Omaha, USA, July 25, 2015 – Although all the global headlines might be talking about the biggest stars in the world at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Finals Omaha 2015, some of the future stars of the sport have been showing that the future of USA volleyball is in very good hands.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday has seen 82 teams compete across 10 courts in the CenturyLink Center. Five states have been represented with the University of Nebraska Omaha and Creighton University joining forces for the tournament.
Players have also been able to watch some of the top players from around the world at the World Grand Prix as well, with many looking to emulate their heroes on the court.
Akala and Regan are both competing at the tournament having travelled from Ankery, Iowa and are certainly learning a lot by both playing and watching.
“It’s a good experience,” says Akala. “That’s the [USA] Olympic team so you get to see awesome volleyball and see different countries, it’s really cool.”
“I play middle, so I’m watching their middles more than their outsides so I can pick up what they’re doing,” Regan adds. “There’s actually a play they run that we run so it’s just like them.”
The pair have played for eight years and love the team aspect of volleyball.
“I play a lot of different sports and volleyball teams are so much closer and there’s a lot of love with each other,” Akala explained. “There’s definitely a lifelong relationship when you play volleyball.”
“It’s like the people you’re with. Obviously I love the sport, but I love how tight a team can be.”
Coach Joe Morton has also been happy with the tournament and, with his team here for three days, they are picking up a lot of new skills
“We’re learning a bunch of new stuff but we’re doing well,” he said. “During the summer camps we play three tournaments and in season we play six. We’ve got 11 kids here.”
He also said having the World Grand Prix just next door is providing plenty of talking points for him and his side.
“I know our girls were blown away by the level of play and the heights and the sizes. I think it’s really good to see what it takes at that level and understand the hard work and dedication that it took for them to get there.
“But I think they really buy into it, they get excited by it and they talk about trying to do some of the things that those girls are doing which, from a coaching standpoint I like. It’s a great fit for a team camp to have.”
There are six teams competing in the World Grand Prix, with Olympic champions Russia, 10-time World Grand Prix champions Brazil and Women’s World Championship runners-up China just three of them.
But whilst it is great to see some of the global stars, the US players are the ones most of the young athletes are here to see.
“It really motivates us to see people from nearby,” said one player. “Because we’re from Iowa It really motivates us to see people who go to college at Nebraska and then on the USA team.
“It’s really awesome and it shows you can do pretty much anything. At one point those girls were just American girls who were on a club team or a high school team and now they’re a person who represents our country.”
Kylie Hansen, who is another coach at the event, agreed.
“My team and I were talking a little bit about watching some of those top players,” she said. “A middle might crush a hit and she immediately turns around and says ‘that was a great pass’. Being able to see that kind of behavior model is just as important as seeing how hard they hit as a coach.
“Not all my kids are going to grow up and play at national level, but they can all learn how to be good teammates and that USA team really models that very well.”
Her team is from Omaha, so having the opportunity to play teams from across the country has been a great experience.
“We got to play a lot of teams not from Nebraska so that was fun. It’s been a good mix.”