Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Unexpected Opportunities Fuel Benedict College Men’s Team

After many successful years coaching women’s volleyball at her alma mater, Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, Gwendolyn Rouse faced an exciting new challenge – starting a men’s volleyball program at the college. Despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, Rouse remained motivated and kept her players focused on the upcoming 2022 season. Thanks to grants from USA Volleyball and First Point Volleyball Foundation to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Benedict College was able to launch their men’s volleyball team in its inaugural season.

Building a Men’s Team at Benedict College

Recruiting players who already had experience was the most challenging part of building the men’s team at Benedict College. Having connections in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas from her years of coaching women’s volleyball, Rouse reached out to her contacts. She traveled to the Bahamas and was able to recruit four players. Additionally, her connections in the Virgin Islands sent her videos of potential players, resulting in three more additions to the team. Rouse also held trials at the school, which led to the recruitment of three additional players.

Ras Jesse Delancy: From the Bahamas to Benedict College

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One of the standout players on the Benedict College men’s volleyball team is Ras Jesse Delancy, a sophomore from the Bahamas. At 6-foot-6, Delancy often gets asked if he’s a basketball player, but his true passion lies in volleyball. Delancy had no knowledge of men’s college volleyball opportunities until a friend attending Benedict College informed him about the new men’s volleyball program. Delancy, who had played club volleyball in the Bahamas’ “night league,” saw this as an opportunity to take his game to the next level.

Delancy appreciates the supportive environment at Benedict College, especially the support from the faculty. Being part of creating a new program is both amazing and exciting for him and his teammates. They are determined to make a positive impression and continue to grow throughout the season.

The Differences Between Coaching Men’s and Women’s Volleyball

According to Rouse, there are many similarities in coaching men’s and women’s volleyball, but there are also key differences. One noticeable difference is that some of the men have less experience compared to their female counterparts. Boys often grow up aspiring to play basketball or football, and volleyball is introduced to them later in life. However, once they discover volleyball, they develop a love for the sport. Many male players are naturally athletic, and those with a basketball background transition easily into volleyball. They just need more match experience to refine their skills.

Future Goals and Camaraderie

Delancy, currently studying sports management, sees college volleyball as a stepping stone to his professional aspirations. He has already made an impact on the court, earning the SIAC Volleyball Offensive Player of the Week award. His goal is to continue improving his skills and play professionally after college.

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The camaraderie between the Benedict men’s and women’s teams is strong. They support each other both on and off the court, with the women’s team even attending a match two hours away. Delancy expresses his gratitude for their presence, saying it felt like a home game with their support.

Summary

The inaugural season of Benedict College’s men’s volleyball team is a result of unexpected opportunities and the dedication of Gwendolyn Rouse, the head coach. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the team has overcome obstacles and is steadily making progress. The recruitment process involved reaching out to international connections and holding trials at the college. Ras Jesse Delancy, a talented player from the Bahamas, sees this as a chance to take his game to the next level. The supportive environment at Benedict College and the camaraderie with the women’s team have contributed to the team’s growth and success. Both Rouse and Delancy are determined to continue making strides in their respective roles and fulfilling their dreams. If you want to keep up with Benedict College and their journey, you can follow them on Instagram and Twitter.