Large junior contingent head to Boston
The Bermuda Volleyball Association's junior programme will be sending its biggest team to an overseas tournament when five teams compete in the Mizuno Boston Volleyball Festival this weekend.
The tournament from tomorrow to Sunday, represents the most number of volleyball teams sent overseas to represent Bermuda at one time, with four girls and one boys competing over the three days.
It is the second overseas trip for the junior national programme. They will play under team names such as Paradise Hitters (girls' under-12, under-15, under-16 and under-18) and Big Wave Riders (boys' under-18).
Some 750 teams are registered to compete at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“This tournament marks a number of noteworthy achievements for the junior programme,” the Bermuda Volleyball Association said.
“One of the main goals of the junior programme is to develop a large foundation of volleyball players that will sustain the sport in Bermuda for years to come and this tournament is a step in that direction.
“Paradise Hitters Under-12 represent the youngest volleyball team sent to compete in an overseas tournament, where the youngest player is just nine years old. The total travelling group will be approximately 80 people, of which 47 will be participating players at an average age of 14 or 15 years old.
“It was not an easy road to be selected to one of these travelling teams so congratulations to those who have made one of these teams and to everyone else who have put in so much dedication and commitment. All players have been training two to three times a week since September and everyone is very excited for their second major outing.
“Additionally, all teams have been playing in the Burrows & Lightbourn Truly Winter League, honing their skills and strategy to give them the best opportunity to do well over the weekend's matches. Giving these young athletes the opportunity to compete overseas is extremely valuable and this tournament provides them with an opportunity to gain experience above and beyond what is available in Bermuda.”
The BVA added: None of this would be possible without the generous support of our sponsors and dedicated team of coaches and staff. Our amazing sponsors have allowed this programme to be accessible to so many new players and have helped provide the opportunities to create seasoned players that have the experience to compete on the global stage. All coaches are committed to the players and the programme; not only creating talented volleyball players, but strong, confident, team oriented young leaders.”
Mike Gazzard, head coach of Paradise Hitters Under-12s, said: “For the first time in our club's history we are taking away a Paradise Hitters U-12 team. This group of nine girls, ranging in age from 9 to 12, have been practicing together since September 2019.
“During this time, we have focused on developing the core technical skills that will help build a foundation for future success at the club level. This international tournament represents a fantastic opportunity to compete and gain valuable experience against girls of similar age.
“Our goal for this tournament is to learn the tactical side of the game while further growing their passion for the sport of volleyball.”
Lisa LeBlanc, head coach of Paradise Hitters Under-15s, is looking forward to some good performances from her team. “I'm excited for my under-15s to have the opportunity to attend another overseas tournament this weekend as this phenomenal experience is invaluable to their growth of the sport,” LeBlanc said.
“The selection process this time was extremely difficult, but the team is a mix of seven who have travelled previously and two who have never participated in an overseas tournament. This will be an eye opener to many of the girls, especially the two new players, as this is one of the largest tournaments we have attended.
“I am eager for the girls to not only obtain further experience actually playing on the court, but the growth they will receive by simply being engrossed with their peers and most of all watching all the talented athletes at the top of their age bracket and higher.
“We began the season with mostly fundamentals and have been able to progress by adding progressive game-like drills and implementing a myriad of higher level individual skills which they can add to their toolbox of volleyball skills.”
She added: “This team has an impressive bundle of energy and I'm excited to see the positive changes from the first game to the last as they improve over the three day tournament.
“Hopefully we can come away with some wins, but no matter what the scores reflect, a win for me is when the girls give their very best efforts and do everything the way they know how and you can see the passion and excitement come out.
“These are the building blocks for many years of volleyball to come for them and I'm 100 per cent certain they will come back with an enhanced skill set and will be ready to learn even more.”