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With foreign coaching expertise in town, The Bahamas' senior men's national volleyball team is expected to make tremendous strides, particularly with the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games rapidly approaching.
The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) announced yesterday that the Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF) will benefit from the arrival of a top level FIVB (International Federation of Volleyball) certified coach and instructor here in The Bahamas. Brazilian Augusto Jose Sabbatini is here for one month, September 13 to October 13, as part of NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation), CAZOVA (Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association) and the Bahamas Olympic Committee's plans to build capacity in the Olympic sport of volleyball here in the country.
"This is a great partnership between the Bahamas Olympic Committee and the Bahamas Volleyball Federation," said federation president Joe Smith yesterday. "He's (Sabbatini) here for coaches development and athletic development, working along with the Bahamian coaches to further polish the skills of all volleyball players, but especially the senior men's national team, because they got us to the level where we are at now," added Smith.
The senior men's national volleyball team has been successful in a number of tournaments over the past three years, and is scheduled to represent The Bahamas at the CAC Games from November 14-30, in Veracruz, Mexico. Smith said that the goal remains to one day qualify for the Olympic Games.
"We came to the realization that to get to that next level, and to get to the Olympics, we need some professional help," said Smith. "We came to an agreement to have a coach sent to The Bahamas for one month. He already has gotten to work as he worked with the national team on Monday night, and will continue working with national teams, and the youth and junior programs. He'll be working with the coaches as well. We want to upgrade the skill level of the various coaches here in the country. Hopefully, we'll be able to get him in Grand Bahama for one week to work with some of the coaches there. We might be able to get some of the Abaco coaches to join us in Grand Bahama as well. The goal is to strengthen the program."
Smith added that at this time the primary focus is to enhance the senior men's national team, with that team set to participate at the CAC Games in Mexico in November. He said that they are poised to do very well at the CAC Games.
"I think that, once we fine tune certain areas, we will be in a better position to play against the bigger teams in this region," said Smith. "We played some of the bigger teams in the region before and gave them tough matches, so who knows what cam happen once we enhance our skill level."
As for Coach Sabbatini, he said that he is grateful to be here in The Bahamas, and is looking forward to working with the Bahamian players and coaches.
"The Bahamas has a very good team - not far from the top teams in the region," he said. "I want to get The Bahamas closer to that top level. We need the new talent to come into the picture. It's a good team but could imagine how good this team could be with improved facilities where the team could train every day, about two times each day. The team has to put in the work," he added.
Sabbatini has been involved in coaching volleyball for the past 23 years and intends to bring a new dimension to the sport here in The Bahamas.
The two top volleyball teams from four high school sporting associations in the country will take to the court, hoping to spike their way to a national title.
The inaugural National High Schools Volleyball Tournament of Champions is set for November 29-30 at the C.I. Gibson Gymnasium. The tournament has been sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and will be hosted by the New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA), which falls under the umbrella of the Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF). The two-day event is being sponsored by J.S. Johnson & Company Ltd.
The four high school sporting associations that will take part in the tournament are the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS); Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA), Grand Bahama School Association (GBSA) and Bahamas Scholastic and Athletic Association (BSAA). The teams are C.V. Bethel, C.R. Walker, Government High School, St. Andrew's College, Bahamas Academy, St. Augustine's College, Nassau Christian Academy, Mount Carmel, Teleos, Bishop Michael Eldon and St. George's High.
"On behalf of the Bahamas Volleyball Federation and the New Providence Volleyball Association, we would really like to thank the Ministry of Education for seeing it fit to invite us to come on board for such a prestigious event," said DeVince Smith, president of the NPVA. "With volleyball
being one of the core sports in The Bahamas, we would like to really thank you because we believe in creating a student-athlete and we realize the importance of sports and education. We see this tournament as a great start for volleyball for our youth in The Bahamas.
"Not only does it create a positive outline, but it gives our students an opportunity to develop their skills where they can become collegiate or professional players. We are grateful to have this opportunity to step in and do our part to ensure that this tournament is a success. We cannot thank you enough. We hope that one day this tournament can become as big, or create as much fans as the Hugh Campbell tournament."
The tournament will have a round robin format with each team playing at least two or three games before advancing to the play-offs. According to tournament director, Kirkwood Greene, the set-up is designed to provide more play opportunities for the teams. If the top two schools from any of the sporting associations are unable to attend, invitations will be extended to third and fourth place squads. Greene, along with the Director of Sports in the ministry, Evon Wisdom, are hoping to receive final confirmation by the end of the week, or no later than Monday.
With this being a national championship, Wisdom apologized for not having representation from all the schools in the country. He revealed that the ministry is in discussions with the other school sporting associations, hoping to have all the sports played around the same time. This, according to Wisdom, will make it easier when wanting to host national events.
"This tournament will grow from strength to strength and as the tournament grows, we will be able to get more of the different organizations and leagues within the islands to participate in the tournament," Wisdom said. "Discussions are now happening, as we try to get all of the schools playing the same sport around the same time. The only sport I know all of the associations come together is track and field. We are trying to do the same thing in the other sports."
The volleyball season in the GSSSA recently concluded and the BAISS season will start in 2014.
Once again, some of the best volleyball players in the region will descend upon these shores for the annual 'Defend Ya Spike' Volleyball Classic. The fourth annual tournament is set for this weekend, Friday to Sunday, at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium. As it stands now, 14 teams are expected to take part - seven in each gender.
The invitational, which is once again being supported by Scotiabank Bahamas Ltd., will feature players from the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and The Bahamas. The host club, Scotiabank Defenders, is encouraging all to come out and support this hard-hitting affair which promises to provide entertainment for the entire family.
"First of all, we'd like to thank Scotiabank for the support that they have showed to our club over the past seven years," said Defenders player Rajahl Moxey yesterday. "Despite ongoing economic challenges, Scotiabank continues to give back to the community. In particular, they remain committed to the Defenders and was more than willing to partner with us in the hosting of this international club volleyball invitational. We'd like to thank them for that."
The tournament is being staged by the Defenders in conjunction with the Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF), and will get underway at noon on Friday. It will run until about 9 p.m. on Friday, and then teams will play all day on Saturday from about 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The classic will wrap up around 7 p.m. on Sunday. There is a charge of $2 for adults, $1 for high school students, and children under 10 years of age get in free of charge.
The host club Defenders is the two-time champions of the classic, and has also won four New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA) men's titles in a row.
"It certainly is a great pleasure to announce our partnership with the Scotiabank Defenders, hosting this 4th Annual "Defend Ya Spike" volleyball tournament. We also take great pleasure in congratulating the Scotiabank Defenders on their victory once again in the NPVA," said Leah Davis, Scotiabank's Senior Manager of Marketing and Public Relations. "This tournament continues to grow, and it not only showcases the athletic talent of our volleyball athletes, but it also showcases The Bahamas which is great for sports tourism.
"This event goes beyond the promotion of the sport of volleyball. It gives us an opportunity to showcase the beauty and culture of The Bahamas. As you know, Scotiabank is an active participant in the community and we are excited to be a part of this event. We wish the Defenders and all of the participating and visiting teams the very best of luck this weekend."
The Defenders have won four straight NPVA titles, and five of the past seven. They are also the two-time defending champions of the 'Defend Ya Spike' tournament, and they are certainly looking to win again this weekend. That task is expected to be much more tougher this time around, with a number of quality teams taking part. The International Jammers out of North Carolina are expected to bring a male and female team down to The Bahamas, and for the first time, two teams, male and female, will come from Freeport, Grand Bahama. A few foreign professional players are expected to add to the competitive nature of the tournament as well.
"Word has gotten out about this action-packed tournament. It is highly anticipated," said Moxey. "The international players from the Caribbean and the U.S. are expected to add to this tournament."
The Defenders are expected to field two men's teams for the tournament - an 'A' squad featuring national team players such as Byron Ferguson, Shedrick Forbes, Tony Simon, Ian 'Wire' Pinder and Endierich Rahming; and a 'B' squad featuring players such as Moxey, Garry Greenslade and Lorenzo Williams, just to name a few. Some of the local female players expected to take part in the tournament are Melinda Bastian, Cheryse Bain, Laval Sands, Krystel Brown, Je'Nae Saunders, Avoni Seymour and Brittney Bonamy, just to name a few.
"The Bahamas Volleyball Federation fully endorses the Defenders in this tournament," said BVF President Joe Smith. "The federation saw fit that this tournament was meaningful, not just to our local players, but to the region as well. From the federation perspective, we would like to see this continuing to happen. We endorse any club that wants to stage a tournament of such magnitude. There are players coming from throughout the Caribbean, and this tournament could serve as a good warm-up for our teams for CVC. It tells us where we are as a nation in the sport of volleyball. We would just like to congratulate the Defenders for a splendid endeavor. Volleyball is the number one team sport over the past three years in The Bahamas, and we want corporate Bahamas to support volleyball like Scotiabank is doing."
Both the men and women's national teams will play in the Caribbean Volleyball Championships (CVC) this summer, and the men have qualified for the 22nd Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Veracruz, Mexico, in November. The men also just returned from the third of qualifying for the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) World Championships with a third place finish, just missing out on an opportunity to advance further.
The Bahamas' only professional volleyball player, Byron Ferguson, said yesterday that tournaments such as the 'Defend Ya Spike' Volleyball Classic helped to aid in his development and prepared him for international competition.
"The excitement for this tournament is in the air," said Defenders' coach Devince Smith. "We'd just like to thank Scotiabank for their continued support. Words can't express how grateful we are to them. We're looking forward to a lot of clean fun, and a very exciting tournament. We just want the general public to come out and support us. It's going to be pretty competitive."
International players have already begun arriving in town for the start of the tournament, and more players will come in today.
The Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF) recently sent Byron Ferguson and Rajahl Moxey to North Bay, Ontario to compete in the sixth leg of the NORCECA Beach Volleyball Tour; despite a loss to the host nation, the Bahamian duo still managed to gain some points on the FIVB (International Federation of Volleyball) ranking list. The tour, which is organized by NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation), is held biannually.
The Bahamas fell in straight sets, 21-11 and 21-8, to the team from Canada. Be that as it may, the duo of Ferguson and Moxey no doubt gained some valuable points.
Ferguson is already an established professional player. Members of the BVF felt that he could help mentor Moxey, who competed in the Youth Olympic Beach Volleyball qualifiers earlier this year. Before the two-man team departed for Canada, both expressed excitement about being chosen to represent the country at such a large event.
"I personally feel like Rajahl is a good choice. He has a lot of potential to be a successful beach player, especially for his age. He only needs to talk a bit more, as it's only two players covering the entire court, but with confidence and exposure that will come," said Ferguson.
One of the goals of the BVF is to gain more exposure for the country's volleyball programs; executive members feel that they are well on their way to accomplishing that. The BVF also wants to develop and open new doors for the younger players in the country. Moxey is one of those young players who could benefit from the country taking steps to compete in these kind of events.
"It was always my dream to play volleyball at a higher level and at such a young age. I think that this opportunity will afford me the chance to live out one of my dreams," said Moxey before leaving for Canada.
At the tournament, the duo was placed in pool 'C' and competed against Canada's 'A' team, made up of Sam Pedlow and Grant O'Gorman. Both are professional beach volleyball players. Although the Bahamian athletes put out their best effort, they proved to be no match for the team from Canada. The duo is set to return home later this evening.
The Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF) will be sending the duo of Byron Ferguson and Rajahl Moxey off to North Bay, Ontario, Canada to compete in the sixth leg of the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation) Beach Volleyball Tour.
The two-man team is expected to start competition today against teams such as the United States of America (USA), Canada, Cuba, Mexica, Puerto Rico and Guatemala, hoping to attain international ranking for The Bahamas. This is the first team that will be representing The Bahamas on the 2014 tour.
Ferguson, although a professional indoor player, is no stranger to beach volleyball or playing on the beach volleyball tour. He is expected to be a mentor for the younger, inexperienced Moxey, who recently competed in the Youth Olympics beach volleyball qualifiers.
The team will use this tournament to gain additional beach volleyball experience, and the BVF sees this as an opportunity to not only obtain points that will assist in the country's ranking, but also as an opportunity to develop and provide other avenues and options for the younger players.
Both Ferguson and Moxey are excited and ready to represent Team Bahamas on this tour, especially Moxey, who had the opportunity to watch highly skilled players while at the Youth Olympics qualifiers.
"It was always my dream to play volleyball at a higher level and at such a young age. I think that this opportunity will afford me to live out one of my dreams," said a youthful Moxey.
Ferguson welcomed the opportunity to play with Moxey on this tour, as his former partner, Prince Wilson, in addition to veterans Renaldo Knowles and Muller Petit had other obligations.
"I personally feel like Rajahl is a good choice and has lots of potential to be a successful beach player, especially for his age. He only needs to talk a bit more as it's only two players covering the entire court, but with confidence and exposure that will come," said Ferguson.
The team is expected to return home on Monday.
Just a couple weeks ago, The Bahamas' senior men's national volleyball team were on the cusp of qualifying for the prestigious FIVB (International Federation of Volleyball) Men's World Championship, which would have been a historic first for the country, but they didn't qualify. The women haven't been on the same level as the men for quite some time.
The Bahamas' women finished sixth at the last Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships, while the men were victorious. Not only that, but the men advanced all the way to the final round of the world championships qualifying process, finishing first in the first round, second in the second and third in the third, while the Bahamian women failed to get out of the first round in their group.
What is causing the huge disparity? Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF) President Joe Smith believes that sponsorship plays a significant part, and it is incumbent upon them to get more financial support behind the women's program in the country, like it is done for the men.
"Sponsorship is very important," said Smith. "The bottom line is that our women are not going to get better by just playing local teams here at home. We have to be able to get them more exposure and more experience, but we are well on the way. We are seeing a rebranding of the women's program now. I think that this is the year for them to excel.
"When you look at the program, a lot of youth is integrated into the team, ages 21-22.
"With the men, most of the guys who are excelling now, joined the program at a very young age, and they just grew together. I can see the ladies advancing to the third round of qualifiers (world championships) in the very near future. We have a good crop of athletes who can do it. It's just up to us to get some financial support behind them and allow them to get some international exposure. We are working on that."
The senior men and women's CAZOVA Championships are set for this summer, July 15-28, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.
Both Bahamian squads would have to win in order to qualify for the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) Championships, set for next year. The Bahamas' men are the defending CAZOVA Champions, and finished seventh at the last NORCECA Championships. The women still have a lot of work to do, just to get to that level.
"I think that we are on the way. We just have to go out there and continue to recruit talented athletes," said New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA) President DeVince Smith.
"We want to give the ladies the same opportunities that the men had in terms of international exposure, where they will be faced against some of the best players in our region. To play against your own can only take you so far. The guys got together, made the sacrifice, and went international to play international teams. That built their confidence. Once we do the same with the female program, you will see the same thing happening with them in the future."
The Bahamas' men's national team is one of the favorites going into the CAZOVA Championships this year. BVF President Smith feels that this is the year for the women to make a statement. The implementation of youth and agility into the program could be a major component for the women going forward. The addition of collegiate players such as Je'Nae Saunders, Avoni Seymour and Terae Sweeting into the national picture is expected to bolster the women's volleyball program here in the country.
"When you look at the men, they began to excel when a number of them went off to college. We see that happening now with the women, and we can see a difference in their play," said women's veteran player and coach Margaret 'Muggy' Albury. "I think that we are definitely on the right track in terms of getting the women more established. The collegiate players will only add to the women's national program in the country, so the future looks very bright."
The CAZOVA Championships are about a month away, and it will be interesting to see how The Bahamas fare against the rest of the region, particularly the women.
The recent change in the age for junior male players that were looking to compete in the upcoming Junior Caribbean Volleyball Championships (JCVC), can affect the country's chances of winning the overall crown for English-speaking countries in the region, now that five of their key persons from last year's team has been deemed ineligible.
National team head coach DeVince Smith said that the announcement by the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) came as a blow, especially since it was made just months ago. He noted that junior male players in the country were working on their skills ever since returning from the biennial championships in 2009. This year's hosting by the Jamaican Volleyball Association (JVA) July 21-28 can test the growth and stability of the junior program in the Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF) now that both squads are affected.
Smith said: "It is a relatively new team, only one prospect from last year's team is eligible to make this year's team, so basically we are starting over from scratch. The tournament has now been geared to players 18 years and younger. So only person born in 1993 and thereafter are eligible to play in this year's Caribbean Volleyball Championships.
"It was a blow because when I looked at last year we tried to rebuild from then. We took a good mix of players that were fairly senior and junior, in terms of skills. A lot of those players who were able to get that exposure are now up to par. But we found out that they are now ineligible to play so it is like we are rebuilding all over again.
"I would say it was kind of difficult because we don't have a lot of male athletes in particular who are interested in volleyball. We give thanks to the New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA) for their junior development program whereby we were able to use that as a feeder system for try-outs for the BVF national team. We went back to the feeder system to recruit these players who would have gained some skills set during the development that began last year May."
The ineligible players that were hoping to return and lead the team to glory are Gary Greenslade, Chauncey Cooper, Lorenzo Williams, Matthew Wert and John Isaacs. Deandre Forbes is the only player from the 2009 team that has met the age requirements. Smith believes that his skills have improved and if named, he will make a great contribution to the team which finished sixth at the Guadeloupe Championships.
Teams this year expected to compete are host Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, US Virgin Islands, Curacao, The Bahamas and Martinique. The junior team will continue to practice until departure time.
Putting together two strong sides to represent the country in the regional beach volleyball tour is going to be hard work for the new officers in the Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF).
With little over a month to prepare, for the beach tour and other tournaments pencilled in on the calendar, the newly elected officers will definitely have their work cut out for them. However, newly elected BVF president, Joseph Smith, is determined to have teams compete, especially in the beach tour which serves as a qualifier for international competitions like the Olympic Games and World Championships. Smith was selected to head the local governing body for the sport on Tuesday night.
Immediate past president Don Cornish is now first vice president, De'Vince Smith is the second vice president and Dr. Greg Swain will remain in the third vice president position. Other members of the board are Raymond Wilson and Lloyd Davis, treasurer and assistant treasurer respectively, and Crystal Forbes as secretary. Forbes will be assisted by Helena Cooper, who is in charge of the Grand Bahama Volleyball Association. The Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on Tuesday in the Bahamas Olympic Committee's (BOC) office.
"There are no reasons why The Bahamas should miss out on the beach tour," said Joseph Smith.
"In fact, we have all agreed that De'Vince will head this program, so you should be hearing more from him on the exact dates for the start of the tour. More will be done in this four-year term.
"This is a great slate of persons who are committed to seeing the sport, as a whole, grow. There was one or two shuffles in the election. De'Vince has now been added to the executive team and I moved from the first vice into the president's chair. De'Vince has a lot to offer, and we are confident that the programs that he will be in charge of will flourish, so look out because volleyball will back into the spotlight with even more talented players."
The beach tour, set to start in March, is just one program on the long list for the BVF. Also sitting high on the agenda is a drafted proposal, asking permission from Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Danny Johnson to host the second round of the World Championships Qualifiers. Aside from that, the federation is seeking financial assistance with travel expenses from corporate Bahamas, for the two junior teams competing in regional tournaments this year.
The senior teams are still together and will be playing in a number of regional competitions this year as well.
Smith said: "While the beach tour is very important, because we feel as though that our teams can qualify, getting a meeting with the minister and the letter giving us permission to host the tournament is more pressing. We are in the process of trying to tie everything down for the qualifiers. So far, we have gotten help from the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), but we need that letter to send off to NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation). It is a stamp of approval.
"This year is very important. It is imperative that we make a start in implementing and improving our programs. The junior program and beach tour are a must. Our attention and focus must be on these two. There is a vision, and in order for that to continue we must implement some things."
The Junior Caribbean Volleyball Championships (CVC) will be held in Martinique and the Youth Championships will be held in Trinidad and Tobago. A junior Olympic beach tournament is set for this summer.
Veteran volleyball player Jackie Conyers is no stranger to playing five set matches and waiting on perfect sets to "kill" the ball, so when she was told earlier in May that her annual summer camp had to be pushed back, the former national team standout knew it would be worth the wait.
A number of high-level coaches from around the United States, mainly the state of Atlanta, Georgia, will be in town to conduct the three-day camp. The 9th annual Back to Basics Volleyball camp will start on Monday and wrap on Wednesday. Since it is not being held during the summer months, the camp will start at 4 p.m. and end 8 p.m., over at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs gymnasium.
"We had a little problem getting access to the gym, but that didn't stop us from wanting to put on the camp," said Conyers.
"The camp was in high demand, a lot of persons were asking why wasn't it held during the summer like it usually is, and if it was being held at all. As we try to develop more of our younger players, we saw it fitting to deliver and host the camp.
"Since the camp is being held on school days, we graciously asked the executives of the Government Secondary Schools Sporting Association (GSSSA) to cancel all games on those days, that will allow the teams from the various government schools to attend. De'Vince Smith, the president of the New Providence Volleyball Association (NPVA), sent in that request letter. De'Vince is also the development officer in the federation so we all have the future of the sport at heart. We know that our students aren't on the level that they are suppose to be playing on, in the high school system and during those three days, we will try our best to work with them. Invites to the weekly developmental program hosted by the NPVA will also be extended to the all members."
The Back to Basics Volleyball camp is designed to teach the basics skills of bump, set, spike, blocking, serving and defense. The coaches that will be working with the campers are all staff members of the Atlanta Boom Volleyball Institute in Atlanta, Georgia.