A lack of the sun or sand typically associated with beach volleyball were not a problem for the local athletes and national-level coaches who participated in a training camp in Whitehorse on the last week of 2021.
Shannon Poelman, the women’s beach volleyball coach with Volleyball Yukon said the sport seems to be growing in the Yukon, noting that summertime outdoor games are a common sight down at Rotary Park and elsewhere. Although beach volleyball can be a fun social sport, Poelman says it can also provide opportunities for elite competition outside the territory and the honing of skills for court volleyball players.
Poelman said beach volleyball is also a good sport for the Yukon’s smaller communities because it only requires teams of two, compared to the six-on-six play of court volleyball.
The Christmas camp brought in athletes over a wide age range. Poelman said they were split up into 13 to 16 and 17 to 22. Poelman said players came from rural Yukon communities as well as Whitehorse.
Although the Christmas camp took place on the gym floor at Porter Creek Secondary rather than sandy outdoor courts, Poelman said the coaches worked to get players thinking about the conditions and skills needed for outdoor play.
“It’s definitely going to feel different for the athletes on sand as opposed to the gym floor but I think practicing techniques and tactics, that kind of thing, they can translate from a gym to a beach court,” Poelman said.
She added that the coaches provided all the instruction they could on outdoor factors like serving or hitting in the wind.
“Learning the skill and proper technique, as always, doesn’t matter where you are, that’s something that you can always, always learn.”
Coaching was provided by Brandie Wilkerson, a member of the Canadian women’s beach volleyball Olympic team fresh off the Tokyo Olympics. Angie Shen, a high-performance beach volleyball coach, and Vee Altomare, a former member of the Canadian national team, were also present.
“We were so lucky we had these three ladies, and they’re younger so they can really relate to the kids,” Poelman said.
“They’re very positive and they’re very passionate about their sport.”
Poelman said that in beach volleyball, with its smaller teams and lack of specialized positions, communication is especially important. She said that communication as well as the game’s fast pace and the need for well-rounded offensive and defensive play makes it good off-season training for court volleyball players.
“In regards to all the physical skills that you need for both, they’re very much the same, and the same goes for the technical skills but not everyone in indoors is going to get a chance to attack the ball,” Poelman said.
“I really think it’s a good way to know go through the summer and keep up your skills and definitely your physical ability and stamina.”
The three-day camp ended with a mini tournament allowing the players to test out the skills they had learned.
“With this program, kids at the beginning that I saw struggled a little bit, by the end they played amazing,” Poelman said.
Poelman said the camp couldn’t have been held amid the difficult conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic without assistance from sponsors. She named Lotteries Yukon, Northland Beverages, Air North and the Northern Lytes athlete development organization as important backers of the camp.
“We really appreciate their support, especially making this program happen. I was very worried that you know, with COVID that we might get shut down,” Poelman said.
“We were very careful with the numbers that we took in to follow protocols and everybody was able to travel and make it so that it was a really good week of volleyball.”
Once winter is over and players can return to the sand courts Poelman said club beach volleyball will be offered and tryouts for the Yukon’s Canada Summer Games squad will be held.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org