Like the older players the previous weekend, Grade 8 teams from the three Whitehorse high schools and one outside school participated in the Early Bird Volleyball Tournament Friday and Saturday at Vanier Catholic Secondary School.
Again, like the previous Early Bird, the tournament put the focus on playing, not on winning.
“This is probably one of the first high pressure situations a lot of these players have ever played in,” said Katrina Brogdon, Vanier’s Grade 8 girls’ coach.
“So it’s good, so they can relax a little about who gets first, who gets second and that sort of thing. They can just play their hearts out and that’s what they’re doing.
“I really like the way they do it with no winners, no losers because, especially for Grade 8s coming out of elementary school, the difference in the level and the intensity of the volleyball is like night and day.”
Not only does it provide players with the experience of playing competitively in a tournament setting, with each team playing four games, it gives both players and coaches a chance to spot trouble areas.
“Exactly,” responded Brogdon, to the suggestion the Early Bird will act as a litmus test for teams.
“With Grade 8s we’re looking at serving — that’s number one — and team work,” says Brogdon. “Figuring out where you’re passing the ball and get it over on the third hit, all that stuff.”
Each of the three Whitehorse high schools supplied two girls’ teams and one boys’ team, with the exception of Porter Creek, which had two boys’ teams.
With a teachers’ conference having taken place in Whitehorse on Thursday and Friday, only one school from outside Whitehorse was able to make the journey.
“So all the teachers from all the territory have been in Whitehorse, but of course, their students haven’t been,” said Brogdon. “So it would be completely impractical, for example, to go all the way to Dawson, turn around and come back. And if you don’t have teachers to bring the students down, who’s going to?”
Because of their close proximity and the help of volunteer parents and coaches, Teslin was the one outside school in the Early Bird. With such a small number of students to draw from, Teslin was forced to enter a coed team, which played in the boys’ division.
“With the community having such a small base for youth to participate in, we find ourselves being coed all the time,” said Teslin head coach Todd Smarch. “But that’s just something we have to work with.
“I know it’s a bit tough to compete, there’s no league for us, but maybe we can get a few more people in our community to come out and hopefully get a boys’ and girls’ team eventually.
“We might have to start going to younger grades (for more players),” he added.
Smarch is hoping that eventually some league play against other Southern Lakes schools will become possible in the future — or at least a tournament of some kind will be started.
“It’s pretty hard for us to travel to Whitehorse — two hours (travel time) — for an after school game,” he said.
“We’re talking about possibly involving the southern lakes — Dawson Lake, Dease Lake, Teslin Lake, Atlin Lake, Carcross — and starting a Southern Lakes tournament or a league for us,” said Smarch. “So we can get together more.”
The Teslin team is between names right now, but in the past was called the Aces, named after the Three Aces mountain range adjacent to the town.
“(We want) to get the community behind us with a mascot,” said Smarch. “We’re definitely looking at promoting something like the … Watson Lake Bears. Maybe get something community oriented.”
Smarch was unable to give examples of team names the school is considering.
Despite having a mixed bunch of kids, with a total of just eight players, Smarch is pleased with the way his team performed.
“All of our games were really close,” said Smarch.
“This is the only one that was really a blow-out,” he added, referring to his team’s final game against Porter Creek’s No. 2 team, in which they failed to win a set.