Following a 10-year absence from the NatWest Island Games, Shetland men’s volleyball is back. ADAM GUEST caught up with the team during one of their final practices ahead of the games.
Strapping up knees and taping up their fingers, Shetland’s male volleyball players are putting in the final preparations for the island games.
After a decade’s absence, the male team will compete in the event for the first time since taking to the court on home soil in 2005.
Three out of the 10 players have games experience, and this year there is a mixture of ages, from towering 15-year-old Edward Oldbury to older members, such as reserve player and sports photographer Kevin Jones.
For Rory Goodlad, 19, Jersey will be his first island games.
“We’re training three times a week in the run up to it, but we’ve been training since September,” he said.
“Getting to represent Shetland at my age, to be in the island games, I’m quite honoured.”
“[Training] has been good craic. It’s a great group of guys to be with”.
Ryan Jamieson is one of the players who represented Shetland in 2005. He is relishing representing Shetland again.
“We gel quite well together as a team, we just lack in game experience. It’s always a pleasure to come along to training and hopefully get a bit more off island as a team.”
Jamieson says the standard of volleyball in the games in 2005 was very high.
“Watching the guys like Bermuda… those guys can really play volleyball.
“Some of us had a lot of experience and there were a lot of new guys, but the team was thrown together quite quickly, it wasn’t as rigorous training as this.”
The standard of the Shetland team was not as a high as it is now, he said.
Training has comprised of fitness work, circuits, games and drills on the court.
Grant Polson says the key to volleyball is watching the body language of the other players.
“It’s lining up where their arms are going, where their power line is, it’s trying to drill that in your head and you’ve got to do that every point, and trying to remember to do that every point is sometimes quite difficult because it’s such a fast-paced game.”
“You have to be on your toes all the time, you have to be able to try and read the game,” adds Jamieson.
“We are not looking to win any outright games.”
“We’re setting a target of points in each game we play,” says Polson.
“Our first game is against Bermuda… and I think they have either been the champions or in the final for the past 10, 12 years. They’re one of the top teams, so we will set a target of points before we go out to court to try and achieve that.
“It would be awesome if we caught them sleeping and beat them but it’s highly unlikely.”
Jamieson says they are always looking for young blood to come through, and it will be a good experience for the other players to get an island games under their belts.
After competing south, they have recruited Scottish Volleyball Association coach Ian Parker who has been sending them training schedules and will be hooking up with the team before the games.
Training has been going well, says Polson, but part of the preparation is focusing on the mental aspects of the game, too.
“I think there’s so much to think about and you get caught trying to think of everything… and possibly overthinking things a lot of the times.
“You have just got to be quite calm and remain focused. One of the keys is once a point’s over
it’s done. You can’t do anything about it. [You] get on to the next point and try and improve for that next point.”
Jamieson adds: “The big teams are going to be hitting the balls quite hard and you’ve just got to be ready to do the best that you can do.”