Pulling together 12 female volleyball players from seven different costal Labrador communities to prepare them for the 2018 Games was a logistical nightmare for Shane Morgan, but he’s a happy camper knowing the significance of the journey.
Morgan, a native of Lewisporte, started a female volleyball program in Northwest River three years ago when he took a teaching position at Lake Melville School. He decided to step in as coach for the Team Indigenous female volleyball team after Todd Winters of Aboriginal Sport and Recreation in Labrador asked him to take on the role.
Team Indigenous, with Morgan coaching the female volleyball team, is entered in the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games for the first time. There is also a male volleyball team wearing the colours of Team Indigenous during the first half of the Games.
The girls didn’t get to spend much time together before making the long trip to Deer Lake. They spent a few hours in the gym the night before leaving and that’s about it, but they managed to push their opponent to three sets in two out of three matches they played this week.
“To see the product they’ve been able to put on the floor has been nothing short of amazing,” Morgan said Monday after his team finished up for the week.
Going to Labrador to teach three years ago was a real eye-opener for the coach. He didn’t have any clue about the athletic ability of youth in small coastal communities until he went north.
“Just to see how hard they are working and how much they love sports,” he said.
It wasn’t lost on the coach about what’s really the story for his group of girls. Team Indigenous is making its debut at the Games and Morgan believes it’s great news for male and female athletes from the North who want to pursue a sport on a competitive level with big dreams for a bright future like other athletes around Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I think it’s great that they’re finally getting exposure,” he said. “I think with a lot of cultural diversity and cultural awareness that’s going on in the media now it’s really good that the Winter Games has stepped up and helped us expose an awareness about indigenous culture.”
Brianna Wolfrey of Rigolet was having a great time with her friends in the Athletes Village after finishing up a morning session on the volleyball court.
She was happy to see Team Indigenous accepted into the Games and she was excited about meeting new people and sharing her culture, which was something that has been popping up in conversations with athletes from the other regions so she’s been glad to be able to provide insight.
“It’s good letting people know who we are,” she said. “It’s good that we’re finally being recognized and getting a chance to show people how good we are. It makes me feel really proud.”
Ryan Andersen of Nain, meanwhile, was swarmed by his teammates after being selected player of the game for Team Indigenous after a win on the volleyball court Monday morning.
He was so excited to be able to compete at the Games. It was a long ride for him, but he wasn’t feeling any ill effects from the travel and wanted to make the most of the experience with his teammates.
He plans on doing his best and his goal is to have Team Indigenous take a medal home with them.
“It’s super cool to see a bunch of different people from across the province who play volleyball,” he said. “I’m very happy to be here and it’s lots of fun.”