If there’s anything the series of camps conducted by FIVB Level III certified coach and Oceania Sports Education master educator Mike Rabago these past several months showed is that volleyball is alive and kicking in the CNMI.
Last Friday marked the end of Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association’s latest weeklong camp at the Agape Gymnasium along Middle Road in Gualo Rai and Rabago said unlike previous camps he was finally able to work with smaller groups this time around.
“I’m getting more interaction with the smaller group. The bigger group I couldn’t really stop because they were here in a short timeframe but the smaller group I can change the different types of skills and drills for every age category. That was the plan it’s for the federation to really see what age groups they have in the 18- and-under and those in the 14-and-under,” said Rabago.
The Team Guam coach said his work is far from over and he hopes to come back for a couple of more volleyball camps to fine-tune what he already taught.
“I have a couple of more visits to try and refine the national team and then take a look at how the coaches are doing….It’s a different game style to what I’m teaching and these guys it’s hard to teach something new in two days but if the coaches pick up any feedback from me and they implement it then when I come back hopefully these guys can demonstrate it and I can up the caliber of the drills and all that.”
However, Rabago admitted that NMIVA has gone a long way since he first started conducting camps in April.
“The very first time we didn’t know we’re gonna have these many people because according to the new officers of the federation they didn’t have numbers or anything like that. One goal is to ‘let’s get numbers down and see how many show up’ and after that 90-plus showed up. And then the next goal was let’s break them down and let’s unify the age groups and let’s see how many come up. It’s a group of kids that the federation now can [assign] coaches and say ‘hey someone takeover the U18 group’ or ‘someone takeover the U16 group,’” he said.
Last Wednesday also saw the camp pit national team hopefuls against one another that had Rabago excited.
“For the women I introduced some blocking drills and how to pull out and it was kind of fun watching the shorter ones actually block ball and they were screaming. At the end of that session all of them were kind of happy. They learned two skills that they needed to refine, which was blocking and pulling out to hit,” he said.
NMIVA board member Shawn Davis acknowledged that the weeklong camp accelerated the learning of not only youth volleyball players but also their coaches.
“We were trying to get all the age levels—boys and girls—to get more familiar on how to move on the court. How to get more familiar on how to appropriately move on the court. We have some drills for that but to work on it in this pace it’s kind of like in a higher level so they can bring it back to the schools. I think it helped a lot of coaches who were here a lot. He was willing to share the different drills for us to be able to use and articulate to move it forward,” she said.
Volleyball camp first-timer Andrew Camacho thanked Rabago for teaching them new volleyball skills they can now practice and even share with their teammates.
“Our first practice with the 18-and-under boys I was really surprised how he connected all the practice drills. We had our first receiving practice and near the end we combined it with all the other drills and it was really surprising at first ‘oh we did this and it’s connected,’” the 18-year-old from Kagman said.
Jakey Deleon Guerrero, for his part, said Rabago’s camp has made him ready for the upcoming volleyball season,
“It was convenient because of the time and that school is coming back. It will definitely prepare us for the next volleyball season. It was quick but was very efficient the way coach Mike Rabago expressed the drill to us… [he taught us] how to adapt from defense to offense… Overall, it was a good experience,” said the 16-year-old from Marianas High School.
Deleon Guerrero said for newcomers to the sport, the camp was definitely a good way to introduce them to volleyball.
Davis agreed with Rabago that what the series of volleyball camps proved to NMIVA is that there is indeed a lot of volleyball players who want to commit to the sport. “A lot of kids want to play. A lot of kids,” she said.