By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE National High School Volleyball Championships is set to return to the nation's second city, featuring over 200 student-athletes vying for titles in their respective divisions.
The Ministries of Youth Sports and Culture, Education and Finance will be joined by corporate sponsor, the IL Cares Foundation, to host the national tournament November 16-18 in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Approximately 15 teams will be represented at the event including champions from the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association, Bahamas Scholastic Athletic Association, Grand Bahama Secondary Schools Athletic Associations alongside family island schools from Abaco and Bimini.
"This will be the largest nationals we have ever had for volleyball," said Evon Wisdom of the Ministry of Education Sports Unit. "The student-athletes, the coaches, the parents the administrators from all of the islands are excited and we could not thank our stakeholders in the government of the Bahamas and the IL Cares Foundation for allowing the event to return on this scale this year."
After a successful inaugural event in 2015, the 2016 edition was cancelled due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew. This year's event will also be without the services of the BAISS champions as the league is in the midst of their softball championships.
"Because the BAISS is now playing softball, we have backed into their season and they cannot attend because it will be running into their softball championships. There is no way they would be able to represented and we clearly understand the situation," Wisdom said.
"In the past, we were able to overcome it because their season had ended but with the delays this year that was unavoidable. We are going to have to formulate and sit down as a national body to figure out how we can all play the same sports at the same time to avoid such issues in the future."
Director of Sports, Tim Munnings, said the event will also add a much needed socioeconomic boost to Grand Bahama.
"We are so encouraged by this event. Grand Bahama has some challenging times but we continue to find ways for our kids to be motivated and involved because there are so many opportunities out there should they perform well. What our young people need is exposure, the opportunity to be seen by other coaches and schools, so these events are very important for youth development," he said.
"I would like to appeal to other corporate sponsors out there. We tend to lean on a few but there are so many businesses that can join the bandwagon of supporting our youth and youth development by lending support to see that we can have sports development in the country."
IL Cares Foundation representative Kenny Mackey said the contribution to the event is in line with his organisation's commitment to nation-building.
"The IL Cares Foundation will always partner with worthwhile ventures, so of course when it came to high school sports it was important for us to not only recognise the dedication, the drive and most importantly the discipline that student-athletes have to participate in a national programme, it was a no-brainer for us. So when the opportunity presented itself, our CEO and of course our CFO Mr Simmons jumped at the opportunity to assist," he said. "Not only are we assisting financially but we are also facilitating the production and airing of the championship. Our goal as always is to partner with any initiative that brings empowerment, education, and development."