Bumping up youth volleyball

By Lidia Semrau

The Ottawa Kangaroo Volleyball Club, nicknamed the ROOS, formed a new partnership with SportsCan to implement athlete development program to help prepare aspiring young athletes to pursue competitive careers.

Shane Perch, a 16-year-old ROOS player from Centretown, hopes to play competitive volleyball nationally and is excited about the program.

“I really think it’s a good thing what they’re doing this year,” he says. “I’ve already started using their tips on how to eat healthier and how to train so I don’t overexert myself.”

While there are literally thousands of Canadians playing the sport, it has not translated into any significant results internationally, says Volleyball Canada.

To tackle this issue, Volleyball Canada looked to the new Long-Term Athlete Development Model from Sport Canada, the national governing organization of sport.

Volleyball Canada took this model and tailored it to meet the needs and requirements of its sport and encouraged all volleyball clubs in the country to start its implementation.

To implement this model, the ROOS asked experts and top volleyball coaches at SportsCan, an organization helping athletes and coaches reach personal aspirations in sport, to integrate this model into their regular program.

The main focus areas of the program are skill and tactical training, sports nutrition, physical conditioning, sports injury prevention and overall mental preparation.

“While we have trained in most of these areas in the past, we have struggled teaching the proper information,” says coach Chris Smeaton. “This partnership will allow our coaches to concentrate on what they do best and allow the experts to take care of the rest.”

The program is divided into four age-specific sessions, for ages 14-18. Each is about four hours long, focusing on early-season, pre-competition, competition, and post-competition training.

“We make sure that all of our workshops are based on providing the athletes with the appropriate tools so that when they leave, they have the techniques and knowledge on how to improve themselves. We leave it up to them to decide whether they want to use those tools or not,” says SportsCan president Colin Walker. “We believe you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.”

The goal of the program is to assist ROOS players to achieve their peak performance and to help competitive athletes take their play from recreational to college or university, and eventually to a national or professional level.

“Even for the athletes who don’t compete, we believe these tools will help them in their everyday life to help them maximize their potential at work or at school,” Walker says.

“I think it’s necessary to hook them in at a younger age so that it becomes part of a habit,” says Walker. “We’re trying to create a culture where . . . you come to the ROOS, you come not only to play volleyball on the courts, but you come to develop yourself as a complete athlete.”