Jamestowner at the helm of NKHS unified volleyball team
Laura Hosley played volleyball as a high school student in Tenafly, N.J. When she studied at the University of Rhode Island, she continued to play, and she is still active as a volleyball player today.
“I played in high school when I couldn’t make the baton twirling squad,” Hosley said. “It could have been a great future, but that was cut short. I played for a year at URI, and I’ve been playing ever since. I still play once a week. I’ve slowed down, but I still enjoy it.”
In fact, nearly all of Hosley’s family is involved in the game. Hosley’s husband, oldest daughter, and son play. “The middle child decided she didn’t want to play because everyone else did,” Hosley laughed.
When she is not playing or coaching volleyball, Hosley works in substance abuse prevention. She was the coordinator of the Jamestown Prevention Coalition for 18 years until funding issues prevented her from continuing. However, she still attends every meeting.
Hosley oversees prevention grants for the Rhode Island Student Assistance. Currently, she is overseeing a large prevention grant called the Drug Free Communities grant in North Kingstown.
In addition to her substance abuse work, Hosley is currently coaching a North Kingstown High School unified volleyball team that is made up of students with disabilities. The program was started last year by Rhode Island Special Olympics to give students with challenges the opportunity to play a sport that they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to play on the varsity high school level. Similar programs exist for basketball and softball.
“Last year, when I went to my son’s freshman orientation, the athletic director said that they were in desperate need of a volleyball coach for our new unified team,” Hosley said. “The year before I had volunteered to assist with the girl’s junior varsity team, and I had decided not to do it again because I didn’t have the time. But when I heard him calling for someone to help, as soon as I left the gym I told him that I would do it.”
What makes the program that Hosley is involved in different is the participation of non-challenged students, known as “partners,” on the team as well. The objective of the program is to promote camaraderie and acceptance.
“The kids really do help each other out,” Hosley said. “It kind of blurs the differences between them, and they can laugh together. It really is an effective way to bring kids together so that the kids who have some type of disability don’t feel so different. They’re all playing together; they’re all having fun together. It’s probably one of the best parts of my week, going in and working with these kids because it’s very positive.”
Hosley added that the focus isn’t on winning, but instead on doing their best and having fun. “But of course the kids all want to win,” she said.
Approximately one-third of the high schools in Rhode Island participate in the coed volleyball program. North Kingstown High School is in the southern division of the league. Each team plays seven matches on a once-a-week schedule, each match consisting of three games. North Kingstown won all three games in their first match of the season against Ponaganset High School last week, and all three matches against Bishop Hendricken High School on Tuesday. At the end of the season there will be state championships.
Hosley holds two or three practices a week for her squad, and said that the work has paid off. “We have been told by the refs and by the director that we’re the most organized of the teams because we know how to play volleyball,” Hosley said. “On a lot of the teams, the special education directors decided to pick this up and they don’t necessarily know a lot about volleyball. We’re making sure that we’re teaching them the skills.”
She said that this season, all of the athletes on her team except one played for her last year. “So they came in at such an advanced level from last year. Some of my athletes are so amazing you wouldn’t believe it.”
Hosley is proud of the fact that most of her players are Jamestowners. “I knew a lot of them from youth volleyball that we have here in Jamestown, which I’ve always helped out with,” she said. “I kind of recruited them.”
Islanders on the team include Andrew Burrows, Brian Page, Bruce Page, Kerry Cardosz, Ashley Cardosz, Garrett Bucklin and Travis Earley.
Hosley only had one assistant last year, but that situation has improved for this season. She has several coaches helping her now, including Jamestowner Vincent Claro. Also helping her coach is Joanne Fitts, who has 30 years of experience in coaching volleyball. Fitts is also the boys’ varsity coach at North Kingstown High School, and the unified team includes three varsity players from Fitts’ team. One of them is Hosley’s son.
“I was really reluctant to take it on this year because I really don’t have any extra time,” Hosley said. “But my son is one of the partners on the team, and that makes a difference, to be able to share this thing with him. I didn’t want to take something on that would take me away from my family even more, but because he’s participating it’s a great thing for us to share. He calls me mom instead of coach at the practices.”