As Cayman Islands beach volleyball heads into the holiday season, one of its agendas for next year is to promote young spikers.
With the recent success of Richard Campbell, there has been talk focusing on the sport’s ability to produce similar talent. For Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation board member Carl Brown, a greater focus will go on youth players.
“OT (Olney Thompson) and Shervin (Rankin) went to Concordia University on volleyball scholarships,” Brown said. “In the federation we want volleyball to catch fire in Cayman. We want to develop youth to be considered for scholarships. We’ll be discharging all available avenues to grow so that families can consider another avenue for their children to achieve tertiary education while carrying the Cayman flag high.
“Being small we have a smaller pool to choose from. We’re small but that doesn’t mean small in mind. Harkening back to our marine history, you’ll see that small is not the thing, good is the thing.”
Brown, fellow volleyball federation board member Carl Brenton and many local residents saw Cayman make history earlier this month at Public Beach. For the first time ever the national men’s and women’s squads advanced past the first stage of Olympic qualification. The sides finished fifth in the North American, Central American and Caribbean volleyball federation Continental Cup. For the men Campbell partnered with Rankin while Thompson teamed up with Philippe Deslandes. The women saw Cristin Alexander and Jennifer ‘JB’ Bily along with Taylor Burrowes and Stefania Gandolfi.
Campbell, 27, was the talk of the tournament after excelling in his first NORCECA event. It should be noted Campbell was not the only young Caymanian to participate. Former Miss Cayman Alexander, 23, guided the ladies in her third NORCECA competition. Brown did not say who is the next local prodigy but states the attitude is to continue grooming talent.
“As you know we have a girls programme ongoing. Our focus is on the youth and we’ll be putting the muscle on the sand. We’re not relenting and we have a lot of respect for the process. Remember, Cayman has a history of not being afraid of work.”
The next stage of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics is in Costa Rica. In February the Cayman men face Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and hosts Costa Rica. All of those nations represent the top five countries from the Central America zone. Costa Rica and Guatemala go into 2012 with arguably the most confidence as they claimed gold and silver respectively in the male and female segments.
The date and location for the women’s group is yet to be determined. At the end of qualifying (which will be roughly in April), the NORCECA continental champions will be granted an Olympic berth.
Six other Caribbean nations will join Cayman in Costa Rica based on this month’s results. They are Trinidad and Tobago (which won the men’s segment and finished runners-up with the women), Bahamas (men’s runners-up), Barbados (who won the women’s group), Jamaica (which placed third for the men and fourth for the women), Curacao (third for the women) and St. Kitts and Nevis (fourth for the men).
Ultimately Brown states Cayman should continue to be a force in the region.
“After Costa Rica there will be two more qualifying clashes. After the last qualifier, a clash of the titans if you will, then the NORCECA champions will be crowned. There are other avenues to qualify for the London Olympics but one country will emerge as continental champions. We want to figure into hosting the (NORCECA) final. We’re attempting to host it. Cayman is heavily favoured by NORCECA, who even highlighted (local player) Duncan Hamann recently.
“Volleyball federation president Noel Williams is part of a 10-man NORCECA committee with Sinjin Smith. He’s meeting with the committee members in January to decide the next country (to host the women’s event). Cayman has not been asleep since the games (this month), the president is putting his best foot forward. We want Cayman to shine in another way.”