When Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite announced his plan for the Arena at Southaven to host a volleyball program, he turned to a successfully growing DeSoto County club program to spearhead its effort.
Called DeSoto Legacy, David Culver and Bob Lewis have set about a program that started in a warehouse with 60 youngsters three years ago at a warehouse holding just one court.
Today with the Southaven facility, the development program now has access to eight full-size courts, a setters court and a strength and training area.
This year, DeSoto Legacy had 107 youngsters involved in its club program. Lewis is the Master Coach who has been successful coaching various age divisions in both club and school volleyball in Illinois, Virginia and Mississippi.
He was also a men’s volleyball player in Illinois and at one time, he was asked to lead the Lewisburg Middle School program, where he met Culver, a parent of a Lewisburg player. Culver is now the Director of DeSoto Legacy Volleyball.
Lewis said he teaches a foundational program that he has used in his previous stops on the way.
“I developed a program 15-plus years ago for my training that I received first in Chicago when I was a player and coach,” Lewis said. “I’ve kept that program, developed it and added to it every year. The USAV Delta Region (which includes Arkansas and parts of North Mississippi and West Tennessee) is one of the weakest regions in the nation. I want to change that.”
Beyond growing DeSoto Legacy, Culver and Lewis believe they can grow the overall sport in DeSoto County even more, an area traditionally strong at the high school level.
For the general public, DeSoto Legacy will offer a Gateway Program which Lewis said will give youngsters and parents an inexpensive introduction to volleyball so they can determine if they want to pursue the sport.
“I brought up the Gateway Program to Mayor Musselwhite and he loved it,” Lewis said. “That’s what the City League is all about. It’s a gateway program for kids so parents don’t have to pay a lot of money and they get a really good opportunity to see what the sport is like.”
Lewis added youngsters can use the program and league to then determine if they want to move into any of the club programs in the area.
DeSoto Legacy is also offering adult leagues and open gyms to get more volleyball exposure, make it accessible to everybody, and most importantly insert activities into a building that previously stood most empty, save for the occasional flea market, gun show or special event.
A co-ed adult volleyball league was introduced this summer and is already underway.
The Arena is now hosting something there almost every night of the week because of the inclusion of volleyball as a host activity.
The DeSoto Legacy coaching staff is pretty impressive. In addition to Lewis as Master Coach, Courtney Reid and John Tague are senior coaches and all are Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP) I or II level certified by USA Volleyball.
Other coaches include current Southaven High School coach Robbie Veazey, St. Agnes coach Sara Carpenter, current Lewisburg Middle School coach Misty Ferrell and current Southaven Middle School coach Kayleigh Fennema.
Former Lake Cormorant standout Reaghan McDonald and Southaven top player Taylor Edwards also help assist the program.
Lewis notes DeSoto County is strong in Mississippi for volleyball, but adds it still lags behind other parts of the country, a void he wants to help close.
“I want the school systems to be strong and the only way to do that is to continue to develop players and teach more and more defined fundamentals and complex strategies so they can get to that level,” Lewis said. “We’re getting there but we’re not at all top-end, yet. We want to develop more and more players out of the Delta Region to get college scholarships.”
Which may mean an area already hanging banners for state championships for volleyball may have to make more room on the walls for more of that in the future.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.