For volleyball in the Cayman Islands to advance, there needs to be more young players on the national teams.
That was the resounding sentiment among those taking part in the recent 2014 North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation World Championship Men’s First Round Qualifier.
Cayman head coach/player Keith Higgins states youngsters would have made a difference in the tournament.
“Unfortunately, there were no young players on the team,” Higgins said. “When team captain Olney ‘OT’ Thompson went out, there was no one to sub in that was younger. We need to take the development of the youth more seriously to advance to the next round of these kind of competitions.”
Cayman, the host nation, went a disappointing 0-4 during the qualifier, including a 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 25-11, 16-25, 13-15) loss to Aruba in the third place playoff game.
Aruba, who finished 2-2, would be among the three visiting teams to qualify for the second round of qualification, which takes place next year. The others would be event winners Suriname and runners-up Barbados as both had 3-1 records. The end goal is to reach the 2014 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball World Championship in Poland.
For Aruba head coach John Van Der Lee, Cayman has to do more to attract young players.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people and they have all told me the same thing,” Van Der Lee said. “Cayman doesn’t grab people in youth volleyball. No youths will kill volleyball long-term.
“Aruba started late too. We’re part of Holland and when the kids turned 17 and 18, they would leave to go to Holland. What Cayman needs to do is go to the schools, watch out for the tall girls and boys and get them into the gym to play.
“Cayman’s best player is a 45-year-old in Thompson and the youngest is 28 in Campbell. That’s a big gap in youth talent. Cayman must watch tall people and bring people in to grow the sport.”
Both Suriname and Barbados produced the majority of top players. Suriname’s Keven Sporkslede was named the Most Valuable Player and the Best Scorer with team-mates Dion Brunings and Raoul Bell being the Best Setter and Best Libero, respectively.
Barbados took home the awards for Best Spiker with Shawn Simpson, Best Server with Leshon Alexander and Best Digger with Sheldon Roach. The Arubans had the Best Blocker in Mitchel Daniel and Best Receiver in Fransua Angela.
Cayman were represented by Shameel Javid Ali, Martin Bodden, Richard Campbell, Duncan Hamann, Cassim Fareed Hosein, Keeble Knight, Joebert Macasling, Ryan McGuire, Brian Purcell, Davison Ruwende and Olney ‘OT’ Thompson. In addition to Higgins, Kennedy McGowan served as team manager.
Cayman had, by far, the oldest side in the competition with an average age of 36.1. Aruba were the second-oldest nation with an average age of 26.5. Cayman had the most senior player in Hosein, 45, who serves as the tournament director for the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation. The youngest player was Jabarry Goodridge, 17, of Barbados.
The qualifier would attract a number of volleyball figures within the region. Among them were Aruba Volleyball Association President Filomena Daniel Curiel, NORCECA Vice President/Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association President Mushtaque Mohammed and NORCECA press officers Carolina Rivas and Judith Sandino.
Heading into the qualifier, Cayman were ranked 29th in the NORCECA standings along with Aruba. Barbados were rated 12th in the region with Suriname ranking 14th.
For the record, the competition took place at the new Clifton Hunter High School Sports Centre in Frank Sound. The North Side facility impressed many with its arena set-up and Higgins states volleyball will look to grow there.
“It is the best facility on Island, we want to train there. It has a high roof for defence and it works well. It has good competition space with space for jump serves.
“In comparison, Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre has a short roof and the University College of the Cayman Islands Sir Vassel Johnson Hall is good and built to international specifications.
“Lighting is better in Frank Sound and it undoubtedly has the highest roof in Cayman. We’re also looking forward to the new John Gray school courts and using them for volleyball.”