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Youth Volleyball Gains Traction in North Preston

I tstarted as an idea for an outreach project to give Black youth free access to a fun volleyball experience.

Now the North Preston smashball program is in its third year, with another cycle of sessions planned for this fall.

Volleyball Nova Scotia initiated the project and collaborated with the North Preston Community Centre. VNS used funding through Support4Sport to purchase equipment, including a new net system, and the result is one of the best one-court facilities in the Halifax region.

The centre provided free court time and support in organizing the program.

VNS also found a key partner in Tyler Simmons, an experienced coach from the community who embraced the opportunity to lead the program.

Simmons, 31, saw room to grow the sport among Black youth.

“It’s just about giving kids another avenue to feel successful,” says Simmons, an elementary school teacher. “We don’t need all of our kids playing similar things. There is volleyball that is available to be played.”

While growing up, Simmons watched his mom play co-ed volleyball. His mom’s brothers and sisters participated too. But by the time he reached junior high, Simmons noticed there weren’t many Black people in the game.

“It’s just a way to bring the sport back to our community,” he says. “We’re underrepresented right now and it’s a sport everyone can play.”

Simmons tapped into family connections and used word of mouth to attract participants. Tynan Gannett and Tamia Thomas helped coach and Simmons arranged for a special appearance by Courtney Baker, a former Dalhousie star now with the national team.

The program runs over an eight-week block with sessions every Saturday morning for kids aged six to 12. Smashball introduces volleyball through the attacking part of the game. The skillbuilding goes from there.

About 15 youth turn out each weekend. VNS executive director Jason Trepanier calls Simmons a gifted coach and “champion of the program.”

Trepanier says he hopes to see a day when there’s a club team from the area. Simmons shares the vision as a long-term goal. Three players have already gone on to participate with the Sonics association and the Dartmouth Volleyball Club.

“My goal was to just get kids introduced to volleyball,” Simmons says. “If one or two of them decide to play longer, then I’ve exceeded my goal. I really just want to give them the idea that volleyball is an option for them.”





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