All this week an almost constant hullabaloo of thumping volleyballs has filled the gymnasium at Porter Creek Secondary School.
Three of Canada’s best have been passing on pearls of wisdom to Yukon players at the Blood, Sweat and Tears volleyball camp that began Monday and ends Friday.
“I think the volleyball community in Yukon is great,” said camp head coach Tiffany Dodds-Little. “I could tell already in the first session that it was going to be a really enjoyable camp. The kids have been really awesome, they’ve been really receptive to what we’ve had to say and try new things.
“You can just tell it’s a really tight-knit volleyball community up here. The coaches are really passionate and they want the kids to get better.”
Dodds-Little, Jamie Thibeault and Dallas Soonias together have a combined 27 years of experience playing professionally and for Canada’s national teams.
A total of 55 high school-level players, many of whom will likely play for Yukon at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, are taking part in the camp.
Dodds-Little likes what she sees from the Yukon players.
“There’s a lot of talent up here,” she said. “There are some kids up here I’ve been talking to and have been asking them, ‘What are your aspirations after high school? Because you’re only in Grade 10 or Grade 11 and I can tell you right now I know a ton of CIS coaches and college coaches and there are some kids here that can be playing there.’
“It’s neat to ask kids what they’re going to do after high school and say, ‘I can see you playing somewhere,’ and their face just lights up.”
Dodds-Little knows firsthand where the sport can take a player. She grew up in the small town of Lucky Lake, Sask. with a population under 300 and went on to play for national youth and junior teams, the University of Alberta, and then eight years on the national team.
Thibeault and Soonias can also speak to that, both coming from Red Deer, Alta., a city of 90,000.
“We’re all from smaller communities and in high school I don’t think we realized how far we could take it,” said Dodds-Little.
A pair of Yukon Olympians played a part in bringing the elite players to Whitehorse. The camp came to town in part thanks to the Northern LYTES youth sport development program founded by cyclist Zach Bell and cross-country skier Emily Nishikawa. Over the past two years Northern LYTES (Linking Youth to Elite Sport) has helped bring numerous Olympians and national level coaches to the territory to work with young athletes. The program is in partnership with Air North and SmartStop Self Storage, a sponsor of Bell’s former pro cycling team.
“Each day we’re going through all the skills, hopefully giving these guys drills they haven’t seen before and maybe giving them new ways to learn a skill,” said Dodds-Little. “On Friday they’re going to take everything we’ve taught them throughout the week and let them play games or a mini tournament or something like that.”
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