Volleyball is alive and kicking in the CNMI as evidenced by the 91 youth that took part in the final day of the weeklong clinic organized by the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association last Friday at the Agape Gymnasium along Middle Road in Gualo Rai.
FIVB Level III certified coach and Oceania Sports Education master educator Mike Rabago spearheaded the clinic and was happy on the turnout and said the number of young players showing interest in the sport of volleyball bodes very well for NMIVA.
“The biggest thing is for the federation to get some numbers and names. So, we have something stable for the federation. Right now it’s summer and the interest is there for volleyball. They won’t come if they really don’t want to learn,” he said.
Rabago said he saw a lot of talent and dedication during the final two days of the coaching clinic, where players 18-and-under took part. The first two days were designated for volleyball coaches.
“This group over here is what could possibly be the CNMI’s national team in four years,” he said during a break in the clinic last Friday. “I think that’s what was lacking in the past, just putting out teams for national events.”
As for his take on the coaches, Rabago said he’s happy to report that all of them were like sponges and was thankful that they allowed him to give them advise. He added that he also learned a thing or two from them as the coaching clinic went on.
“We worked together the first couple of days and I gave them sort of my style. They can add to their way or take away anything [from what I taught],” he said.
The week-long clinic for coaches and up-and-coming players left a good impression on coaches like former CNMI national player Tyce Mister.
“This clinic went over the most important cues for four skills—serving, passing, setting, and attacking. And some drills to practice the cues. I think it was great for the variety of levels of players we hosted. We had a lot of interest which is amazing, but challenging to move things along. Coach Mike did well. Next time we’ll break down into smaller groups which provides opportunities to do even more. The cues are important reminders and it gave me some things to work on in my own playing,” he said.
For Jacoby Winkfield, the coaching clinic conducted by Rabago was engaging but more importantly added to his knowledge of volleyball.
“He did a great job of breaking the game down to manageable chunks. I learned several new drills which can be applied to all skill levels, from novice to seasoned players. Thanks to NMIVA for all the hard work you have put into reviving volleyball in the CNMI. It was encouraging to see so many of our youth interested and loving volleyball,” he said.
Rick Manzano, for his part, said he just feels privileged to have learned from Rabago. “Mike is a level 3 coach in the FIVB and we’re just fortunate to learn from him. It’s been a long time since any of our teams—men and women—won in any level in the region. I think Mike said it was way back in 2009. I’m happy to see a lot of high school and middle school kids join the last two days of the clinic. This coaching clinic hopefully would bring CNMI volleyball back on the map,” he said in Filipino.
Rabago, who will be back next month for his third and final visit to Saipan to conduct the series of coaching clinics, reiterated that his intention all along is to improve the state of volleyball in the CNMI.
“I’m excited to see a lot of coaches and kids come out during the weeklong coaching clinic. You’d never know…I may see these guys in four years and I’m coaching my team and I’m going up against them. But it’s OK I love [developing] good players,” said the Team Guam volleyball coach.