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Volleying for position in Quesnel youth sports

Four age brackets representing Cobras volleyball on BC stage

Graduation is when doors open for young people, and it is also the end of some things.

For the athletes of the Quesnel Cobras Volleyball Club, the season is over. Some athletes will move on to other pursuits in life, others will step up an age division when the new season begins in autumn, and others will spend the summer training and developing on their own for the coming year on the court.

The Cobras are a four-division club program. All four teams travelled this year to compete in provincials, which has different rules than high school, namely the school teams have to win their way in by topping their zone. In club volleyball, the teams can enter at will, which gives Quesnel athletes the benefit of building themselves as people, through travel experience, as much as better learning the sport.

“It is tough for a small northern town like Quesnel to compete in a sport like volleyball,” said club director Karen Balkwill. “In large centres, hundreds of kids try out for the 12 spots on a team, and there are lots of local teams available for games. The best players from multiple schools would come together on a club team. Here in Quesnel, we have one school, and one club team for an age group. Some of the players who started back in Grade 8 have moved away or quit playing, so each year there have been new players. There are no other teams to play locally, and the lack of available gym times in Prince George has limited our chances to play their teams.”

Teams even from nearby Prince George are unwilling to travel to Quesnel, so Kamloops is the next closest community to find peer competition.

After the curtailments of the pandemic, the program is showing good momentum again, with registration numbers and coaching commitment.

Dillon Dixon-Chase is the head coach of the U18’s and club president. He took this team on when they were in Grade 9 (U15), after his previous team graduated. “He has been so incredibly generous with his time,” said Balkwill. He also organizes the adult rec league in Quesnel. Nick Wheeler is the assistant coach of U18s for the last three years.

The U16 team is coached by Emerie Watson, Emily Russell, and Kyle Riley; the U15 team is coached by Tod Anderson, and the U14 team is coached by Noah and Shelly Visser.

Balkwill said there was an older team that had been put together in the past just for provincials coached by Anderson and Craig Kitamura.

“It has been great as a parent to watch their skills develop over time,” Balkwill said. “They play the school season in the fall, and then club volleyball all winter, and then spend lots of time playing beach volleyball for fun at West Fraser Timber Park. Even during COVID, their club coach kept training them at the only venues we could use – Bouchie Lake Hall and outside at the beach court. Many of them also play in the adult rec league throughout the winter.”

Balkwill hopes to see the club keep growing and get an established group of coaches who will stay with the club over time. She would also like to see the popularity of volleyball with boys at the school level translate over to the club environment.

The cost of volleyball is significantly less than many sports alternatives, but the one area that can’t be avoided is travel expenses. The distances for competition requires staying nights in places like the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, so that falls to families or fundraising, the most important being sponsorship.

“We have been super lucky every year to get a bunch of sponsors to help with the costs,” Balkwill said.

Now that teams have active rosters and each with a coaching staff, the sponsors will have even better sports investments to think about.


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