Wednesday, 29 May 2024

The Game Will Find a Way

In June, I had the incredible opportunity to visit American Samoa, one of the farthest regions supported by USA Volleyball. This remote location, home to U.S. citizens who have served their country in war and in peace, holds a special place in my heart because of my family’s connection to the South Pacific. My grandfather and father both worked in this region, and now I had the chance to share my knowledge and passion for volleyball with the local coaches and players.

The Fa’a Samoa Initiative, started by former NFL player Troy Polamalu and his wife Theodora, has been making a difference in this community since 2011. The initiative originally focused on football, but in 2013, volleyball was added with the help of former University of Hawaii and U.S. national team member Allen Allen. During my time in American Samoa, I had the pleasure of working with Allen and witnessing his sincere dedication to teaching and inspiring the kids.

Troy Polamalu and Allen Allen are both American Samoans who left their island home to pursue excellence in their respective fields. Troy’s commitment to setting goals was evident when his brother discovered a list of goals he had written during his high school years. While he didn’t achieve all of them, it never stopped him from working hard and striving for greatness. This mindset is reminiscent of the volleyball player’s challenge to practice as if you are the 13th player on a 12-person roster.

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Throughout my visit, we conducted coaching clinics at high schools and other locations, ensuring that the kids had access to quality training. The sessions were a huge success, with the only “problem” being some sore feet from all the enthusiastic participation. But it wasn’t just about the volleyball training; we also immersed ourselves in the Samoan culture. We dined with the governor, experienced traditional music and dance, took part in a Kava ceremony, and enjoyed a traditional Samoan luau by the ocean.

The highlight of our visit was the tournament we held as part of the #VolleyballYourWay world-record attempt by the FIVB. This televised event showcased the talent and dedication of the local players, with teams from various high schools competing in front of multiple cameras and announcers.

The support provided by the Polamalus and their sponsors was truly remarkable. The kids received breakfast and lunch at the training site, along with free shoes and gear. Medical doctors were also present to screen and assist the athletes. The entire event was focused on the well-being and development of the kids, from start to finish.

One of the Department of Education staffers approached me on the last day to share their biggest takeaway from the clinics. They were amazed at how we created ample space for the kids to play. In addition to the equipment we brought, such as nets and ribbons, we encouraged the coaches to think outside the box and utilize existing facilities. For example, we suggested using tennis courts by tying ropes as makeshift nets and drawing court lines with colored chalk. This allowed for dual use of the fenced-in facilities, maximizing the number of kids who could play on a single court.

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Another important aspect of our visit was promoting the game at all levels. We gave away beach balls and balloons to the younger kids, encouraging them to start playing and having fun with their siblings. The game doesn’t always have to be 6 vs. 6; even 1 vs. 1 or 2 vs. 2 matches can be intense and enjoyable. It’s about developing skills, focusing on personal growth, and fostering a love for the game.

By the end of our visit, we witnessed a remarkable transformation among the players. They went from waiting in line to hit the ball to working together in pairs, skillfully practicing their techniques. The traditional methods of standing in lines and throwing instead of passing a live ball quickly became a thing of the past. The dedicated group of volleyball coaches, led by Allen Allen, played a pivotal role in this positive change. Without their expertise and the support of the Polamalus, this trip wouldn’t have been as impactful.

To conclude, my time in American Samoa taught me the importance of providing opportunities for kids to play and grow in the sport they love. It reminded me that sometimes, all it takes is a few simple adjustments and a lot of passion to make a difference. The game of volleyball truly finds a way, even in the most remote corners of the world.


FAQs

Q: How did the Fa’a Samoa Initiative start?

A: The Fa’a Samoa Initiative was initiated by former NFL player Troy Polamalu and his wife Theodora in 2011. Originally focused on football, it later expanded to include volleyball in 2013 with the help of Allen Allen, a former University of Hawaii and U.S. national team member.

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Q: What were some of the highlights of the coaching clinics?

A: The coaching clinics were a great success, with players and coaches coming together to learn and improve their skills. One of the standout moments was the tournament held as part of the #VolleyballYourWay world-record attempt by the FIVB. The event was televised and showcased the talent and dedication of the local players.

Q: How did the coaches maximize the playing space for the kids?

A: The coaches got creative in utilizing existing facilities, such as tennis courts. By tying ropes as makeshift nets and drawing court lines with colored chalk, they were able to create more playing areas. This allowed for a greater number of kids to participate at the same time.

Summary

My visit to American Samoa as part of the Fa’a Samoa Initiative was a truly rewarding experience. Working alongside dedicated coaches and players, we were able to make a positive impact on the local volleyball community. The support provided by Troy Polamalu and his sponsors ensured that the kids received not only quality training but also the necessary resources and equipment. By encouraging creativity and maximizing playing spaces, we were able to create more opportunities for kids to enjoy and excel in the game. Ultimately, this trip reminded me of the importance of fostering a love for the sport and providing access to training for all.