Saturday, 20 Jul 2024

To Teach the Teachers

I have had the privilege of being an International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Instructor since 1987, conducting Level 1,2, and 3 courses in over 50 nations. Each time I embark on a new teaching journey, I am fortunate to learn valuable insights from the individuals I am instructing. My most recent trip was triggered by a mandate from the Minister of Education for the British Virgin Islands, requiring all physical education teachers in the country to attend the FIVB Level One course offered by NORCECA. The opportunity to impact an entire nation’s physical education program by sharing the latest motor learning and teaching research made it a worthwhile endeavor.

A Memorable Journey

Located approximately 3,000 air miles from Colorado Springs, the last leg of my trip was an adventure in itself. Boarding an 8-seater Cessna twin prop in San Juan, we had to navigate through a tropical depression named “Cristobal.” This depression later intensified into a hurricane as it headed north towards the USA. Despite the harrowing flight, where the plane seemed to defy gravity at times, we managed to stay airborne. Only the pilot and I were able to keep our stomachs settled during the turbulence. Interestingly, due to our relatively low altitude of about 10,000 feet, I had cell phone service throughout the journey, which proved helpful to my hosts who were initially informed that all flights for the day had been canceled. It was a flight that left a lasting impression on me.

Empowering National Team Players and Coaches

During my two-day stay in the British Virgin Islands, I had the pleasure of working with national team players and coaches. My objective was to encourage them to adopt more game-like training methods, particularly in a beach volleyball setting. However, we encountered a slight obstacle. When the players ventured too far to one end of the court during competitive games, the ball would end up sailing into the marina. We had to orchestrate a sort of human chain to retrieve the ball from the dock level. Despite this challenge, the nation boasted a talented pool of leapers and promising young players, both male and female.

Discovering Gems in the BVI

While in the British Virgin Islands, I took note of several interesting aspects of the region. Firstly, the area is known as the sailing capital of the world, thanks to its numerous large and small islands that facilitate line of sight sailing. Moreover, basketball holds significant popularity among children, to the extent that some hoopsters have been known to modify volleyball standards to suit their game. I also discovered a beautiful flowering tree locally referred to as a “flamboyant” tree. Additionally, it was impossible to ignore the thousands of wild chickens freely roaming the streets, adding an element of intrigue to impromptu warm-up activities such as the lively “catch the chicken” game. The British Virgin Islands has a road encircling the main island, as well as a hill road that traverses the island’s highest point. One common sight on the main roads through town is the presence of “sleeping policemen,” which are large speed bumps that force drivers to slow down considerably for safety. To ensure a sufficient drinking water supply, the BVI relies on three desalination plants, primarily producing bottled water. Notably, our daily sessions commenced at 8:30 am, although I was informed of the cultural notion that “showing up on time makes you a fool.” Surprisingly, there was a noticeable cultural shift in punctuality for this class, possibly due to the incentive of experiencing pleasant surprises for being on time. On a lighter note, Mario, a retired PE teacher from Italy, not only continued to teach but also ran a gelato shop, which evoked fond memories of Italy during our lunch breaks.

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Volleyball Development Starts with Adequate Equipment

Similar to most nations, the successful implementation of volleyball programs hinges on having an adequate number of volleyballs. Some teachers emphasized the importance of having three different balls available – a volleyball, a basketball, and a soccer ball. Thanks to assistance from our NORCECA zone, there was a generous supply of volleyballs, enabling the promotion of the FIVB Cool Volley program. This program advocates for smaller-sided games, such as 2 v 2 matches on reduced court sizes, emphasizing overhead passing skills. Fortunately, our course took place within walking distance of the hotel, utilizing a national stadium-type gymnasium with an adjacent classroom, minimizing any time wasted.

Unforgettable Experiences in the Gym

The participants in the course had two eye-opening experiences in the gymnasium. Firstly, they engaged in a game of sitting volleyball as a warm-up activity, eventually progressing to regular competition. The players thoroughly enjoyed the experience, surprised by the excitement it brought. They were intrigued to discover that only four major differences separate the regular game from the ParaVolley version: court size/net height, the allowance for serving blocking, the freedom for legs/feet to cross any line (even at the net), as long as the player’s bottom remains behind the line, and the requirement for the player’s bottom to have at least one cheek on the floor when making contact with the ball (colloquially referred to as “air butt”). The second eye-opening moment occurred when we set up 12-16 smaller courts within the gymnasium, despite originally planning for just one net. This arrangement allowed for a high level of physical activity and enhanced learning. In contrast, a soccer coach occupied half the gym, training 12 boys with just one ball. On our side of the gym, approximately 36 children actively participated in drills and games across 10 small nets/courts. The teachers empowered the players to lead the drills and games, fostering a sense of ownership and creative control.

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Identifying Key Areas for BVI Development

On the final day of the course, we delved into discussing the most critical needs for the development of volleyball in the British Virgin Islands. A spirited discussion ensued, with a particular focus on the challenge of informing and gaining support from principals. The solution proposed was to draft a plan for the Minister of Education, which would then be distributed to each principal. Communication with schools would take place through the principals. Additionally, other identified needs included a PE teacher travel kit, a primary school championship, and specialized volleyball training blocks.

The PE teacher travel kit would cater to the fact that these teachers often work across multiple schools on different islands. This kit would ideally comprise:

  • 6 volleyballs
  • A mesh bag for the balls
  • A net band
  • Standards (with options for a permanent system such as wood X or tire/pole/concrete)
  • Utilizing basketball poles (depending on the time of day)

The primary school championship would involve coed teams, consisting of either 1 boy and 2 girls or 2 boys and 1 girl. The format would be 3 v 3 for grades 1-4 and 4 v 4 for grades 5 and 6.

Participants also proposed the idea of establishing a national school championship day exclusively for older boys and girls. Alternatively, they suggested organizing Saturday morning training sessions at a main complex, leading up to a tournament on 1-2 weekends. Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of after-school activities, supplementing regular in-school training. Notably, there has been success with Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday morning training sessions featuring Jackie from the BVI Federation.

The final discussion proved to be highly valuable, mirroring the overall success of the trip. My hosts were supportive, the participants were enthusiastic, and the schedule was effectively managed. As a result, the British Virgin Islands now boast more knowledgeable and innovative volleyball and life teachers across the nation.


What is the FIVB Level One course, and who is it for?

The FIVB Level One course is a training program designed by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to equip individuals with the fundamental skills and knowledge required to teach and coach volleyball effectively. This course is suitable for physical education teachers, coaches, and anyone involved in volleyball instruction.

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How did the FIVB Level One course impact physical education in the British Virgin Islands?

The British Virgin Islands took a significant step towards the development of their physical education program by mandating that all PE teachers attend the FIVB Level One course. This initiative aimed to provide the teachers with new motor learning and teaching research, ensuring that they are equipped with the latest methods to enhance their students’ volleyball skills and knowledge. The impact of this course is expected to enhance the overall quality of physical education in the country.

What challenges did the course participants face during the training?

During the training, the participants faced several challenges unique to the location. One notable challenge was the limited space available for playing volleyball, which sometimes resulted in the ball sailing into the nearby marina. This required the participants to come up with creative solutions, such as forming a human chain to retrieve the ball. Additionally, the cultural perception of time posed an interesting challenge, as punctuality was not traditionally valued. However, the course successfully brought about a cultural shift, motivating participants to be more punctual and committed to their training.

Why is it important to have a PE teacher travel kit?

A PE teacher travel kit is essential, particularly in regions where physical education teachers travel between multiple schools. Having a dedicated kit with necessary equipment such as volleyballs, a mesh bag, a net band, and standards ensures that teachers are well-prepared to deliver quality volleyball instruction across various locations. This travel kit enables teachers to easily transport and set up equipment, contributing to the smooth implementation of their lessons and activities.


To Teach the Teachers is an account of my recent experience as an International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Instructor conducting the Level 1 course in the British Virgin Islands. With the mandate from the Minister of Education, PE teachers across the nation attended the course to enhance their understanding of motor learning and teaching research. Despite the challenges posed by limited space and cultural differences, the participants enthusiastically embraced new training methods. The course facilitated the development of innovative and knowledgeable volleyball educators who are now equipped to impact physical education programs across the country. Through the implementation of various strategies, such as the introduction of travel kits and the organization of school championships, the British Virgin Islands are paving the way for the growth and success of volleyball in their communities. To learn more about our work and join us in this journey, visit our website at