Melanie Valenciana’s start as a volleyball player came in Odessa.
The Permian graduate played the sport throughout high school and college before beginning a professional beach volleyball career in 2013.
Valenciana made a return to her hometown Sunday from her current home in the Dominican Republic to host camps for the Permian Basin Elite Volleyball Club.
This is the first time she has gotten to train with local athletes, showing them the ins and outs of a sport that’s still new to the area.
“To come back and do it, I was super excited to finally be able to give back to where I come from,” Valenciana said. “I know beach is not big here yet, so I’m happy to be one of the first ones to come show them.”
The idea came about thanks to club director Linda McMillan after running into Valenciana’s father during a shopping trip.
When Valenciana gave the green light, she and McMillan worked out a date to host camps and start coaching athletes around the area.
The connection between the two dates back to when Valenciana was still playing for the Panthers while McMillan was the head volleyball coach at Odessa High.
The player and coach didn’t know each other very well on a personal level but McMillan was accommodating when Valenciana agreed to host some camps in Odessa.
“Meeting her out here, she was such a great person,” Valenciana said of McMillan. “She helped so much, I felt very much at home.”
Valenciana didn’t have the chance to return home much since she started her professional career.
She started her collegiate career at Howard College before continuing on at Sul Ross State and Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.
It was during that time she also started from playing outside in the sand and realized that it brought out her inner competitor.
She wanted to prove to herself she could get to the ball quick enough on the sand then fell in love with the sport from there.
Valenciana didn’t officially make the transition to beach volleyball until she was out of college but has made the most of the time she has competed in the sport.
She is hoping to get a chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and is currently going through the Olympic trials.
She represents the U.S. Virgin Islands in international competition and McMillan made sure Valenciana would have a place to continue her practice schedule when she made her way out to Odessa.
Living in the Dominican Republic took some adjusting at first for Valenciana, who knows what to expect now that she has some experience with the area.
Valenciana said being back in Odessa was exciting for her parents, especially her mother. She said her mother was happy with any moment they could get together, even if the beach volleyball star was out training.
The hope is to keep these camps going with McMillan already extending an invitation to bring Valenciana back for more camps in November.
“Her parents are here, her family is here,” McMillan said. “Us bringing her here helps her get to see her family.”
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