Espiritu Santo...Wrecks to Rainforest -- Vanuatu, Discover untouched seclusion and beauty...that is what Carte de Luganville - the map of this town says.... To see and do here?  World class diving, SS President Coolidge, Million Dollar Point, pristine coral fishing....adventure trekking,...fresh water blue holes...cave expeditions....custom villages....outrigger river discovery....World War II sites....Yachting base...and more...  Only I am here to teach, and have been up since dawn, re-building the courts to straight as the rains and play have tilted them towards the ocean. William is a tireless hard worker and the Vanuatu VB Federation is lucky to have him as president.

Friday was the last day of theory, tourney design options, scoring and drill variations - like naughts and crosses and stones - and steal their coconuts were taught and played with great success. They made balls from tree leaves, weaving them into something round and playable. We leveled the courts and built four kids courts next to the main courts, in advance of the training on Saturday. Joe, the VVF Development Officer was amazed at how easy the X standards with an anchored rope could be adjusted to so many heights so fast. The idea I am asking them to do...and each of you reading this far into my grow the game together to build a smaller kids court next to or very near the adult courts, so the kids can watch and learn and PLAY, rather than sit and watch. I learned it from Outrigger Canoe Club long ago, where many Olympians began their volleyball play. There, a smaller 6x6 meter kids court, with a much lower net, is next to the two main adult courts. This culture of teaching by playing while watching their role models is a great and perhaps even best way to mentor, as the kids grow up, they get to play with a seasoned veteran on the main courts, and they know what to do. William, VVF President is playing with a 16 year old in the tourney, doing the same thing of mentoring, and good things happened of course. Southern California beach VB traditions have this same mentoring by the wily older men and women - and we need to keep it growing as a key form of development.

We worked through lunch each day, showing videos and talking about the things those showed us. One lunch extended about Volleyball Vanuatu - whose motto is Dream it, Believe it. Receive it  meeting on the topic of Luganville  mo Samma Volleyball

    1. Volleyball long place hia or I died?
    2. Yu tink se I olsem from wanem? 
    3. How now yumi save makem volleyball long place hia I come more gud?

So as they all spoke about administration of the sport, in the end selected Jacob and three others, including the top two women in the course as players and leaders, to run the province's volleyball development. They have a lot of spirit, and now have many more new ideas on how to grow volleyball back in their villages - both beach and the six person game. It was a meeting filled with ideas and dialogue back and forth, much of it in their language spoken too fast for me to understand, but I clearly could understand the passion and hope they were all sharing.

Saturday each coach invited kids to play from 8am to 10am, so they could teach their "team" - before the coaches got to start playing in their own tournament. Kids started arriving well before eight, so the balls came out early and play began. At the peak time, we had over 40 kids playing doubles on the nine courts we created. Made for a great end of event picture seen here. About 9:30 when the coaches turned into players , they left to talk about format and rules based on how many teams showed up...and the kids just kept playing and playing, and even late into the afternoon the kids would play. It was just wonderful, despite the very heavy winds - we had SUN for the first day, and that was helpful, however our Digicel shade tents flew several times into the Pacific and one sailed upside down far out to sea before we got a boat to save it.  Our player water jug was a kettle, and our music system was Williams's computer connected to my portable speaker system - after linking about a dozen extension cords to get power from the Beachfront Resort down to the courts. They had trophies and medals for the top teams, and play was very competitive, but with tons of laughter, and the men played until past sunset as they had a larger draw.

Every session starts with a prayer, and ends with one as the dusk settles at the end of the evening session. Yet I am told even though almost everyone goes to church, they mostly believe in Black Magic first....So it has been interesting teaching them how to teach better and about some myths and .superstitions in sport. Debbie said her favorite tree in her husband's village was chopped down recently, as it was filled with black magic, according to the priests. The real challenge for having weekend events and even partnerships is that about a third of the people are 7th Day Adventists, so they cannot do things on Saturday, while the others have their day of rest - and no sports - on Sundays. So you need to pick your partner based on their church affiliation too.

The course ended that evening with a Pizza Feast for the Closing Ceremonies. Two chocolate cakes  - one saying Happy, the other Volleyball....a slide show on the big screen ran of all the days in pictures, while a popular string band played music thru the speakers - including the clinic favorite, Island Girl.  The participants, almost 30 in total, got their FIVB Attestations, a shirt or hat from Digicel, and to hear us all toktok one last time. I was given a very nice totem from another island represented in the clinic, with big eyes and made from some wood that is going to put me over on my weight limit if I put it into my suitcase, so it will go home hand carried. It was a special evening to be sure.

Sunday I flew to Port Vila where the last two days are packed from 8 am to pm. Pipeline Programs for teachers there, SEPPA, Indoor referee training, Beach Referee trainings, VASNOC, the Vanuatu Olympic Committee Strategic planning, and Beach national team training - not sure how we will fit it all in, but we shall. Debbie is very organized and efficient, and belongs to the Cult of Done, even though she may not realize it.  The day of rest she took me to her husband clan in a village not too far out of town, and the real Vanuatu was seen - with an eight year old birthday girl in her queen's chair, roasted pig, rice balls galore, and the whole family was there. Great-grandmother was mourning the loss of her husband two months ago, not leaving her house during that time, so we paid our respects there.

It was a hard day for me as I just had learned a dear friend and leader in Olympic and Paralympic sport, Jimi Flower, had died Saturday in a climbing accident on Capitol Peak, near Aspen Colorado. Jimi was a animated, passionate father of two great kids and coach in swimming - and a key part of USA Swimming's success in both Olympic and Paralympic - and in his spare time did winter Olympic team leadership too, like the USA Men's Hockey team in Torino in 2006. We just had worked and traveled together last week for the Naval Station Newport Paralympic project. On our flight back he asked where I was going to next, a common question between sports coaches so of course my reply was Vanuatu...and he said he was taking a break and going into the mountains....what a loss to our movement....

Still, in the village, I became Mr. Magic Man, showing the kids my one and only vanishing Vatu coin trick, and playing tag until we headed to the beach to train and see a new court set up. There at Mele Cove, a new restaurant/bar was playing live music, and a throng of people were playing on a very nice sand court. Mike, the owner, had cut down some giant bamboo stalks, the side of telephone poles, and made them into his standards - they were round, safe and perfect. Steven Anderson, who coached Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst - two time Olympic beach medalists including Sydney Gold in 2000 - had arranged some press  to be there. This included the Australia Broadcast Company, the ABC of Oz, filming the training of the top girls who have the FIVB grant to play in all the World Tour events to see if they can qualify for London 2012.  It was good to catch up. After dark, I came back to my little hotel room and then met for a planning dinner which included showing the pictures from Santo - seems as we did good things there by all reports. Speaking of reports, this will be my last blog from here - the next two days will be good stuff, but already explained.  Next up is Long Island PE Teachers and GEVA grassroots development, then a clinic in Iowa for one of my favorite former interns Steven Reinschimidt, and Jimi's funeral. Hug your kids a bit tighter today; I know I sure shall when I return here from the land of Bali Hi.