Photo courtesy UTEP Atletics
Ben Wallis, in his first year leading UTEP volleyball, has already instilled a culture that is bringing the Sun City and Wallis’s squad together. The Miners have accumulated 132 hours of community service, which leads all teams at UTEP.
The team and coaching staff understand the importance of building these relationships in the community.
“It is near the top of the list in things, other than winning, that we have to do this year,” Wallis said. “The more the people know us, the more they have a personal relationship with our players, the more they are going to want to come out and cheer us on.”
After the Miners’ intra squad scrimmage last week, coach Wallis and the team had the opportunity to see first hand what those relationships can yield.
“We had a young lady on social media that showed the ball she got from Alex Torres, and posted that she is forever a Miner fan because of it. Literally Alex changed that kid’s life just by throwing her a ball, and she was stoked about it.”
Wallis wants moments like Torres and the little girl to become a regular occurrence for his team.
“Hopefully that becomes something that is engrained in our culture and engrained in our program from here on out.”
The Miners have lofty goals of amassing over 600 hours of community service by year’s end. They are looking to accomplish this in a multitude of ways. One of which is getting more involved at the children’s hospital. This mission holds personal significance for Wallis.
“There is a young boy that his parents and I are close,” Wallis recounted. “He comes down every other week to the children’s hospital because he has leukemia. I have told them on a number of occasions that I want to know when he’s coming down next, because I want to take our team over there.”
Another aspect will be getting involved with GameChangers Clinics, which helps provide underprivileged youth with athletic training.
“It is a great avenue for people that don’t have money,” Wallis explained. “It is for those who can’t play club volleyball, to be able to come out to some of the clinics. We want to get the young people in our city excited about volleyball and learn, whether its boys or girls it doesn’t matter. It is important to me to get involved with the youth in the community.”
Although there are 10 new players and a first-year coaching staff, this team is taking to the El Paso community with ease.
“Some of the veterans that have been here are starting to understand the need to reach out more,” Wallis said. “The young people have been great. They understand, and everyone is starting to get on the same page.”
The Sun City has already seen UTEP Volleyball impact the lives of its youth. The Wallis era promises to continue to foster a culture that builds relationships and builds the sport of volleyball in El Paso.
Brandon Michael Collins – UTEP