Doha, Qatar, November 13, 2015 – Namibia has big aims in beach volleyball and is putting in place plans to ensure that in years to come they will be among the leading African sides.
In recent years Namibian teams have competed at FIVB age-group world championships and the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, while their leading women’s team narrowly missed out on a place at the Netherlands 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
The drive for improvement is being led by James Verrinder, who is the Namibia Volleyball Federation’s Beach Volleyball Director and runs the Timeout Beach Volleyball Academy.
Verrinder hails from Cambridge in England and used to play Division 1 volleyball in the English league and on the English Beach Volleyball Tour. He met his Namibian wife at university through volleyball and has since spent the past three years living in her home nation, all the while becoming accustomed to the unique challenges that come with promoting beach volleyball in the southern African country.
“Logistically it is incredibly difficult,” Verrinder said. “We have a population between 2-2.5 million people in the country with about 300,000 in the capital Windhoek. From there to the north of Namibia is about eight hours drive and there are about one million potential athletes there who we need to reach and expose to beach volleyball.
“We have one club in the whole of Namibia who plays beach volleyball regularly and trains together. We really want to establish a few more clubs and get a few more people interested in playing beach volleyball and try make the pool of athletes larger so that when we chose our international athletes we have a bit more choice.”
Verrinder coaches eight to 13 year olds the FIVB Cool Volley techniques, extends them to the 13-18 group and also takes charge of the men’s and women’s senior teams.
Namibia’s unique challenge comes when children reach the age of 18 and leave for either Germany or South Africa where they attend university. It means that many are lost to the system and the sport as they establish lives overseas.
The hope is that by starting coaching at a young age, the children will develop excellent technique and also be known to the NVF for when they move abroad.
One such player is Julia Laggner who competed at two FIVB U21 World Championships and is now benefitting from playing on the German National Tour, while studying at university.
Other players likely to be in a similar position in the next few years are Kim Seebach and Stephanie Palmhert, who competed in the 2014 U19 World Championships and Nanjing 2014.
Verrinder is confident that they will compete in the 2016 U21 World Championships, along with the Pfeifer twins Daniel and Fabian.
“Wherever they are in the world, as long as they keep exposing themselves to beach volleyball then hopefully we can call on them when we need them and then they become the role models for the next generation,” Verrinder sad.
“The academy is in its first full-time year and it is great just to see kids finding a new sport which hasn’t really been pushed that hard at such a young age. It is amazing the ball skills and co-ordination the kids have and if I can keep working with the kids it is better for the sport and that is so exciting for me.”
The next big challenge for Namibian beach volleyball will come at the CAVB Continental Cup Final in 2016.
The victorious Federation will win a place at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and even if Namibia don’t book at place at Copacabana Beach, Verrinder is well aware simply of how much improvement his teams make competing at a continental level.
“Beach volleyball is such a new sport to all African countries, but from going to the CAVB competitions you can see in six months how dramatic the improvement is among African countries,” he said
“They are embracing the game and realising what a simple form of volleyball it can be. The technique is getting there and hopefully we can start to challenge the rest of the world. We just need to encourage people about what a simple game it is to organise.”