Boys in the northwest are being served a new volleyball opportunity with the launch of the first boys volleyball club team in the region this year.
Led by two fathers and a youth-loving coach, the new U15 Northwest Volleyball Club team has 11 boys from Terrace who are eager to develop and compete at a higher level.
Club volleyball in the region as been growing, with several girls club teams, but never has club volleyball had a boys team.
But the new team launched in January with the age 14-15 boys training three times a week. And they already served their first victory in an Ice Breaker tournament Jan. 28-29.
They faced a number of teams from the Prince George Youth Volleyball Club, from U14 to U16, and managed to win two out of three round robin games.
In the final, they faced the older U16 team and in a tough, back and forth battle, the Northwest U15 team from Terrace managed to overcome. They won the third set 10-15.
Head coach Bruce Neid, who coaches with Joel Ringma and Kam Siemens, said the competition was great for team development, and he did see the team progress.
“We had our ups and downs, but we definitely peaked at the end,” said Neid.
Now the team is gearing up for another Prince George tournament March 4-5 and then a big Kamloops tournament called Battle of the Borders in mid-April. After that the season climaxes with provincials in early-May.
Caption: The Northwest U15 boys team has four youth from Skeena and seven from Centennial, and coaches say they’ve already bonded as a group. In photo are coaches Bruce Neid and Kam Siemens (missing Joel Ringma), and in the back row from left is Jacob Ringma, Skylar Mantel, Bryce Neid, Josh Brown, and Ben Mantel. In the front from left is Logan Clunas, Owen Block, Isaiah Marelli, Travis Frank, and Jonas Struyk.
These tournaments are great for the team to measure where they fit and grow in confidence as they jump into a new level of volleyball, said Ringma
“I think the boys, having gone to Prince George and having experienced some of the competition there, felt pretty good after that, like ‘Hey, we kind of belong, we fit,’” he said.
Going to Kamloops will be another chance to measure their place in the league, he added, noting that winning isn’t that key at this stage.
“It’s not so much about the placing so much as ‘hey, we see them fitting in well,’ and they’re going to be competitive. The rest will follow next year or the year after.”
Coaches Ringma and Neid both have sons on the team and are new to club volleyball, and their coaching trio is rounded out by Kam Siemens, who has coached club girls teams here for the last five years.
Siemens had coached the Grade 8 boys team at Skeena last year, and connected to several Centennial boys through their older brothers who have practised with girls club teams.
She instigated the launch of the boys club team because she saw the eagerness and skill among these boys, four of whom are from Skeena Middle School and seven from Centennial Christian.
Siemens has had a desire to launch a boys team for several years, but getting to know the boys propelled her to take the steps foward.
“I could tell the talent in these kids,” she said. “There’s no denying that they have this talent, they just need the opportunity,”
For her, coaching is a way to get to know youth, invest in them, and pass on opportunities. Her aim is to help the youth develop as athletes but more importantly as people.
Through the team she tries to teach the youth time management, making sure they complete homework and she encourages them to get out of comfort zones and introduce themselves to scouts and university coaches who attend the big club tournaments.
“You do build relationships with the athletes, you have a vested interest in them, and you want to see them succeed in life,” she said.
Caption: Head coach Bruce Neid gives the new U15 boys team a pep talk before they hit the court in Prince George.
Neid agreed, adding that “you can start to build relationships with the families as well.” And knowing families and the challenges some of them face to provide their kids with these opportunities, Neid says he is spurred on to organize fundraisers and really invest in the team.
He added that club volleyball, which has a longer season for youth to develop their skills, might also open doors for youth to get scholarships and education which some might otherwise not be able to access.
Ringma added that things like club volleyball can equip youth for healthy lifestyles, encouraging them to be physcially active and enjoy team sports. It’s also a chance to build character into the boys and strengthen their relational skills, he said.
“It gives kids productive opportunities,” he said, adding that they learn teamwork, they challenge each other, and ultimately they will grow in character and learn to serve the community together.
There may be a few who excel and advance in volleyball, Ringma said, but the skills learned will benefit all of the youth where ever they go.