Oregon High School 2010 graduate Kelsey Stilson may be the answer to a trivia question: As a Wisconsin native, who played on the first conference championship beach volleyball team in 2012 for the University of North Florida?
Stilson played volleyball at North Florida and was on the team that won the conference championship in the first year the NCAA offered beach volleyball. A 5-foot, 5-inch libero, she and her team will be inducted into the North Florida Hall of Fame in spring 2021.
“I never imagined I would be a 5-5 Wisconsin kid who would go to Florida and play beach volleyball,” Stilson said.
Stilson has nine years of volleyball coaching experience, including three years as the coach at Parkview High School in Orfordville. She enters her sixth year as the Acers’ club volleyball coach and fourth year as program director.
“It’s been my life for a long time,” she said of volleyball.
Stilson said the best aspect of volleyball is building camaraderie. She said she tries to instill hard work, perseverance in overcoming obstacles and teamwork, as in volleyball, one or two top athletes can’t dominate the sport.
“You have to have several talented players to have success,” she said. “There are a lot of life skills you can give to kids in any team sport.”
Stilson recalled a time at North Florida when a volleyball coach was let go because of issues coaching the team. She said the team rallied from a low point to win the conference championship the next year.
“If you can overcome obstacles good things will come,” she said. “It applies in any aspect of life.”
These days, Stilson manages registration payments, insurance forms, hires coaches and schedules gyms for practice.
The Acers had their club volleyball tryouts last week at the Prairie Athletic Club in Sun Prairie, she plans to have a Acers U17 team of around 10 players for this season. She has scheduled about five volleyball tournaments all outside of Dane County within about two hours of Oregon, Stilson said.
Players are required to wear masks at all times and practices will be hosted at Pooley’s Sports Bar in Madison.
Temperature checks and symptom screenings will be done before every practice. The Acers have a nurse on staff who is helping with the symptom-checking protocols before practice.
The club volleyball season will be a little shorter for some teams and is set to end Feb. 21, so high school players can play both club volleyball and high school volleyball. High school volleyball practice for the alternative fall season begins Feb. 22.
Stilson said it’s been tough to come up with best practices for COVID-19 safety measures, because some club teams are not announcing or releasing their plans.
“A lot of people see it as an all or nothing,” she said. “Some people think we should just go home and others think we should play. I think there is a way to do it safely.”