Pro teaches the basics, from breakfast and beyond

Volleyball clinic trainer Gylton Da Matta shows Allison Wood and fellow clinic athletes the best way to stretch the body after a tough workout Wednesday at South Whidbey High School. - Jeff VanDerford
Volleyball clinic trainer Gylton Da Matta shows Allison Wood and fellow clinic athletes the best way to stretch the body after a tough workout Wednesday at South Whidbey High School.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

It takes a lot of commitment to spend hot summer days at a clinic in a stuffy high school gym, listening to a supposed expert on volleyball teach the game.

But that’s what 43 girls from grade 6 through 12 are doing and, as they’ve discovered, Gylton Da Matta is indeed an expert.

“He can explain how something works and how it doesn’t,” said junior Alissa Coupe. “Like how to position your muscles and the rest of your body to get the most power to the ball.”

The clinic was organized by second-year Falcon volleyball coach Mandy Jones and junior varsity coach Meggan Lubach.

“Basically, the idea is to get the kids to work at supporting each other while instilling some crucial volleyball skills,” she said. “The high school girls will learn by teaching the younger girls while serving as role models themselves. It’ll be fun mixed in with a lot of hard work.”

The emphasis is on improving technique, progression, acquiring advanced skills and improving game performance, long-term training and increased motivation and injury prevention, Jones explained.

Da Matta is an assistant professor of sports pedagogy and team sports expertise at the University of Northern Colorado, and has presented at dozens of volleyball clinics, camps and workshops nationwide and internationally. He’s also a three-time Brazilian national champion and is a level III licensed international volleyball coach.

“He’s a brilliant teacher because he can break down the game into physics, accuracy, tactics, teamwork and technique,” Jones said.

“And he preaches a lot about talking with your teammates, thinking about what’s happening on the court and moving constantly to take every advantage,” Jones added.

Da Matta leaps, crouches, laughs and cajoles to get the best out of his students. He uses inventive drills in short bursts to keep their attention level high.

“This is the ultimate team sport,” he told them on Wednesday. “Is it not better to have a firm agreement to work together?”

Understanding dawns as dozens of ponytailed heads solemnly nod.

Just before lunch, Da Matta explained the value of good nutrition.

“You need to be smart as an athlete,” he said. “Only you can eat well; I can’t be there at breakfast or dinner.”

Da Matta earned his doctorate in physical education with a dissertation on the women’s Brazilian gold medal volleyball team.

During the break, Da Matta said teaching at clinics keeps him inspired.

“It is fantastic when athletes have the desire to learn; positive things happen,” he said. “My ultimate purpose is to share my love for the sport; being an athlete is a skill that will last a lifetime.”

Brittany Wood said she’s learned a few things in just the first two days.

“When you swing your arm, if you go back too far you can suffer a dislocation,” she said. “Anything that takes you out of the game is bad for the team.”

Lyna Nichols noted that Da Matta is teaching how to use that same amount of power without being injured.

And sophomore Molly Rawls said it’s the little things that count.

“Finger placement on the ball, where your feet should be; that’s what will let us be winners when Falcon volleyball begins,” she said.

Nichols added that fall sports aren’t that far away.

“When the season, starts, I’ll feel the summer was well-spent,” she said.

She’s right. Fall football practice begins Aug. 19. Practice for volleyball, girls soccer, cross country and boys tennis starts Aug. 24.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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