Big steps forward for volleyball

Volleyball has always been popular in Cayman.

That popularity has kept the sport busy trying to expand both indoors and outdoors.

This year is arguably one of its busiest with all the international competitions Cayman is taking part in.

In March beach volleyball got a big boost with Seven Mile Beach playing host to one of the legs of the 2009 North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Beach Circuit tournament.

Indoor volleyball had one of its biggest tournaments of the year a few weeks ago at the 2009 Island Games in Aaland.

One of the constants in both versions of volleyball has been Olney Thompson. Thompson, alongside partner Shervin Rankin, had starring roles in the beach tournament and the Island Games.

For Thompson, who along with Rankin have well over 25 years experience in volleyball, says his focus is shifting to sun, sand and sea in the coming weeks.

‘Me and Shervin are focusing on the beach game now. We got games coming up in Mexico and the Caribbean Games in Trinidad. Then those Games gear up to the Pan-American and Olympic Games.

‘I always keep in mind that the top four from the Caribbean move on to the Olympics. Cayman recently went from eight place to fifth and it’s a wide-open field. To me anyone could end up going.

‘We missed the tournament in Jamaica and two others in Nicaragua and Barbados, which we think we could have done well in. At this point the beach is more promising than indoors.’

Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation President Noel Williams had a hand in organizing the major tournaments for Cayman.

As he states beach volleyball will be picking up in the coming months.

‘This year’s beach circuit tournament is still going on so the guys are training for the other legs in Mexico in September. In the past people have trained too late for the tournament but that has changed and they show a lot of potential.

‘We have the big beach tournament that we’re bidding to host again next year (around March or April). I’m sure we’ll get at least a leg here because all the countries were amazed with the hospitality they received here.’

Williams was quick to point out the indoor side of the sport will be equally full of activity.

‘On the indoor side of things we just got back from the world championships. The women’s one was in Barbados and the men’s was in Jamaica.

‘We’re planning an indoor volleyball camp next month but we’re having problems getting a facility. Also we’re getting ready to start the national indoor league the first week of October.

‘Every year that league attracts 20-25 teams across two divisions. As of this year we’re going to use the league to pick the national team going forward, especially for the Games in Trinidad.’

Three of the teams that could field national team members are Scholars International (who won the women’s first and second division), team Chaotic (who won the men’s first division) and KPMG (who won the men’s second division).

Though Cayman placed seventh at the Island Games Williams feels the squad did pretty well.

‘In spite of not training for a long time they held their own. They did very well and showed great potential. The guys simply lacked some training and time indoors. With more game time they should do much better next time.’

In the face of those positive strides for indoor volleyball there is still much concern over its long-term future in Cayman.

In Thompson’s eyes, beach volleyball is the more alluring of the two.

‘To be honest there’s more moving forward on the beach. There’s more training for more competitions and we can get more recognition out there.

‘Also there are more players to choose from. I like to think me and Shervin are paving the way for a younger core to take our place. Guys like Richard Campbell could be the ones to come along and take our spots in Cayman volleyball.’

Williams admits the indoor version is lagging behind in large part due to a lack of facilities.

‘For indoor volleyball the major problem is with facilities. We don’t have enough available to us to train indoors.

‘Right now we’re looking for a gym to host after-school programs for the kids. The University College of the Cayman Islands is the only place to play and they are always booked and charge a lot per hour to play there.

‘Until we get our own home and our own facility there’s very little we can do. We’re trying to do our best with what we have but what we have is the UCCI hall. If we had a facility it would be as big as beach.’

PULL QUOTE

‘I always keep in mind that the top four from the Caribbean move on to the Olympics. Cayman recently went from eight place to fifth and it’s a wide-open field. To me anyone could end up going.’

Olney Thompson

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