THE TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Volleyball Federation (TTVF) and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), while the TTVF also announced the launch of its OneVolleyball national programme, the TTVF’s Development Pathway.
The MoU runs for a period of three years, starting from March 11 and will cover the entire Paris 2024 Olympic qualifying process period and coincide with the conclusion of TTVF president Daymian Stewart’s term in office.
Working through current International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) executive vice-president Mushtaque Mohammed – himself a former TTVF president – the TTVF and UTT were able to secure the services of experienced volleyball coach, the Cuba-born Francisco “Panchy” Cruz Jimenez, the FIVB development coach who served as the national senior women’s coach from 2005 to 2019 before resuming those duties in April 2020 up until September 2021.
Mohammed, also the vice-president at the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) and president of the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA), said the TTVF had earned the right by its development efforts and athletic feats, to receive assistance through these organizations Mohammed is associated with.
“Panchy” has been credited with taking the women’s program – at its peak when they qualified for their maiden FIVB Women’s Volleyball Championship in 2018 – from a world ranking of 127 to 27. He will now serve as technical director to the TTVF and guide the local clubs and coaches. Gideon Nixon will serve as the national senior men’s indoor team coach while Peer Nassier will be head coach of the senior women’s indoor squad.
The TTO senior women’s team is currently ranked 55th while the men’s squad is seeded 73rd according to the latest FIVB rankings.
Stewart said the MoU is to ensure continuity of the development of the game and give access to UTT’s resources as the organization seeks to expand the base of the sport.
“Having a university partner, we have access to these things that you normally can’t go and purchase yourself because of the type of funding you have,” Stewart said.
Stewart added the MoU states in black and white what terms the parties agree to and will allow the TTVF uninterrupted access to this agreement in the case of current UTT board of governors chair, professor Clement Imbert or UTT president professor Prakash Persad vacating office before the expiration of the MoU. Both men were present at yesterday’s event at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA).
Stewart admitted the TTVF depended heavily on the UTT and the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) to facilitate Jimenez’s initial multi-year stint.
“So we are very excited about the way forward…We have a problem with the base. We produce very talented athletes but the numbers training with the national team and the base are too small. We have to widen the base,” Stewart said.
The Development Pathway started yesterday, with several clubs, after consultation with the TTVF, being put in charge of 12 development centers throughout the country. Their mandate is to target and recruit players from schools and increase participation.
Those development centers will be located in Port of Spain and Environs, St George, Caroni, North East, Victoria, St Patrick, South East and Tobago.
The clubs and centers are as follows: Big Sepos VC — Morvant/Laventille; West Side Stars VC—Diego Martin; Troopers VC — Woodbrook; Big Sepos VC — Tacarigua; Zenith Sports & Cultural Academy — San Juan; Challengers VC — Maloney; La Cura Sport — Couva/Chaguanas; Toco Sports Academy — Toco/Sande Grande; Southern United — San Fernando; TTVF – Point Fortin); TTVF — Princes Town/Mayaro) and TTVF — Tobago.
The expenditure for the first three months of the program has been underwritten by the Office of the Prime Minister to the tune of $105,000, while NORCECA will provide equipment and gear to the tune of $140,000 annually.
Stewart added that the TTVF will host a TTVF Developmental Festival at which each center must participate to facilitate scouting for national selectors while the new national coach selection policy will move away from one where the executive selects the coaching staff. Instead, the coaching staff of the winning Center in each age-group will be rewarded.
“It’s not in the executive hands, we settle it on the court. That is an incentive for competition to be keen. If you are doing the development work and you bring the best team in the particular age group, your staff will become the national staff at that age-group level…That incentive is there…we are providing them with the venues. ..We are also paying the coaches. All we just want is people in your community to come out and learn to play volleyball.”