Vol­ley­ballers look to build game in CBN

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Amal­ga­mated Academy in Bay Roberts is a busy spot Wed­nes­day evenings, with vol­ley­ball play­ers from el­e­men­tary school all the way up to high school go­ing through drills to sharpen their skills. The CBN Vol­ley­ball Club has 120 ath­letes this year, and coach Ste­wart Ralph likens the pro­gram to a com­mu­nity

There’s a vol­ley­ball resur­gence go­ing on in Con­cep­tion Bay North.

And, all you need to do to find proof is swing by the gym­na­sium at Amal­ga­mated Academy in Bay Roberts on Wed­nes­day nights to find out.

There you’ll find the CBN Vol­ley­ball Club go­ing through three hours of drills aimed at teach­ing the fun­da­men­tals of the game to young ath­letes from el­e­men­tary school to high school.

On any given night, a pair of vol­ley­ball nets is setup and groups of play­ers are moved to each court. There, they are put through their paces where they learn the finer points of bump­ing, hit­ting and vol­ley­ing the ball un­der the watch­ful gaze of adult coaches and stu­dent helpers.

“This would never work with­out the help of the high school kids,” coach Ste­wart Ralph told The Com­pass last week.

This year the pro­gram tops out at 120 ath­letes and it’s very much like a com­mu­nity. While the younger ones move through their ses­sion, the older ones wait for their turn to learn on the stage ad­ja­cent to the far net.

“Be­cause the pro­gram has taken hold, the ath­letes who are reg­is­tered at this point are vol­ley­ball play­ers or want to be vol­ley­ball play­ers,” said Ralph.

Even then the high school ath­letes are hit­ting the ball back and forth or vol­ley­ing a ball off one of the far walls.

It’s been seven years since the CBN club first got things started. Since then, they’ve moved from a recre­ational club hop­ing to give the sport some bet­ter foot­ing in the area to train­ing ath­letes to com­pete with some of the best this prov­ince has to of­fer.

The key is work­ing with ath­letes young and hop­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences in the game will en­cour­age them to con­tinue with it as they age.

It’s about build­ing the pro­gram by al­ways show­cas­ing it to younger ath­letes.

“We run mini vol­ley pro­grams in Grades 5 and 6, and that’s the base,” said Ralph.

“Once they’ve been ex­posed to that, they’re mak­ing a de­ci­sion of whether or not they want to con­tinue as they get older as a vol­ley­ball player or if they’re tak­ing up some­thing else,” he said. “The last cou­ple of years, even though our num­bers have stayed high, we’ve been able to spe­cial­ize a lit­tle more be­cause, like I said, the ath­letes who are reg­is­ter­ing want to be vol­ley­ball play­ers.

“The other thing is we’re start­ing to see chil­dren of par­ents who were vol­ley­ball play­ers.”

It’s easy to see it’s been a hit. Mul­ti­ple play­ers from the pro­gram have gone on to star with pro­vin­cial teams. One, Ryan Lit­tle­john, was named tour­na­ment MVP for his club at the At­lantic tour­na­ment last sum­mer.

Play­ers from the pro­gram dot team ros­ters at the ju­nior high and high school lev­els in the area, but it’s what the CBN club can of­fer them once the short school sea­son is over that re­ally at­tracts them.

The vol­ley­ball sea­son tends to wind down in late Novem­ber or early De­cem­ber – the fi­nal high school tour­na­ment runs un­til Dec. 11.

With such high num­bers, the CBN club is able to field teams in NLVA pro­vin­cial tour­na­ments af­ter Christ­mas.

The last cou­ple of years, even though our num­bers have stayed high, we’ve been able to spe­cial­ize a lit­tle more be­cause, like I said, the ath­letes who are reg­is­ter­ing want to be vol­ley­ball play­ers. Ste­wart Ralph

This ex­tends the sea­son for ath­letes in the club and keeps the game at the fore­front longer.

“That’s when we re­ally started to get the sta­bil­ity,” said Ralph. “Be­fore that, we were ba­sic skills for Grades 5,6,7 and 8, and we tried to get in­volve­ment at the high school level. As much as there was the odd skill de­vel­op­ment ses­sion with peo­ple com­ing and go­ing, we didn’t have the con­sis­tency.

“When we put tour­na­ments on the line, if you’re in­volved you play tour­na­ments with the CBN club, not only are you get­ting high school ath­letes want­ing to be there and train for tour­na­ments, you’re get­ting them want­ing to be in­volved and pro­mot­ing it to the younger ath­letes.”

One of those younger ath­letes is Shane Ryan. A Grade 9 stu­dent at Amal­ga­mated, he got in­volved in vol­ley­ball be­cause his older brother Brady played the game.

In the midst of his third year with the CBN club, Shane has seen him­self get bet­ter with the help of the pro­gram.

“It’s worked a lot (for me),” he said of how the club has helped him. “It’s ex­tra prac­tice for me.”

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/TC ME­DIA

The CBN Vol­ley­ball Club is turn­ing ath­letes into vol­ley­ball play­ers ev­ery Wed­nes­day night at Amal­ga­mated Academy in Bay Roberts.

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