J'can pair hones skills for volleyball qualifiers
JAMAICA'S dynamic beach volleyball duo of Gatasheu Bonner and Ryck Webb, who topped all seven local tournaments they have entered, including the recently-concluded TVJSN/Justbet Beach Volleyball League, are gearing up for the NORCECA World Volleyball Championship qualification set for the end of the month in Curaçao.
They are hoping to better the partnership of Mark Lewis and the late Dany Wilson, Jamaica's most successful beach volleyball pair ever.
"Those guys are just fantastic, and those shoes are big to fit in, but the determination and drive that we have, are big enough to take us anywhere we want to reach," said Bonner, twice the age of his 18-year-old partner, Webb, with the two playing together for less than a year.
Bonner and Webb, a great blend of experience and youth, will play in Pool A of the November 30-December 3 World Championship qualifiers, alongside Bahamas, hosts Curaçao, and Martinique.
Head coach of the senior national women's team, Bonner is also looking forward to the dozen or so NORCECA circuits next year, often played in the Cayman Islands, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, United States, and St Lucia.
A military man, he believes that "self-discipline and hunger for success" have made the him and Webb unbeatable locally so far. In the final of the TVJSN Justbet Beach Volleyball League, they beat the seasoned Donovan Richards and Dellan Brown, 21-18, 21-18.
"We were well-disciplined from the start and were dubbed the favourites even though the team of Brown/Richards had been the most experienced pair with several national caps behind their name.
"However, our main goal was to be the champions at the end, with our minor goal, set as an motivation, not to lose a set on our path to be champions. This we did accomplish," he pointed out.
During matches they constantly encourage each other, showing confidence when executing skills, and always talking to one another.
"Go for it," they often say in games. "Communication has also been a key to our success so far."
The dynamic duo yearns to be as great as the legendary American Karch Kiraly, the winningest player in beach volleyball who has earned more than more than US$3 million in his career.
"It starts with a simple dream and the right attitude to work relentlessly in making that dream come true. Our players need to be way more exposed on the international scene. Sponsors need to buy into that dream also, because without a steady funding, it is not possible.
"For example, there are about 13-15 legs of NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit played all around the NORCECA region. Last year JaVA (Jamaica Volleyball Association) was only able to send one team to only four legs. Competing in these tournaments will let players get better and gain experience to compete in bigger competitions," Bonner explained.
"The president had done a wonderful job in giving us those few opportunities to compete outside of Jamaica," he added.
Bonner and Webb have so far competed in one overseas tournament, the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation) circuit in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic on April 6-8.
Seeded at number nine, they eventually finished eighth. They ended as the highest-ranked Caribbean pair, above Trinidad & Tobago and Bahamas who were seeded at five and eighth respectively.
As a national coach and beneficiary of technical training locally and overseas, Bonner noted that beach volleyball "is a growing sport that takes a lot of hardwork and commitment, it is a very difficult game to play especially with all the natural elements involved, eg, sand, sun, breeze, rain etc."
The first round of the NORCECA World Championship qualifiers this monthend involves eight pools of four teams. Pool winners will automatically advance to the second round in March next year while runners-up will enter a play-off.