I have been an International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Instructor doing Level 1,2 and 3 courses since 1987. Over 50 nations and counting and each time I learn new things from those who I am teaching. This most recent trip was prompted when the Minister of Education for the British Virgin Islands mandated that all the PE teachers in the nation would need to attend the FIVB Level One course that NORCECA was offering, if I would be the instructor. These are not USAV work functions per se, so I have to take my vacation days to do them, but the chance to impact an entire nation’s PE program by sharing new motor learning and teaching research made it worth the while.

Some 3,000 air miles from Colorado Springs, the last leg was a doozy, hopping into an 8 seater Cessna twin prop in San Juan, we had to fly right through a tropical depression named “Cristobal” which the next day became a hurricane as it headed north towards the USA. The plane did things only small planes can do, and still stay in the air, flying sideways sometimes it seemed, and only the pilot and I were able to keep our stomachs. You only fly at about 10,000 feet above the sea, so I had cell phone service all the way there, which helped my hosts who said they had been told all flights were cancelled that day. It was a flight I will never forget.

Two days I worked with national team players and coaches, getting them to be training more game-like and in the sand. The only problem was if they erred to one end of the court during the competitive games, the ball went sailing into the marina and you had to do a sort of human chain to get hands on the ball from the dock level.  They have some good leapers and talented youth players, both male and female.

Some random observations and thoughts about the BVI.  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of large boats for hire – so that the area is known as the sailing capital of the world in large part because of the hundreds of large and small islands that allow for line of sight sailing… Basketball is a big sport for kids, and hoopsters have even been known to vandalize volleyball standards to keep on top….They have a beautiful flowering tree they call a “flamboyant “ tree….there are thousands of wild chickens roaming the streets, making for a very interesting warm up/motor skill game of “catch the chicken” – which the chickens always win…there is a road around the main island, and then a hill road that goes right over the top…frequent on the main roads through town are “sleeping policemen” – huge speed bumps you must slow to a crawl to get over safely…BVI has three desalination plants to provide drinking water in mostly bottled form…We started at 830 each morning, but i was told that culturally “if you show up on time, you are a fool.” …with “surprises” for being on time, there was a cultural shift at least for the class…Mario, a retired PE teacher from Italy still goes back and teaches, while running a gelato shop that brought back memories of Italy with that dessert to close out lunch.

So like most nations in the world, making volleyball happen starts with having enough volleyballs – Some school teachers spoke to the concept of having three balls – a volleyball, a basketball land a soccer ball. Nonetheless, with help from our NORCECA zone, there are more volleyballs.  That allows for the small sided games that the FIVB Cool Volley program promotes, of 2 v 2 on smaller courts using overhead passing, to happen. Everything for the course took place within walking distance of the hotel. The gym was a national stadium type gym, with a classroom within it, so no time was wasted.

Each of the days we started in class discussing the aspects of a Level one course, as seen below in the FIVB Level One Coaching Manual Table of Contents

There were two eye opening moments in the gym for the course participants. One was sitting volleyball, which they played as a warm up game leading to regular competition. They really enjoyed it, surprised at how much fun it was, and that there are only 4 major differences between the regular game and the ParaVolley version (1. Court size/net height 2. Blocking of the serve is allowed 3. Legs/feet can be over any line, even at the net, as long as the athlete’s bottom is behind the line 4. “air butt” as the player’s bottom must have at least one cheek on the floor when contacting the ball). The second came when we set up 12-16 smaller courts in the gym space where just 1 net was planned to be set up. These courts leading to high level of physical activity and learning was then highlighted when a soccer coach took over half the gym with 12 boys and generally one ball/coach controlled training took place. On our half of the gym some 36 kids were totally active on about 10 small nets/courts with the teachers letting the players control the drills and games.

The final day I added the topic of determining the most important needs for BVI development level growth. A spirited discussion took place, especially on the topic of “How do we get the principal informed in advance and in support?” The solution was to give a plan to the minister of Education.  Then give the letter to each principal. Communication to schools thru the principals. The other needs were determined to be a school travel kit, a primary school championships and special volleyball training blocks.

The PE teacher travel kit comes from the fact that they don’t just teach at one school, but travel around to several schools, on other islands too. This kit would best be made up of:

  1. Balls (6)
  2. Mesh bag for balls
  3. Net band
  4. Standards – maintenance department makes a permanent system – Wood X or tire/pole/concrete.   Use basketball poles (depends on the time of day) Have a Primary School Championship Day – Coed  - 1 boy 2 girls or 2 boys and 1 girl. It would be 3 v 3 for grades 1-4  4 vs 4 for grade5 and 6.

Then they came up with the idea of having a predetermined national school championship day for both  boys and girls, for the older kids. Option two was to have Saturday morning trainings in main complex that leads to a tournament on 1-2 weekends. Finally it was felt to work on after-school activities in addition to those which could be made to occur during school, as there has been success with a  Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings  training featuring Jackie from BVI Federation.

It was a very worthwhile final discussion, as was the entire trip. My hosts were helpful, the participants engaged and the schedule successful.  There are now wiser and more creative teachers of both life and volleyball all over the nation.