend during every preseason, the UW-Oshkosh women's volleyball team dedicates time for team-bonding and a community service opportunity away from campus.
For three decades this unique opportunity took place at Camp Black Hawk, a Girl Scout camp in Elton. This year, UW-Oshkosh head coach Jon Ellmann started a new tradition; one that not only had a new location but also welcomed back many of its alumni.
"We wanted to establish a new annual tradition that brings together generations of players and their families," Ellmann said.
Instead of its previous two-hours north location, this year's annual get-away took place 45-minutes south of Oshkosh in Green Lake Aug. 22-24, with the added alumni functions occurring on Aug. 23.
The weekend still focused on team bonding for the current players – that included a 'scary' scavenger hunt and a three-hour, physically demanding, team-building workshop put on by Battle Tested, along with a community service workshop at Green Lake High School with its entire high school volleyball program – but the emphasis was on connecting the past with the present.
"It's rewarding for our alumni to be back in the same space as our current players and coaches," Ellmann said. "It was a time in most people's lives that they really enjoyed and so we get to go back to that place during events like these."
The alumni function began at Green Lake High School with the nine alumni introducing themselves to the 2019 team before a three-set volleyball match between the past and present commenced.
"Watching and feeling the joy in the gym during the alumni match was amazing," Ellmann said.
Later that day, the alumni and their families, along with the Titan coaching staff and players gathered at the Goose Blind Grill & Bar in downtown Green Lake. The group enjoyed dinner and a magic show performed by James David, author of The Magic of Emotional Intelligence for the Athlete and Coach, followed by program-building activities facilitated by David.
The evening was capped off by the implementation of a new Titan Volleyball Mentor Program, where alumni picked players on the current team who they will now mentor during the upcoming year.
"There are a ton of amazing people who have worn a Titan uniform," Ellmann said. "Learning from them and hearing stories about what happened in the past was really rewarding."
Ellmann believes many lessons were learned from the alumni and the day reinforced how special it is to be a Titan.
"The alumni talked about wishing they could be back on the long bus rides," Ellmann said. "They missed the 6 a.m. workouts, missed the hard practices and although many of them were part of a team that experienced a lot of success, the most important aspect of being a part of the program was the people: the coaches, players, administration and support staff. It really reinforced the importance of being in the moment and that our teams' focus should be on the process as opposed to the result."
Written by Liz Smith, UW-Oshkosh University Marketing & Communications