Volleyballers look to build game in CBN
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.”
The CBN Volleyball Club is turning athletes into volleyball players every Wednesday night at Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts.