Former GSHS volleyball standout returns home for camp
Growing up in the valley, 2006 Glenwood Springs High School graduate Leah Hinkey had to travel nearly four hours a day to get a high-level volleyball experience on the front range.
More than 15 years later, Hinkey — a former standout at the University of Tennessee in the SEC, a professional beach volleyball player in California, and a pro overseas in Italy, Portugal, and Croatia — is set to return to the valley in early August to put on two separate high-level volleyball clinics at GSHS and Aspen High School through her volleyball training program, VIBE Volleyball.
Despite having to drive nearly 4 hours each day for the volleyball experience that she wanted, Hinkey fell in love with the sport of volleyball once she reached high school. It grabbed her attention right away and set her on the path she’s currently on: living in El Segundo training aspiring volleyball players through her own training facility she founded with a friend after years of playing professionally.
“I just loved playing all sports, but once I got into high school had a bigger opportunity, that’s when I really started falling in love with the sport,” Hinkey said. “There definitely wasn’t much to offer in the valley, in terms of volleyball, when I was growing up. I had to drive nearly 4 hours for practice for a club team that I played for.
“That club found me and recruited me to come play for them. While the travel was tough, I’m really grateful that I did; it was a great opportunity for me.
“The valley has definitely grown, in terms of volleyball, but it hasn’t grown to the extent that I think it could. So, that said, we’re excited to come back and give back some to the community and give them a glimpse of what we have in L.A. from a volleyball standpoint.”
Thanks to her exposure on the Front Range through club volleyball, Hinkey went on to play for the Volunteers in the SEC, finishing with 218 kills and 123 assists in her senior year at Knoxville. Following graduation from UT, Hinkey hit the road to California, where she played professional beach volleyball for a few years, while also getting a chance to play overseas in Europe. As her playing career came to a close, Hinkey and close friend and business partner Nikki Jagd started coaching club volleyball in and around the Los Angeles area. However, the politics of the club sport, the competitiveness at the club level, and the overbearing mentality of parents led to the two former Division I volleyball players — Jagd played at UCLA — deciding to start their own training facility, eventually opening up VIBE Volleyball in El Segundo three years ago.
“We just didn’t want that part of the volleyball scene,” Hinkey said. “We wanted to help athletes get better and really grow the game. So, we opened up the training facility. We want to embody the good vibes and help kids get to college.”
Now, thanks to a chance encounter with two sisters from Aspen, Hinkey and Jagd, along with former University of Georgia volleyball player Kat Luft, will host a volleyball camp for high school aged players at GSHS on August 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and at AHS August 10-11 from 9-1:30 p.m.
“Two sisters from Aspen came out to work with us after their spring break,” Hinkey said. “We didn’t know they were from Aspen, but they Googled us looking for a place to get better at volleyball. They came out here for a whole week and did double days with us over spring break. In that time, the sisters’ mom kind of gave us the idea and asked us to come out to Aspen for a camp.
“We’ve been wanting to do something like this and wanted to call it Vibe Ventures and promote it on our Instagram page where we travel around the country and put on clinics. But we talked for a week or two and planned it all out and it came together pretty quickly.
Hinkey, Jagd, and Luft will be the trainers at the two camps, where athletes will learn technical breakdown, positional training, game strategy, and sports performance.
“We’re really excited,” Hinkey said. “We want to get the girls really excited about volleyball, and really bring back something to the valley. For me personally, I’m excited to see how much the school has changed. Vibe is such a cool, positive training program, so it’s exciting to kick off one of our vibe ventures where I grew up and went to school. That’s special to me.
“But, we mainly just want to spread our love of volleyball to kids at the camps and hope they love it as much as we do. We want to be a good influence in their lives as well. I had so many great coaches in my journey, so will be great to give back any way that I can.”
To sign up for the camps, please visit http://www.vibevolleyballlab.com/
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