By Jason Rosas for VolleyballMag.com
PLANO, Texas — The club volleyball world knows the green and black of MadFrog, the North Texas girls volleyball club that has had tremendous success over the years. Opposing teams know you better show up with your “A” game when playing MadFrog.
But few outside the talent-rich North Texas area know where the name MadFrog came from.
It started with owner and director Stefanie Samuels, who played club for Dead Frog Volleyball in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before becoming an outside hitter at Western Michigan from 1995-98.
“I just sat down with pen and paper and started brainstorming and wrote down Michigan things like Broncos (mascot of Western Michigan), and things that made us unique,” Samuels said. “I first wrote down frogs. Then wrote down leapfrog, then that frog, this frog, and out of nowhere I wrote down MadFrog and I really liked it.”
And it stuck.
“I wanted a unique name and definitely wanted something that came from my history. And didn’t want it to be a generic Texas name and wanted it to stand out … Our very first shirt that we came up said, ‘I’m not Mad, that’s just the way I play.’ ”
And that style of play has led MadFrog to six USA Volleyball national championships since 2009, including last season when the 11s won the National division. In 2009, a MadFrog 13s teams won an Open titlle. In 2012 and 13, it won 12s National. In 2015 MadFrog won the 18s National crown, and in 2016 its 17s won the American Division.
Samuels was in Texas working for a doctor and training his kids in volleyball when she decided it was time to start her own club. That’s when she enlisted the help of, coincidentally, another former Dead Frog and WMU player, Nicky Bramschreiber.
“I was training a lot of volleyball kids and then interviewed Nicky to work with me,” Samuels said. “I had never met her. But she went to Western Michigan and both of us played club for Dead Frog in Michigan.”
Bramschreiber is the co-director at MadFrog and coaches the 16s top team.
“Ever since I met Nicky, it’s like a sisterhood,” Samuels said. “Players will call her Aunt Nicky … We sat there for hours the first time we met and talked. She is a really core part of our program.”
Bramschrieber is also the mother of Shanel and Cecliy Bramschriber, two of the more recognizable names to come out of MadFrog, They were both standout players Texas high school power Lovejoy.
Shanel recently concluded a stellar college career at Baylor University as a libero and Cecily will be a sophomore libero at TCU. This past season, Shanel led Baylor in digs and was tied for second in aces. Cecily was second on TCU’s team in digs.
Among the MadFrog alums is Gina Tellis, who played for LSU from 2014-2017, where she finished her career with 1,114 kills.
“Regina Tellis was another one that could have played overseas,” Samuels mentioned. “She was on that very first team that won nationals (in 2009), that 13s team that I had.”
Indeed, when Samuels formed MadFrog she had a lot of future standouts.
“When I got my first group of girls, they were very talented, really talented, and probably more talented than what I deserved starting out a new club,” Samuels said. “When they started out at 12s, they went all the way through 18s with me.”
Every club wants to get the top talent in their area and hold onto it. But there are always obstacles to any philosophy. And in the highly competitive North Texas Region, keeping the top players is always challenging.
“The great thing is, it’s how we’ve built the club,” Samuels said. “We built it from 12s. The downside was, a lot of the competitor clubs would say, ‘we don’t have the better older clubs. And we didn’t at that time (18 years ago).”
The success has continued, of course. This year, through March 1, MadFrog boasts the top ranked teams in the North Texas Region in 10s, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 18s.
“What we’ve done is kept the philosophy of building them young and training them and now we are strong over all the age groups,” Samuels said. “If you look at our 18s, most of those kids played here since 10s and 11s. They stayed at MadFrog instead of leaving to go play at a different club and now that has become the norm.”
The current 18s MadFrog team has already qualified for USA Volleyball Nationals by taking second at the Music City Championships national qualifier.
“We set out to have a particular type of culture, and I think that is unique,” Samuels said. “We have a great program. We set out to have great teams, but we also want a lot of love and care. I’ll have coaches come to me to interview and I’ve turned down some really good coaches because they may not fit our philosophies or culture.”
Jason Rosas is a volleyball dad. His daughter plays for another Dallas-area club, Drive Nation. He is a former sportswriter for the Bryan-College Station Eagle newspaper and made contributions to the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and many other publications. Jason now works as a sports agent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Contact him at Jsr1646@yahoo.com
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