Colorado State University head volleyball coach Tom Hilbert halted the session at the Bayfield High School volleyball camp Thursday and brought the campers into a circle.
“Tighter,” he said. “I want you guys shoulder to shoulder.”
The campers were confused.
He then instructed them to stand behind the person to their right and begin massaging each others’ shoulders and bicep to relax them before the lunch break.
Just one of the tricks you learn coaching volleyball for 30 years.
Hilbert is leading Bayfield’s summer volleyball camp, which ran Thursday and will continue Friday in the BHS gym.
He played collegiately at the University of Oklahoma before becoming an assistant coach at his alma mater.
Then came a head coaching gig at the University of Idaho for four years before he took up residency at CSU.
Hilbert has won 605 matches as a head coach and is a 13-time conference coach of the year between the Big Sky, Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences.
What brings that caliber of coach to Bayfield?
“It’s two reasons. I like the mountains and want to see other parts of the state,” Hilbert said Thursday. “And sometimes you find players.”
Hilbert can’t comment on specific unsigned players because of NCAA rules, but BHS senior-to-be Kirstie Hillyer has been a CSU verbal commit since her sophomore year.
Still, recruiting isn’t the primary reason Hilbert runs the camps he does.
He’s been to Vail for the past 10 years and hasn’t once signed a player from there.
“You want to get them to love playing the game,” Hilbert said. “And it’s great outreach for CSU.”
He brought CSU senior-to-be Kelsey Snider down from Fort Collins to help him work the camp, and former Mountain West Players of the Year Megan Plourde and Katelyn Steffan also came to help.
Snider views the opportunity as a learning experience for her, as well, since she’d like to get into coaching eventually.
“I don’t know what level yet, or where,” she said. “But I’m definitely learning how to interact with the girls and what different drills to do.”
CSU typically runs two to three “satellite” camps per year.
There’s a formula the camp coaches go in with, but they vary it depending on how quickly the campers pick it up.
“These kids are very advanced,” Hilbert said.
Some of the attendees have been to the camp for three consecutive years and have gotten to know Hilbert.
BHS sophomore-to-be Maddi Foutz has been to the camp every year Hilbert has visited.
“I think he’s nice, but when we need to be serious he’s serious,” said Foutz, daughter of Mike and BHS head coach Terene Foutz. “He has a sense of humor, but when it’s time to get it on, he’s serious.”
Hilbert’s relationship with BHS pre-dates Terene Foutz, but she’s seen him around on their club volleyball circuit.
“It gives pause to student-athletes when a Division-I coach comes into their back yard. Coaches like Tom Hilbert set that precedent,” Terene Foutz said. “Not every student athlete can play in college, but they want to make the biggest contribution they can to their varsity team.”