High school players are taking centerstage this time as the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association last night started its weeklong volleyball camp for youth 14-18 years old at the Agape Gymnasium along Middle Road in Gualo Rai.
The five-day camp is being facilitated by FIVB Level III certified coach and Oceania Sports Education master educator Mike Rabago, who NMIVA contracted to hone the CNMI national volleyball teams as well as jump-start the islands’ grassroots development program.
NMIVA president Somia Quan said each day the clinic is from 5pm to 8pm and broken up between ages 14-16 (5pm-6:30pm) and 17-18 (6:30pm-8pm). Girls are Monday and Thursday, while boys are Tuesday and Friday. She added that Wednesday is a sample practice for hopefuls to the CNMI women’s national team (5pm-6:30pm) and CNMI men’s national team (6:30pm-8pm).
“Today is the first day of a weeklong clinic that we have for girls and boys high school. Girls are Monday and Thursday and boys are Tuesday and Friday and we’ve broken it down further into age groups. We have 14-16 from 5pm to 6:30pm and 17-18-years-olds from 6:30pm to 8pm,” she told Saipan Tribune in an interview Monday night at the Agape Gym.
NMIVA is trying to build on the success of the series of clinics conducted by Rabago.
“Last clinic we had kind of a two-day open camp where you could sign up or walk in and we had an overwhelming success with 91 participants. The turnout was pretty good,” said Quan.
The only difference this time around is rather than have all the players bunched up in one camp, NMIVA has divided them into boys and girls and age groups to improve the level of learning for the players.
“This time we’re trying to actually break it down to smaller groups to have a better quality instruction with coach Mike so for the 17-19-year-olds we have about 14 and the 14-16 earlier we had about 16. The boys are full from 14-16 at 25 and about 19 to the 17-18,” she said.
Like the previous months’ camp with Rabago, NMIVA wants local volleyball players to learn the sport’s latest skills and techniques.
“Once again it’s mainly about the technique, drills, trying to get our high school youth develop the right skillsets to be successfully in the court. As you know [the Public School System] has a pretty full schedule of volleyball for high school. We have indoor this year because we are just moving into indoor. So, this is going to get them ready for the season. So we’re really excited that we have a full capacity here,” added Quan.
For his part, Rabago said this phase of the training will now allow NMIVA to identify players that they could develop and hopefully would one day form the CNMI national volleyball team.
“Last month we’re just trying to cover some skills and we saw some numbers so this time we’re trying to break them down by age group. We’re taking a look now at skill level. Kind of assess where their skill levels at because last time was such a huge turnout we didn’t have a chance to see everybody. What we’re doing now is just putting names together for the federation just to maintain and keep track of them and keep in touch to continue to push this program,” he said.
After Day 1 of the session Monday night, Rabago said it’s abundantly clear that the future of CNMI volleyball is in good hands.
“Actually there’s talent and there were a few girls [that impressed] and we ended up having a couple of the younger girls stay with the older group. It was kind of nice to see them kind of matchup,” he said.
The Team Guam head volleyball coach also admitted that CNMI and Guam volleyball terms have some differences and that’s what he’s trying to overcome in his third stint supervising the volleyball camp on Saipan.
“It’s different because the system that I kind of run at home is way different than from here. Also, the use of the language is a whole lot different. So I’m trying to get them to buy into what I speak of the game and hopefully they can try and emphasize it. If not, you know, that’s up to the coaches that I work with the past couple of months to instill it into the players,” he said.
Rabago is also excited about the sample practice he will conduct for hopefuls of both the CNMI women’s and men’s national teams.
“I’ll be running a session with them and just talk about different types of attacks that they can try and run. It will be some type of offensive system. I’ll just watch. And again, this is a whole new federation. It’s nice to see the athletes [find out about] the federation they would be involved in the next 4-8 years.”