A Campbell River volleyball player is hoping to soak in as much knowledge as she can while participating in a new Volleyball Canada program.
Emoni Bush is among 16 of the country’s top youth female athletes to take part in the national sport organization’s National Excellence Program (NEP). It will be based out of the Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C., which is also the women’s team headquarters.
The NEP offers a full-time training environment for female athletes in Grades 11 and 12 through to December this year. The program includes athlete support through academics, mental health and wellness, physical, technical and tactical training.
“The NEP program is a partnership with our provincial/territorial volleyball associations that are deeply committed to support the women’s national team towards Olympic and World Championship success,” said Dawna Sales, athlete and coach pathway director. “The ability to create a culture of excellence with our next generation of national team athletes is a privilege that we don’t take lightly, and know the women’s national team will benefit from this program.”
There are five B.C. athletes in the program. All the athletes were identified during identification camps before the pandemic. Bush, a We Wai Kum First Nation member, found out she’d been accepted in March this year.
Since it’s the first time a program like this has been offered for female volleyball athletes in Canada, Bush and the others she’s training with have been able to help inform its direction.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she says. “Every day she’ll [the coach] talk to us and basically we’re laying out the foundation for where this program is going to go. It feels really cool to be a part of that.”
The athletes are being looked at as the future of the sport and are targeting the 2028 Olympics.
“Not only are we working with a greater number of athletes than ever before at the senior level, we are also now able to work with the next generation much earlier in their development through the establishment of the National Excellence Program,” said NEP Head Coach Shannon Winzer. “These 16 athletes who make up the first intake are exceptional athletes. It’s an exciting time to be coaching with Team Canada and also for anyone involved with women’s volleyball in Canada as we work towards a future Olympic qualification.”
The program started just last week and Bush was enjoying her first day off since beginning Sept. 8 when she was reached by phone.
She says the team spends around nine hours each weekday at the Oval where they’re supported in their training and school work. The first week, there’s been a lot of physical testing to set out baselines for the athletes.
“They’re teaching us everything that the senior teams do,” she says. “A lot of our focus right now, like when we set out goals for ourselves, is for this group to move to the 2028 Olympics, so that’s really what we’re training for here.”
Bush, who’s in Grade 12 this year, is still enrolled at Carihi Secondary in Campbell River, but is also taking a few courses through a distance learning program. She’ll be graduating a semester early and heading down to the University of Washington in the new year, where she has a full-ride scholarship.
But while she’s training with the NEP, she plans to grab onto every tidbit of knowledge she can.
“I just want to absorb everything that they’re teaching me,” she says. “Getting given the opportunity like this to basically get ahead of everyone else in training for that 2028 and have all this training set me up for when I move on to the University of Washington, I’m trying to take in everything that they can give me.”
The NEP runs into December this year.
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