Many Vincentians lovers of sport remain anxious that while this country has no shortage of talented individuals we are nonetheless short on positive results in the numerous sports practised here and in which we compete at the regional and international levels.
In reviewing the sports practised in this country we must admit that some are relatively more expensive than others.
There is no secret that Tennis, Squash and Swimming are amongst the more costly sports practised in the country despite efforts being made to open them up to the masses. The challenge is great and so the numbers remain relatively small.
Cycling is easily the most expensive sport practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines today. The cost of a good road bike is near prohibitive. This is the reason or the small numbers getting involved in the sport. It is one thing to get one’s child interested in learning to ride a bicycle. Once the young person decided to pursue competitive cycling the parents for the most part understand quite quickly how much the sport is out of their reach.
Cost is a delimiting factor therefore in so far as participation in sport is concerned.
There are however some sports that are relatively inexpensive and many of our young people could be encouraged to show interest. In some cases these sports may prove an excellent opportunity for Vincentian youths to bring their immense sporting potential to the fore and so represent the country at all levels in the future. One of these sports is Volleyball and particularly the beach variety where two persons form a team.
Volleyball emerged in the USA as early as 1895 when William G. Morgan, the Physical Director of the Holyoke Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), brought together ‘elements of basketball, baseball, tennis and handball to create a game for his classes of businessmen that want(ed) a new game with less physical contact than basketball’.
It is not uncommon for innovation to take place because some people are not comfortable with what exists.
Word is that Morgan initially called the game, Mintonette. This term came from the sport of badminton and reflected the fact that a ball was being hit back and forth over a net. Morgan eventually called the game, volleyball.
We are informed that in ‘1900 Canada becomes the first country outside of the USA to take up volleyball, followed by Cuba in 1906, Japan in 1908, China in 1911, France in 1915 (during World War I on the beaches of Normandy and Brittany).
Despite the game having been played since the latter part of the 19th century, there was no international governing body for the sport until 1947. It was called the international Volleyball Federation (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) – FIVB. Belgium, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, France, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Uruguay, USA and Yugoslavia were the founding members at a meeting in Paris, France. Interestingly, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was founded at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, at a meeting in 1894. Paul Libaud of France was elected the first president of the F IVB, a position he held until 1984 when Mexico’s Rubén Acosta replaced him.
According to the FIVB, ‘…The first World Championships were organised in 1949 for Men and 1952 for Women.’
In 1959 the IOC approved the inclusion of Volleyball on the programme of the Olympic Games effective the edition in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964.
Over the years volleyball has grown extensively and become a fixture on the international sporting calendar.
Beach Volleyball has become an immensely popular version of the game of volleyball and in so doing has significantly changed the status of the sport and the annual revenue generating capacity.
The FIVB notes, ‘…The true birth of beach volleyball most likely begins on the beaches of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, also in 1915, then in Italy, Russia and India in 1917 and the rest of Europe in 1918 via the American Expeditionary Force…There are unconfirmed whispers of men’s teams playing on the beach in Hawaii, but most accounts place the sport’s origin in Santa Monica, California, where the first volleyball courts are put up on the beach’.
Evidence suggests that in 1930 Santa Monica hosted the first beach volleyball game. The first two-man beach volleyball competition was reportedly staged on State Beach, California.
The first two-man beach volleyball game is played in Santa Monica, California. Interestingly, California was to become the veritable cradle of beach volleyball over the next few decades given the penchant of the local and visiting populace for sporting activities on the State’s numerous beaches. Countries around the world took keen interest and Brazil emerged as another major beach volleyball country.
The FIVB did not however officially become involved in beach volleyball until 1976 when in 1987 it sanctioned the first such competition on the renowned Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
The International Olympic Committee fast-tracked beach volleyball onto the Games programme of the Summer Olympics of 1996 when Atlanta, Georgia, USA, hosted the mega event. There were 24 men’s and 18 women’s teams involved in the competition in Atlanta.
The FIVB now has an ever-expanding calendar of events under its Beach Volleyball World Tour banner that allows the best athletes to win millions of dollars.
The global appeal of beach volleyball has to do with its simplicity. It is played on the beach. The athletes are dressed in beach clothing that exposes much of the human body. There is a festive atmosphere with music, people, also dressed in beach attire, singing along and being totally immersed in all aspects of the activity. The equipment and general gear costs are exceptionally low. The game involves teams of only two persons at a time.
In many respects the sport is a most exciting undertaking that is extremely attractive to just about any regular beach-goer.
Beach Volleyball in SVG
Volleyball has had more than its fair share of ups and downs in St Vincent and the Grenadines with interest varying between different communities. There was a time when Layou dominated the game because of its interest in the community and the commitment of the Christopher family members. Today, South Rivers holds the key to much of the success this country has witnessed in volleyball competitions.
While volleyball has been regularly played in the past several years at the Girls’ High School’s court and also in South Rivers, generally beach volleyball, for all its low cost, has not been attracting the potential athletes as perhaps could otherwise be the case.
The first official beach volleyball court to have been established in St Vincent and the Grenadines was located on the compound of the Kingstown Medical College at Rathomill. At the time only the medical students seemed to have a keen interest in playing the game.
As the student medical student population at Rathomill declined in St Vincent the court was left to ruin and was eventually overrun by grass. Today there is no evidence at the facility at Rathomill that a beach volleyball court ever existed there.
Last year St Vincent and the Grenadines qualified to send a team to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. The athletes were Rodell Fraser and Delshun Welcome.
The expert from the FIVB who spent several months here while conducting the Development of a National Sport Structure (DNSS) Course for the local volleyball federation through the National Olympic Committee and Olympic Solidarity, Sean McKay, expended some effort in getting some momentum with beach volleyball.
In his final report McKay noted, that while in the country he coached two male and two female teams in beach volleyball to participate in the Continental Cup 2015. The men got through to the second round of the competition while the women faltered in the first round.
For a very long time the volleyball fraternity here has been aware of the low cost associated with beach volleyball. Additionally, it is a sport that allows for young people to readily train and compete favourably with others enough to compete at the highest level with fair success.
The hope has been expressed on several occasions that with the numerous beaches we have in this country we could produce comparatively good beach volleyball players. With little needed by way of equipment and equipment it is possible to have the sport played everywhere and with great frequency.
Discussions were held with the National Sport Council while Osborne Browne was the manager and it was agreed that a beach volleyball court would be constructed in the area near the Media Centre at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex. Discussions continued while McKay was here but as yet there has been no movement in the direction of constructing the facility.
Perhaps more than a little frustrated and observing the talent this country possesses, McKay established a relationship with Buccament Bay Resort and a legal beach volleyball court was constructed and the national teams were allowed to use the facility for training. The anticipation was that with a strengthening of the collaboration Buccament Bay Resort could be persuaded to become a full partner with the local association for the long haul.
There is every reason to believe that much more can be done to develop interest in beach volleyball as an attractive and easy to learn sport. It is possible for our young people to rise to the competitive level.
The local association must act quickly to strengthen the original arrangement with Buccament Bay Resort regarding partnering and the use of the court to boost participation in the sport.
Consideration could be given to creating a beach volleyball court in the area around the beach at Mt Wynne where Vincentians go so regularly for seaside sporting activities and general recreation. Another court could be established in Colonarie and again in Georgetown as well as near the Owia Salt Pond.
Bequia, Union Island and Canouan appear well suited to the creation of beach volleyball facilities should there be a concerted effort made to engender interest in the sport and the organisation of competitions. There could well be a beach volleyball series in the country involving the four islands as a point of departure.