VolleyCentral no longer concludes volleyball’s big three
Since 2010, gymnasiums across Central Newfoundland and Labrador have hosted one of the largest volleyball tournaments on the island —VolleyCentral — with teams coming from around the province.
© Beacon File Photo
Usually, the event came after VolleyWest and VolleyFest, respectively.
This year, however, for the first time, VolleyCentral won’t conclude the trio of provincial tournaments.
“VolleyCentral is usually the last event, so this is the first year we’re going to start with VolleyWest, then VolleyCentral, and finally VolleyFest. We did have a booking dilemma with some of our main venues, so we moved VolleyCentral back and VolleyWest forward,” said Russ Jackson, executive director with the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association (NLVA). “I think that’s something we’ll possibly look at doing in the future; people like the fact we’re leading up to VolleyFest so they can play in a few events and get used to the competition prior to VolleyFest.”
VolleyCentral will be held Oct. 25-26. As of last Thursday, 45 teams had registered. The deadline to register for the event was Oct. 18.
In an interview with The Beacon last Thursday, Jackson only had a few minutes to talk as he was preparing for VolleyWest, which took place over the weekend.
He did say he didn’t know what to expect from VolleyCentral this year because of the rearranging of tournaments, and added VolleyCentral is the third-largest volleyball tournament on the island. VolleyFest is first, followed by the provincial senior championships.
“I’m not sure what to expect from VolleyCentral this year where VolleyFest comes after it. I’m not expecting many numbers to drop and I’m hoping for between 60 and 70 teams. I’m sure we’ll get that,” said Jackson. “The reason why VolleyCentral is the third-largest is because it’s a centralized location and you get to play most of the top teams in the province. Because of that reason, people want to go.”
Last year, Gander hosted the senior male A and B tournaments, Lewisporte held the senior female B event, and the Grand Falls-Windsor area hosted the junior divisions.
This year — and Jackson couldn’t confirm anything last Thursday — it looks like the Grand Falls-Windsor area will get to host the senior divisions (It was announced after The Beacon deadline that Gander would host senior high male A and B and senior female A, Grand Falls-Windsor would host junior high male and female, and Lewisporte would host senior high female B.)
“I try to tier them out as best as possible depending on the number of teams. With Grand Falls-Windsor having more venues with their new facility opening up, we’re going to try and have the senior high divisions out there if at all possible with the request from the schools out there,” said Jackson. “It’s just a way of switching things up.”
VolleyCentral attracted 71 teams last year, and many of those teams came from the central area.
The region has produced some strong teams and strong players over the years, and that talent will be on display over the Oct. 25 weekend.
When asked about the wealth of volleyball talent in central, Jackson said it has a lot to do with dedicated athletes and coaches, and the will to develop and improve.
“People like Kevin Higgins and Deon Goulding in Gander do a tremendous amount of work on the ground putting coaches in place and getting these teams put together. After talking with Deon, I know there was a tremendous turnout for Grade 7, 8 and 9 volleyball programs (at St. Paul’s Intermediate.) They had a tremendous amount of players and were trying to find extra coaches to accommodate the teams,” said Jackson. “However, when you do that, you need things like more gym space, so it takes more time and more energy. The hardest thing to do is find coaches, so when you have to find more gym time it makes things even more difficult.
“We have Dean Catling in Lewisporte who does a lot of work. He’s the central representative on our executive, and he does all of the work he can in his area for volleyball. We have Chad Richards (in Bishop’s Falls), who’s our elite development chairperson, and he’s been involved the past several years. He puts so much time and energy into this, and he has a big job that he took over from Deon Goulding pioneering our elite programs.”
Jackson also praised the work of NLVA hall of famer Bruce Andrews, who started his own club program, and Pearson Academy coach Craig Loder, who coached his Pearson Academy senior boys’ team to a provincial 3A title a few years ago.
He said volleyball is starting to take the same route as hockey, as players want to have the option of competing in elite programs. Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has its High Performance Program, and the NLVA also has its elite program.
“Parents and guardians want more elite training and they want their son or daughter to get that at the highest level. With so many scholarship opportunities out there from schools across the country in volleyball, athletes are fighting to get those opportunities,” said Jackson. “It’s the athletes who want to reach that level, and parents and guardians want that next phase to get to that level.”