Summer is sadly over, however this year the OVA and its members are left with a legacy to celebrate for grassroots volleyball in Ontario. The conclusion of the season also marked the official end of a pilot project to develop the Spikes on the Beach program - our official turn-key program for youth beach volleyball. Through the dedication of our member clubs and a growing love of the sport in their communities, 562 children and 65 coaches (35 of which are female) benefited from the Spikes on the Beach program and the resources provided through the Ontario Sport Recreation and Communities Fund.
You may have seen the videos of more high-profile persons from our beach community endorsing the program, including Team Canada Olympic Athletes and our Team Ontario Coaches. In fact, Spikes on the Beach encompasses the best practices that these two groups have followed to their international success. However, the story of the real beneficiaries of these programs - our clubs, their athletes, and their community - is not always captured. Last August, Kerish, our Community Outreach and Grassroots Coordinator, was invited by the Ottawa Valley Vikings to see first-hand the impact that Spikes on the Beach has had over the last two years. What he experienced was an outstanding example of how the spirit of a community brought over 100 people of all ages to enjoy beach volleyball.
“Everyone on the LTAD (long-term athlete development) pathway was actively involved, organically participating in a sport for the pure fun of it. It was very inspiring to see the impact the sport is having in small and medium sized communities,” said Kerish.
The Vikings started with a small program in the town of Douglas in 2017 and have grown through support from parents, coaches, schools and local businesses to build two more beach courts in Pembroke at the Alice and Fraser Beach Courts. Another two courts have been added at Owl Rafting at Foresters Falls. Club President, Dave Dobson also utilized the resources to grow adult participation in the Valley, running a 25-team adult league through the summer.
According to Dave, “we have over 300 in our small community playing beach this summer in organized leagues and probably another 200 using the courts on rentals. Children and adults from a 150km radius show up, even coming over from communities in Quebec. This year, two of our 16U boys played in the OVA’s beach circuit and Jeff Birmingham, one of our 16U Vikings club players made the 16U Provincial Beach Team.”
He added that “the executive, the kids and their parents have made this program a success. They are why it has become the most popular sport in the Valley for girls that age. I just planted the seed - the community and the people made it grow. Everyone last night had a great time and are already asking when it will start again next year because their kids have more friends that want to join.”