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by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

STONE HARBOR, N.J. – When Flyers’ athletic trainer Jim McCrossin plans the annual Trial on the Isle for the prospects taking participating in Development Camp, he’s always looking to change things up a little bit to keep it fresh.

Two years ago, he added the stand-up paddle board as the “water challenge.” Last year he had the players work with military trainers on the beach.

This year’s change? Volleyball.

Well, not just volleyball – there was a mini Mudder on the beach too – but the end of day activity drew a lot of participation and excitement from the fans in attendance, and it was a hit with the players as well.

“It was great to have so much activity and everyone participating at the same time,” said McCrossin, who along with his wife Robin are the masterminds behind the traditional event. “It was also great to see our fans interacting with our players and conversely our players taking the initiative to interact with our fans.

“It was a perfect blend for both and really turned out to be a great way to wrap up the event.”

The Volleyball portion was a new addition - replacing softball - and it was a hit at the annual Trial on the Isle.

The day started with the prospects running about one-and-a-quarter miles on the beach and then running the same distance back, only having obstacles or challenges every two blocks.

Those obstacles – which was the “Flyers Mudder” aspect of the day – required the prospects to work in groups of four to accomplish their mission – but it was with a twist.

“At each stop we tried to take away one of their senses – whether it was their sight or their hearing,” McCrossin said. “We wanted to challenge them to work together as a team of four, which is a lesson in how to be a good teammate too.”

The next step took the team to the bayside of the island, for water challenges that again included the stand-up paddleboard.

Many players struggled at first to get used to the balance required to stand up on the board, but most of them got it. The key phrase is “most of them.”

For Flyers third round draft pick Tyrell Gouldbourne, figuring it out was, well, a challenge.

“It was terrifying,” Gouldbourne said. “I was petrified out there. It took a lot of getting used to, but when nobody was looking I got it and I was flying. Other than that it was pretty embarrassing. I fell into the water probably four or five times… in the first minute.”

But the highlight of the day was the volleyball challenge which split up the Flyers prospects into eight teams. Groups of fans (and one sad sack group of writers) played against each of the prospect teams in a round robin tournament. The top two prospect teams record-wise ended up playing each other in the best-of-three finals.

Those squads saw a team of Anthony Stolarz, Taylor Leier, Reece Willcox and a random fan, square off against a team of Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins, Cal Heeter and David Drake.

Stolarz was unstoppable because of his size, leading his team to a 2-0 win over Laughton’s squad.

“I never knew I was a good volleyball player,” Stolarz said. “I used to play in high school and stuff, but noting like this on the beach. I guess it worked because my teammates kept setting me and I just used my height to get a lot of points.”

They all shared in the win, but Anthony Stolarz (second from the left) was a beast at the net and helped bring home the trophy.

Willcox’s explanation was a bit more technical.

“I think our success came from the fact that we were playing in a diamond while they were playing a more traditional square,” he said. “We were able to take advantage of some gaps on their side.”

All told it was a fun day for the players to experience and maybe blow off some steam in the process.

“It’s really cool what [Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere] and Jimmy McCrossin have done this year,” Stolarz said. “They’ve changed it up to make it better camp that isn’t as focused on playing at 100 percent in July, but rather concentrates more on developing certain skills and they added some new wrinkles to the beach too. All in al, it’s been a great week so far.”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

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