5 years ago grassroots junior volleyball did not exist in Nigeria. The only sport kids knew or played was soccer. After playing collegiate volleyball, Vincent UnogwuI was invited to compete at a national sports festival. There he met coach Mansur Onatago who taught him the basics of the game during their training sessions. Vincent realized the importance of teaching kids volleyball at an early age, and was inspired to start a youth program.
Here are 3 Factors that attributed to the growth of the Nigerian youth volleyball program, and more importantly, how your school, club or organization can help change the lives of these children in a special way:
It began with just three boys and one girl. With videos from YouTube (mostly from AVCA and JVA) Victor was able to develop different training sessions.
Many of the kids in Karu the community were not attending school or did not continue on to high school after primary school. Many of the children prefer to work menial jobs and learn the trade as a means of survival since their parents are too poor to provide for them. So child labor is very common.
Victor took it upon himself to take these kids to school once they become members of his volleyball club. He engaged the parents of these children so they understood the importance of education and how it would impact their child’s life. Victor made arrangements with the principals of the three schools to waive certain fees for the children. In the long run all of the kids in his volleyball program returned to school and every Sunday afternoon they would spend time studying. Victor would sometimes invite teachers to tutor them on general subjects. Some of the kids learned how to read for the first time after they joined the volleyball program, even at the age of 13 or 15.
One of the factors that contributed to the expansion of Vincent’s program is his ability to receive athletic apparel from senior players and distribute it to the kids. In return the kids had nice athletic clothes to wear when they trained every evening Other sports like soccer that were more popular among the kids did not give them that privilege. Once others saw children in sports shorts and a jersey going to play volleyball (something very uncommon) they began send their kids as well.
The volleyball program grew from 10 children in 2013 to 68 children today. Everything is purely free and basically a community volunteer service, born out of passion. The program does not have government support or sponsors. Sometimes when tthere is a local competition the club fundraises with the support of volleyball enthusiasts, but so far the program runs on very little charity funding.
3. ANNUAL COMPETITIONS
The volleyball programs run throughout the entire year including various indoor and beach competitions where players are divided into age divisions. This includes U10, U12, U14 and U16. Both boys and girls. The players love competing, and that is when their family members come to watch them play. They all look forward to these events throughout the year.
HOW THE PROGRAM EXPANDED:
In order to have a team to compete with Vincent encouraged his friends and former teammates to start a similar program in their community. It will amaze you to know that in some communities the kids play volleyball barefoot on bare ground. Though Vincent has been ablet to receive some athletic attire from his friends in the US, it is not enough to help the overwhelming number of young boys and girls that are picking up interest in the game. Vincent’s program has been sharing and managing the scarce resources they have but the participation continues to grow.
One German heard of Vincent’s need for resources and sent €1600, which was used to build an outdoor court in Jikwoyi, one of the communities where the junior volleyball program is booming. Some American coaches also sent used balls which are the lifeline of about 9 different junior teams that train in different communities.
In order to add variety to the program, Vincent introduced beach volleyball. The prorgram runs every September during the long vacation. The kids look forward to this time every year.
The federation is yet to invest in developing a system of junior volleyball that will help Vincent’s teams, though he has presented different proposals to the authorities. Their response is slow or full of bureaucracy that is tied to government control. There is still more interest in soccer and they find it difficult to respond to other sports.
Vincent’s commitment is born out of his personal interest to grow the game and to see that volleyball becomes a game to reckon with in Nigeria. 4 of Vincent’s players recently represented the national team in the junior African games. He aspires to be ablet to use volleyball to build a life for as many kids as possible, whether it be a scholarship or other opportunities when they grow older.
THE MAJOR CONCERNS:
- the use of bare ground as a training surface/court
- playing volleyball barefooted or with dilapidated footwear
- scarcity of balls and other equipment like nets, knee pads and training tools
- uniforms and sports attire
The coaches for the various volleyball programs are not properly trained nor have access to articles or literature on coaching junior volleyball. Government bureaucracy and the one-sided interest in soccer may stand as an impediment to immediate progress. Vincent hopes that with donations and support from the junior volleyball community in the U.S. he can continue to change the lives of children in his Nigerian community through the sport of volleyball.
About the Author
Vincent Unogwu is the Founder of Rubicon Junior Volleyball in Kari, Abuja Nigeria, and also a member of the JVA. He is a youth development coach and founded the first junior volleyball club 5 years ago. Today Nigeria has about 13 clubs with kids from 8-16 years old. In order to provide more resources for his coaches and players, Victor is asking for donations, specifically materials such as clothing, volleyballs, newsletters, magazines or any other literature that will help to enrich the coaches.
If you are interested in donating to Vincent’s volleyball program please contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org