BY KYLE BRAVIN
Volleyball is more than just a sport for Nicole Wentz.
A Long Island, New York, native now living in Clarks Summit, Wentz has played volleyball most of her life and credits the sport for making her who she is today. She was never the fastest kid, but she realized she had a “pretty decent serve” in sixth-grade gym class. Wentz decided to give volleyball a try the following year and acquired “an aggressive, do-anything-to-keep-the-ball-off-the-floor mentality,” she said.
During college, Wentz realized “athletics is what drove me,” she said, and decided to make sports a career. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Muhlenberg College and a master’s in athletic administration from Temple University, and she has put those degrees to good use as president of Abington Youth Volleyball League.
Wentz, now 44, started the league in 2015 as a clinic with just 26 kids. As the head volleyball coach at Keystone College at the time, Wentz needed to do a community service activity with her team, and they decided on the clinic so kids could learn and fall in love with the game like she did.
The clinic did so well that it developed into a full league with games only a year later. Today, Abington Youth Volleyball League includes 135 kids from fourth to eighth grades.
“It sort of started by a happy accident,” Wentz said.
Since starting the league, Wentz has learned a lot, with one of the most important lessons being that “different kids learn in different ways,” she said. But Wentz thinks the best part about her volleyball league is that it’s not overly intense.
“We are able to keep it fun and enjoyable for all the kids so they can keep learning,” she said.
She also wants to pass on her love of volleyball to her own kids — Jackson, Brielle, Callee and Colton — who participate in the league, too.
One of the biggest challenges Wentz faces is finding places suitable for volleyball. When she coached for Keystone, her league could use the school’s gym to practice and play, but since she moved on from there in 2017, she has had more of a struggle to schedule facilities.
The support Wentz has received from the community has been instrumental in turning her volleyball league into what it is today.
“Definitely through the years, more and more people have stepped up for voluntary roles,” she said. “Through word of mouth, the excitement has been both rewarding and encouraging.”
Between coaching and parenting, Wentz still finds time to play in a women’s volleyball league in Tunkhannock, and she has always been heavily involved in the community and finds enjoyment in interacting with new people. After having her first child in 2006, she started a Scranton area “Moms of Munchkins” program where mothers can interact with each other and their children.
In addition to her league, Wentz also started her own private team for fifth- and sixth-grade girls this past fall that is associated with USA Volleyball. She has a passion for coaching and takes pride in seeing her players succeed. One of the things that has made her the most proud is “that seven or eight of my former players have continued on to coaching at the collegiate level,” she said.
In both coaching her team and running her league, Wentz feels inspired when she sees how her players have grown.
“Volleyball has given me so much in my life, and I just want to pay it forward,” she said. “Providing a service that brings joy to people’s lives is the greatest thing I can provide for the community.”
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Meet Nicole Wentz
- At home: A Carle Place, New York, native, she now lives in Clarks Summit with her husband, Jeremy. They have four children, Jackson, Brielle, Callee and Colton.
- At work: President and founder of Abington Youth Volleyball League
- Inspirations: Watching and being part of seeing kids grow and improve
- Aspirations: “To expand this league to the Valley View and North Pocono area and maybe see the Scranton schools get a volleyball league of some sorts,” she said.
- Diversions: Reading, working out, playing volleyball and spending time with her family and friends
- Quote: “When you learn, teach; when you get, give.” — Maya Angelou