One of volleyball’s biggest boosters in Wichita has a new venue for his passion.
Jeff Sanders opened the Wichita Sports Center in October, with eight regulation-size volleyball courts, space for weight training and more.
“This is something that’s going to help grow the Wichita area in volleyball,” Sanders said.
The facility already has about 300 junior players – those from 11 to 18 years old – playing club volleyball there two to three times a week, with tournaments on weekends. About 150 adults participate in the center’s co-ed leagues on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Sanders was an assistant coach for the Wichita State University women’s volleyball team from 2004 to 2013, and before that he was head coach at Garden City Community College. He’s also offered individual and small-group training and started wichitavolleyball.com, an online source for all things volleyball, five years ago.
Sanders grew up in Garden City, becoming interested in volleyball through his father, an avid player. His brother, Harvey, former coach of the men’s team at Newman University, now holds Jeff’s old job at GCC. His daughter, Kiersten, a former player for Maize High School, helps out at the sports center while his son, Daric, plays for Limestone College in South Carolina.
Sanders said he left the collegiate coaching ranks so that he could have the flexibility to do things such as travel to his son’s volleyball matches, not because he grew tired of coaching.
“I definitely am doing what I am supposed to be doing,” he said. “I do have a gift for improving players.”
The players he trains include 9-year-olds just starting the sport, recent college grads who want to play professionally overseas and 30-somethings who just want to serve better in their coed league. The biggest group are junior and high school girls who want to excel in the sport.
One thing noticeable about Sanders’ center is the number of volleyballs – enough for 60 on each court. That’s so players don’t have to pick up balls during drills. In fact, “shagging” balls is often their parents’ job.
“We want them training and their parents want them training.”
To make full use of the facility, Sanders also plans to start leagues for indoor soccer and “footsal” – a variation on soccer. He’s also offering “bubble soccer,” in which players wear giant padded bubbles.
“You get to bump each other around and knock each other down.”
The center has a concession area, equipment shop, massage therapy studio and screen printing press, where Sanders plans to produce gear for his athletes and others. With cameras posted on each court, the center can offer coaches and parents videos of any practice or game.
Sanders called the city’s youth volleyball scene “very active” but said it lags behind cities such as Omaha in the number of adults playing.
“That’s what we’re hoping to develop,” said Sanders, who has been an organizer of adult sand volleyball leagues during Riverfest and at Jersey’s Bar & Grill.
He had been looking for place to put a volleyball facility for years when he found a former warehouse on Madison, in a light industrial district off Southeast Boulevard.
Sanders has even been discussing the possibility putting sand volleyball courts on the roof of his new sports center – surrounded, of course, by safety fences.
“It’d be pretty sweet if we can get it set up.”
Now you know
Wichita Sports Center
Address: 3001 S. Madison
Owner: Jeff Sanders