Junior volleyballers set for overseas test
Bermuda's youth volleyball players will compete overseas for the first time this summer as the game's governing body look to make big strides in the sport's development.
The boys and girls youth national teams have been invited to compete in Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association events in the West Indies in June and August as part of a plan to grow the game in Bermuda.
Until now volleyball had been mainly based around senior teams although as the majority of the players at that level are non-Bermudian and opportunities for international competition have been limited.
That's something Bermuda Volleyball Association are out to change with a three-year plan they hope will encourage more young Bermudians to play the game.
“We're still getting this off the ground,” said organiser Stacey Cooke. “We started last year with summer camps and stuff like that but now we've kicked it into high gear. Travelling for the first time ever to the Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association tournaments is a huge, huge deal.”
So far there are around 40 youth players split between the girls and boys national teams, with several of the better players already training with the senior squads.
The intention is to create a development structure that will provide a path for talented youngsters to reach the top level.
“BVA Youth is still in the foundation stage,” said organiser Stacey Cooke, “but we're looking at a two to three year implementation of this programme.
“At the bottom level, by the third year, we're hoping there will be mini-volley, which is volleyball for under-13s. The next level above that, which we have already started, will be divided between youth nationals, which are the kids that we have now and junior nationals.”
While the senior squads can compete at the more relaxed Island Games in June, for Bermuda to take part in international competitions regionally in events sanctioned by the North America, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Federation (NORCECA), they must have players who were either born in Bermuda, or have lived here for five years. Having local-born players would also help the BVA in terms of sponsorship, something they need as the Government grant they currently receive is negligible at best.
“The majority of the national team is non-Bermudian, which poses a little bit of a challenge for sponsorship now and then,” said Cooke. “But the majority of our youth national team is Bermudian, in fact I would say 95 percent. In order for us to compete internationally in NORCECA tournaments they (players) have to be Bermudian, or have been living in Bermuda for five years.”
The basis for a programme appears to be there and with only 12 spots up for grabs in each team for the ECVA tournaments this summer, everyone is fighting to be part of that historic first tour.
“The players are getting the idea of what it means to be a professional athlete. We have about 20 girls in the youth programme and we're only travelling with 12, so they know that they have to work and show that they want to do it and the ones that put in the time and energy will be the ones that get picked to travel.”
n For more information on youth volleyball in Bermuda, or to sign up to the Spring Camp at the beginning of April, visit www.bermudavolleyball.bm