Meet the Team: The Spiking Porcupines

Last updated: August 9, 2023, at 2:09 p.m. PT

Originally published: July 31, 2023, at 1:10 p.m. PT

Photo shows several players and their coaches all wearing big smiles.

The volleyball flew over the net and bounced on the floor: thump, thump, thump. Six kids in black uniforms stared at the ball. They knew they were supposed to hit the ball back over the net, but no one knew exactly how to do that.

The youngsters were members of The Spiking Porcupines, a team of elementary school kids gathering at the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA in Seattle’s Central District, most of them brand-new to volleyball. One player admitted that she was nervous before joining the team, afraid to look like an amateur in front of the others.

Every year, thousands of kids in greater Seattle come to the Y to learn and build skills in sports, fitness classes, and life-saving swim lessons. The Y offers classes and programs for all age levels at all skill levels to ensure young people feel comfortable as they explore new activities.

Over the course of the season, Amy Bergstrom, Coach of the Porcupines, used patience and encouragement to train her team of 3rd – 5th graders on how to pass the volleyball to each other and how to aim the ball across the net. Over the span of 10 weeks, the teammates practiced together and tried their skills in games against peers from other Ys in the region.

By early June, the Porcupines had learned to work together, celebrate their successes, encourage each other, and, yes, get the ball over the net.

“I’m super impressed with how they challenged themselves and grew as volleyball players throughout the season,” said Coach Amy. “But most of all, I’m really proud of how they came together as teammates. By the last game of the year, they were giving each other high fives on both great rallies and on misses, and they all got so much better at keeping up a great attitude and encouraging each other.”

Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, and classroom behaviors, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Higher physical activity and physical fitness levels are also associated with improved cognitive performance (e.g., concentration, memory) among students, the CDC reports.

YMCA Branch Executive Cleveland King says the hard work of young athletes at the Y should inspire more work to meet the needs of local families. "The Y was the first place I found sports, swimming, and a coach that took an interest in me. That coach instilled confidence in me to make me feel I could be the best player I wanted to be. He was not only a coach, but his words of encouragement stayed with me for a lifetime. He was the reason I felt I had to give back and got into coaching youth sports.”

“The Y really created a culture of inclusion and sportsmanship,” says Rob Fredericksen, parent of a Porcupine. “You could see positive relationships with team sports developing, every game, right before your eyes.”

Want to inspire more young people to grow and learn? Give the gifts of health, fitness, and happiness by donating to the YMCA of Greater Seattle here >>

Category: Youth & Family