By Lindsey Turnbull
In September, Cayman will be hosting the Cazova (Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association) U23 Youth Volleyball tournament. This will be the first time that Cayman has hosted the event and organisers say it will be significant in putting Cayman back on the beach volleyball map, as well as giving young people important exposure to the sport at a high level. The tournament will be played on the newly renovated courts on Seven Mile Beach and is being organised by the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage.
The Federation is no stranger to holding prestigious volleyball tournaments, having been responsible for hosting the NORCECA volleyball championship ten times prior to Covid.
The inaugural hosting of this event, from the 2-4 September, will attract 16 two-person teams per gender, Sports Minister Bernie Bush advised at a press conference. The tournament signalled the long-anticipated reemergence of one of Cayman’s focus sports onto the international stage, he said.
Dr Trevor Therroulde, CIVF National Technical Director, said: “This volleyball tournament is significant in the developmental plan of the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation. The young players have been working extremely hard in developing their skills, both in the technical and tactical side, in preparation for such an event. The key in giving this support is that they are all under the age of 20 and they are looking forward to representing Cayman.”
The players will shortly be leaving for Trinidad where they will be competing on the international stage, before flying back to participate in the U23 tournament.
“This has been part of the strategic developmental plan of the CIVF to really focus on youth development and expose our talent to the rest of the world,” Dt Therroulde advised. “This is a great opportunity for our kids to demonstrate what they have learnt on the courts and place it into a more competition setting.”
The whole of Cayman should be excited, so come out and support these young athletes, he said.
Two players, sisters Anjia (17) and Brianna (15) Delapenha, spoke of their excitement at playing for the Cayman Islands for the first time at such a high level tournament.
Anjia said having her sister as her partner would be the cherry on top of the cake
Dr Therroulde said they saw the event as a great opportunity for sports tourism, with some of the region’s best beach volleyball players participating from the Caribbean, as well as NORCECA Federation teams from the US, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Cayman would be playing two teams per gender, he advised, and went on to say that players had to earn their position in order to represent the Cayman Islands. While the girls had been on island and training and so were pretty much already chosen to compete, the boys team had yet to be chosen, he said.
Kevin Solomon, CIVF Treasurer, said the new courts had allowed players the space to train.
“So far training has gone well and its good for the young players to be on home soil for the tournament,” he advised.
Minister Bush said in three to four years from now these young players would be something to be reckoned with in this tournament.
“I take my hat off to the Volleyball Federation. I like what they have done,” he said.
Dr Therroulde said appetite for volleyball in the region was great and the world governing body was injecting more funding for beach volleyball in the Caribbean, as they saw the sport as having an easier pathway to the Olympics because only two players are needed for a team, especially important for small countries like Cayman.
Minister Bush said more support from the community was needed and holding a press conference to announce the news showed the importance the Ministry put on this event.
“We have to highlight these types of things, especially with this age group; it’s a beautiful place to start,” he said, adding that once the Ministry of Sports saw other sports “doing things the right way” they would be working with them and supporting them.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he confirmed.