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Though the Virginia Venom came from humble beginnings, the youth organization has quickly transformed into a staple within the Williamsburg youth athletics community.
As those involved with the Venom celebrate the program’s sixth anniversary in August, those in charge are taking some time to reflect on the past, as well as look forward to the future.
The Virginia Venom was the brainchild of the Woolwine, Bauer and Sawyer families in 2009 when, after watching their children compete in the Williamsburg Youth Baseball all-star tournaments, the families noticed the absence of high-caliber, year-round competition in the area.
Woods Woolwine, a co-founder of the Venom, took charge and headed the creation of the organization with a clear purpose in mind: to fill a niche within the Williamsburg community.
“From day one all we’ve wanted to do is to provide the athletes with a place to play higher level sports,” Woolwine said of the Venom’s origins. “We didn’t have much of that in Williamsburg at the time.”
The program created in 2009, which began as a 10-and-under baseball team, looks vastly different from the one today that boasts more than 300 athletes across four sports, including basketball, lacrosse and volleyball.
While Venom has continued growing and adding new sports to the organization, Woolwine sees no need to expand just for the sake of it. Woolwine said if there is a niche in Williamsburg that needs filling, Venom will be there.
“We’re not just doing it to step on everybody’s toes in Williamsburg,” Woolwine said. “We aren’t going to add another sport just to add another sport. If another program exists and is doing a good job, we aren’t here to take their business. We’re 100 percent nonprofit, so it’s not like anybody is making any money off this. It’s strictly for the kids.”
One of the main goals of the Virginia Venom is to help train kids in a way that will make them more competitive at the varsity level.
“Their development puts them in a position to compete at the middle school and high school levels,” said Virginia Venom board member and equipment coordinator Dave Schoebel. “They are better prepared through their coaching, through the indoor facility that’s offered, through the private lessons. The overall structure is focused on development and continued development to take the kids to the next level.”
And while Virgina Venom athletes have been thriving on their respective playing surfaces, the organization has also made a point to emphasize academics – a key factor in athletes playing in college.
Woolwine said 88 percent of Venom participants, 90 percent of whom are Williamsburg residents, made honor roll in the classroom.
“Athletics are great, but our organization is more than just athletics,” Woolwine said.
With a healthy focus on athletics and academics mixed in with community service and outreach – the organization has held multiple food drives and helped the William & Mary baseball team donate equipment to children in Nicaragua – Virginia Venom has made giving back a focus over the past six years.
The success of Virginia Venom surprises Woolwine, who admitted he never thought the organization would get as big or carry as much pull within the community as it currently does.
Woolwine pointed to the success of the state champion Lafayette baseball team, which had four players – Luc Lipcius, Andre Lipcius, Chase Bauer and Austin Bauer – play for the Virginia Venom, as a prime example of why he started the organization.
With success stories like that of the Lafayette baseball team popping up around Williamsburg, Woolwine and the Virginia Venom plan to stay the course for the foreseeable future.
“We are very happy with what is coming out of the organization and how the kids are developing, so we look forward to watching them to continue to grow,” he said. “We wouldn’t change a thing we have done in the past and we don’t plan to change anything for the future.”