Four Gulf Islands Secondary School (GISS) volleyball players have had provincial-level experience this season, with some now headed to national championships.
None of the athletes play for a Salt Spring Island club team; there isn’t one. Playing at the higher club level means long days of driving and deep commitments, according to parents and coaches; and while it can be a lot to handle, the experiences are hugely rewarding, even as finding resources to accomplish it all can be its own challenge.
Players’ results speak for themselves. GISS students Jahluca Grooms and Julius Galea-Ley won silver medals playing for the Victoria Volleyball Association (VVA) Chargers Black U18 team, which is headed to nationals in Calgary later this month. Finn Hughes played for the VVA Chargers Black (U17, Div. 1) team, placing fourth at B.C. championships, and has been “called up” to join the U18 team headed to nationals. Izzy Nowell played with Mariners Nemesis (U18) and Silas Nowell played for the Mariners Poseidon (U14) team.
To even participate in club volleyball, they’ve all needed to hop the ferry up to three times a week and head to either Nanaimo or Victoria, plus take extra trips for weekend tournaments. It’s an impressive show of dedication on the part of the kids and no small amount of effort for parents as well, but it comes at a cost.
According to Gulf Islands Alumni Athletic Association (GIAAA), in past years some team fees have been as high as $500 for a single student’s season — and that’s just the beginning.
“It’s a $4,000 to $5,000 commitment to play off-island sports,” said parent Inga Michaelsen — a huge financial burden on a family. At the senior level, ferry fares are often covered by general athletics funding; accommodations are not, however, and older athletes who compete in multi-day tournaments that often require an overnight stay due to ferry schedules — or, in the case of national competitions, even flights — are forced to find their own funding.
Several students have run crowd-sourcing campaigns to fill the gap. Parent Rachel Hughes said she was astounded — and grateful — at how many in the community responded to calls from her family for help paying for trips.
“It was amazing, I can’t even begin to say,” said Hughes. “People just came out of the woodwork, and [Finn] had the money to pay for his plane ticket.”
But while these can be successful, it can be uncomfortable for parents to ask for help in support of their child. Casting about for funds to cover travel expenses adds another layer of complexity beyond the juggling act of school, sports and social lives.
“They’ve really learned how to prioritize and focus on what’s important to them,” said Michaelsen. “There are some centralized funding programs — like Jumpstart — but they’re limited.”
GIAAA is ramping up efforts to connect islanders and businesses with their mission to support student athletics at GISS. They hope to reduce the barriers to participation for GISS athletes; if a student wants to put in the work, GIAAA wants to be there to support them.
Sponsorship opportunities range from one-time donations to recurring subscriptions and the “Signs in the Gym” program that puts sponsors on either side of the score clock.
For information on how to help, visit qrco.de/GISSAthletics.