‘My goal right now is put a medal on your chests’

Posted on Apr 22 2021

FIVB Level III certified coach and Oceania Sports Education master educator Mike Rabago talks to former and potential CNMI national volleyball players and current coaches during a two-hour clinic at the Agape Gymnasium along Middle Road last Friday. (Mark Rabago)

Guam volleyball national coach Mike Rabago said this to former and potential CNMI national volleyball players and their coaches at the end of a what promises to be a series of coaching clinics at the Agape Gymnasium along Middle Road last Friday.

The FIVB Level III certified coach and Oceania Sports Education master educator was on island to assist the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association in getting its national team and grass roots program up and running again. NMIVA president Somia Quan said the coaching clinic conducted by Rabago is part of an FIVB National Team Coaching Development grant.

“My goal right now is put a medal on your chests. I don’t care what kind of color it is…I want everyone to buy in—the federation, the coaches, and the players… This is the future and you guys will be the one to build the youth program and it starts by being in shape. That’s where the buy-in comes in like coming out on a Friday night [like this],” Rabago told the over 25 participants of the volleyball clinic last Friday.

He also impressed on the players and coaches that while the CNMI and Guam can continue to be rivals on the volleyball court, there’s no reason why they can’t cooperate to grow the sport outside it.

“We want to have an exchange between Guam and the CNMI. We don’t want to [clash with] each other [anymore]. We want to be affiliated friends already. It’s always nice to go here,” said Rabago, adding that in the past he used to periodically fly up to Saipan to compete in many volleyball tournaments.

The honor graduate of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s International Coaching Enrichment Certification Program said his ultimate dream for volleyball in the Marianas is that the CNMI and Guam would follow the lead of the former French colonies in the Pacific.

“[The French-speaking island-nations] of Tahiti, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna they always play each other in inter-island meets so they know each other. So the Pacific Games to them is like a celebration or a close out of what they’ve worked hard for,” he said.

Quan said the coaching clinic last April 16 was just a way for Rabago to familiarize himself with the Commonwealth’s men’s national players as well as their coaches and see where their playing level and coaching capacity is and build a plan from there.

“The ultimate goal for our partnership with Mike Rabago is to produce national team coaches for beach volleyball for the Pacific Mini Games and beach volleyball and indoor volleyball for the Micronesian Games, but if it also helps our other coaches at various volleyball development stages receive more knowledge and resources, even better!” she said.

Asked what’s his impression on aspiring CNMI national volleyball players, Rabago said it’s too early to pass judgment but he liked what he saw.

“I’m glad that they’re young. I’m glad they have a court to come to. I haven’t had a chance to really watch a 6-on-6 game so I don’t know the total expectations and what they’re caliber is really at. I’m talking about something totally brand new and it’s gonna either break them or make them better. I do see some players pick it up really quickly and I saw those still stuck in the traditional old-school way…That’s why I was telling them that do your homework, watch current games, and don’t sit back and say ‘I’m the best and I’m satisfied,’” he said.

NMIVA board member and former national team player Tyce Mister came away impressed after Rabago’s volleyball clinic/training session.

“It was excellent, fast-paced, organized… impressive practice… A debriefing after for coaches/players to ask clarification questions would have been good. I realize we were pressed for time though,” he said.

Tanapag Middle School volleyball coach Catherine Torculas-Woodruff said she benefitted a lot from the two-hour session with Rabago and plans to pass on the new volleyball knowledge she acquired to her players.

“Coach Rabago did a great job with ideas and tactics on how to do different drills. Workshops are very important to us coaches because we can get some ideas and bring them back to our school, implement them to our students,” said the winning men’s coach of the recently concluded 2021 Middle School Grass Volleyball League.

The men’s champion coach of the women’s side of the same league, Connie Camacho of Hopwood Middle School, said the clinic was an exciting and fun way to learn more about volleyball.

“I observed some techniques for teaching basic volleyball skills and I watched the national team play the speed ball game which I found fun…I want to reiterate what coach Rabago mentioned that I myself believe in, which is there’s always room for improvement and we must be a student of the game and never be satisfied. This is what separates you from the rest,” she said.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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