As the Lady Mustangs battled the visiting Mexia Lady Cats on Sept. 28, a sea of red shirts worn by excited young girls could be found on the home side of the gymnasium.
Later, the Madisonville High School Lady Mustangs volleyball team gave special recognition to the Madisonville Little Diggers youth volleyball program.
The young athletes were invited down to the court, where they were publicly introduced and both home and visiting fans applauded the young ladies, as they smiled with excitement.
This never would have happened prior to 2013, as there were no volleyball programs available to kids in the seventh grade. That is when sisters Laney Smith and Rae Lyn Williamson decided to take action.
“After my youngest daughter and niece played on a team from Iola for a year, my sister and I be-lieved that the girls in Madisonville could benefit from being a part of a league, too,” Smith said.
Williamson added, “What inspired us to become involved with Little Diggers and help get it estab-lished in Madisonville was ultimately wanting to see the Madisonville Mustang Volleyball pro-gram be competitive year in and year out.”
The former volleyball players began organizing what eventually became Madisonville Little Dig-gers.
Now, just five years later, the program boasts 12 teams, made up of 96 girls from the second to 6th grades, as well as a host of volunteer coaches. The teams compete in a league with Iola and Ander-son, and each town hosts games on a rotating schedule.
Though they are both equally passionate and dedicated to the cause, the sisters agreed that none of this would be possible without the collaborative efforts of so many in the community.
“Our community support has been outstanding,” Williamson said.
Kristen Hooten, current MHS head volleyball coach said she is ecstatic to have Little Diggers in Madisonville.
“Little Diggers is such an important part of our program,” she said. “It has helped build interest in the sport and started a foundation of fundamental skills at an early age.”
The benefits of volleyball to young ladies is to allow them to excel academically and build charac-ter.
“While I love competition and improving skills of the sport, I love investing in our girls even more,” Smith said. “It is my hope that these young ladies are learning so much more than the sport itself by being involved.”
Hooten echoed that, saying she envisions the girls in Little Diggers and her players at MHS having a mutual impact on each other.
“Those kids are the future of our program and I feel that it is important that they see what they are eventually working to be — a Lady Mustang,” she said. “I also feel that it is important for our high school athletes to understand that they are role models for younger kids.”