Bumping it to New Heights
TCI Volleyball Federation opens the sport to international competition
By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos Courtesy TCI Volleyball Federation
It’s a simple equation. Take one volleyball and one net. Add soft beach sand, two to six interested players and a dose of good sportsmanship. The end result: fun in the sun and a guaranteed good time!
Although the sport of volleyball—either beach or indoor court—can be reduced to such basics (and often is by vacationers), playing competitively adds more to the mix. Besides physical prowess and skills, there are extensive strategy and teamwork involved. Enter C.J. Edross, a transplanted Canadian (via California) who is dedicated to bringing the sport of competitive volleyball to the Turks & Caicos Islands.
I get the feeling that C.J. Edross lives and breathes volleyball. She’s tanned, fit and keeps a volleyball net in the trunk of her car for pick-up games. C.J. came to the Islands with her husband four years ago, and was shocked to discover that volleyball was not an organized sport. She explains, “I’ve been playing volleyball since I was a kid, and got really into competitive beach volleyball when I lived in California. So here where we have such beautiful beaches and soft, clean sand . . . no one but tourists are playing? I just had to change that!”
C.J. started by organizing casual games with her friends and trying to recruit players for a national indoor court team. It was slow going at first until she met Dorn Fulford, a fellow enthusiast. Together, they formed the TCI Volleyball Federation (TCIVF) and applied to become members of NORCECA, the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation. NORCECA represents its 35 member countries at the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) level, and is responsible for staging Olympic and World Championship zone qualification tournaments, as well as continental championships for men and women.
TCIVF became the newest member of NORCECA on May 5, 2010 following a trip by TCIVF President Dorn Fulford to the headquarters in the Dominican Republic, and the competitive aspect of the sport soared. A men’s national team, 14 members strong, was formed and C.J. trains them three evenings a week at the Gustavus Lightbourne Stadium. Members come from a variety of Caribbean countries and have in common a love of the strong teamwork aspect of the sport. Indoor court volleyball competitions have six people on a team (as contrasted with a typical two-person team for competitive beach volleyball). A typical play involves three athletes: one to bump the incoming ball into the air, a second to “set” the ball in position and a third to “spike” the ball sharply into the opposing court. C.J. emphasizes the cooperative nature of the game in her training regime. She says, “I ask them to warm-up, cool-down and play together ‘as if they were one’.”
At press time, the TCI men’s team was preparing to enter their first world championship qualification tournament in El Salvador. C.J. says a junior team is currently being assembled with the goal of competing in a tournament in the Dominican Republic in the fall. Unfortunately, to date, there are not enough interested females to form a women’s team.
Besides training local competitors, C.J. travels across the Islands to interest schoolchildren in the sport, distributing volleyballs and other equipment secured from NORCECA in her wake. She also holds an annual volleyball summer camp for kids, which is tremendously successful each year. In 2011, 80 kids joined C.J. and her daughter Cierra on the beach to learn the skills of bumping, setting, spiking and blocking and the strategy of keeping the ball away from the opposing team’s reach. Make no mistake, volleyball is a very energy-intensive sport, indoors or out, and photos show a tired bunch of campers at the end of each day.
Club Med is regularly the site of GOBeachfest, a major event in which professional beach volleyball players from around the world come to Provo’s exquisite beach to practice and play. C.J. is good friends with volleyball pro Albert “Albie” Hannemann, who has been organizing volleyball vacations to the Turks & Caicos for nearly 20 years. In a fair trade between her “eyes and ears on the ground” in TCI as he plans the annual event, Albie and other world class athletes interact with local schoolchildren during the week they are here. In 2010, a group of pros, including Olympians Sean Rosenthal, Kerri Walsh and Phil Dalhausser, visited the Clement Howell High School to inspire the children to get involved in their favorite sport. In 2011, C.J. and Albie secured access for students from the TCI Middle School to “meet and greet” the pros and watch some of the games.
The TCI Volleyball Federation also hosts invitational beach volleyball tournaments under the sponsorship of The Wine Cellar and other local businesses. Open to all, the semi-annual events feature four person teams in both competitive and recreational divisions playing on the beach in front of Flamingo Café. Besides being lots of fun for competitors and spectators, they raise money for local charities such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army through entry fees, raffle tickets and sponsorships. The next event is scheduled for June 4, 2012.
Especially exciting to volleyball aficionados is that TCI is slated to host the NORSECA Caribbean Tournament in 2013. Besides serving as motivating challenge to local players, it will also open the doors to a new group of visiting sport enthusiasts, expanding tourism in a very positive way. Future plans also include the construction of a professional sports court, with the goal of hosting the 2014 Caribbean Indoor Volleyball Tournament.
In spite of (or maybe because of) the challenges of wind, heat and teammate chemistry in beach volleyball competition, C.J. says this is where her heart (and body) lies. As she and others continue to reach out to children, teens and adults, I have no doubt her contagious enthusiasm will “bump” interest in the sport of volleyball sky-high.
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Cover photographer Christine Morden works for Paradise Photography www.myparadisephoto.com , a full service boutique company based in the TCI. She especially enjoyed the Rejouvenance photo shoot to learn about the benefits of coconuts and to smell the amazing scents of their hand-crafted products.