In its fourth year, the Conception Bay North Volleyball Club is experiencing unprecedented growth.
© Compass file photo
Grade 6 student Taylor Burke of Amalgamated Academy prepares to serve under the watchful eye of coach Cathy Downey in this Compass file photo. The CBN Volleyball Club is in the midst of its fourth season and has over 80 young athletes playing the game.
The club, which operates out of Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts, has over 80 children from Grade 5 to Level III participating once-a-week since the program started a month ago.
"We've had to cut off registration at the Grade 5 level," said executive member Stewart Ralph. "It's increased in all ages.
"It's a very community-oriented program."
As any club grows, whether it is volleyball or basketball, the participants want to see an end result.
What the executive members were finding was that the division with the lowest number of players was the high school group, while the lower levels had higher numbers.
"These athletes are on school teams, in school programs, so they're saying, 'I'm getting my volleyball and I'm satisfied with what I got,'" said Ralph.
In an effort to bring those athletes back, and help build the program further, the executive made the decision to travel to tournaments after the Christmas season.
These rep teams are important developmental tools for any program looking to grow. Athletes want to be able to test the skills they've been learning in a game environment.
"They do get game play as a part of our club program, but it's not tournaments, it's not competition," said Ralph. "We're taking the training we're doing in the gym at the high school level and traveling as the CBN volleyball club."
Earlier this year, the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association honoured two members of the club's executive. Sheree Janes and Cathy Downey were awarded the NLVA community development award during the annual provincial awards banquet.
The club was recognized for the work it has been doing at instilling volleyball in the sporting culture of the region and the development of the sport at the grassroots level.
"It's one thing to be recognized in the community, from seeing the success of our school programs building from what we're doing with the club, but being recognized provincewide is another level of recognition," said Ralph.
Another addition to the program has been the mini-volley program. Mini-volley is a program designed by Volleyball Canada to help elementary school teachers introduce the game to their students.
These alterations can include varying the number of players, altering the court size, adjusting the height of the net or using bigger, lighter balls.
"It's a slightly more basic game that teaches the necessary skills of volleyball, but using game play," said Ralph.
Several members of the executive gained certification in the min-volley program as facilitators, and in turn, certified some of the high school level athletes. Those athletes now go into schools in the region and instruct the younger children who are interested in learning.
Programs such as the mini-volley can be seen as important tools in maintaining the momentum the club has at the moment. It will help feed players back into the system as the current players move up in age groups.
The club currently has a strong base at the younger level and Ralph recognizes the importance of improving on that, while staying patient.
"As long as we're seeing improvements each year, and as long as we're patient, hopefully that trend will continue," he said.