13 April, 2018, 12:00 am
TODD Edwards and wife Alexxis sat on the 2018 Commonwealth Games beach volleyball technical officials’ stand and watched national men’s team of Inia Korowale and Sairusi Cavula struggle against Trinidad and Tabago at the Colongatta Beachfront in Gold Coast, Australia.
Fast forward, our team lost 6-21, 6-11, but there were moments when the Fijian pair tested the oppositions’ defence with well timed spikes and placed balls.
Back to the Edwards, Todd was deep in thought.
His thoughts were on improving techniques for Fiji to be really competitive at the Commonwealth Games level and beyond.
The sport did well at the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu last year to be playing this week at one of the best sandy beaches in Australia.
“And the best story so far for the duo was playing in front of a big cheering crowd,” Edwards said.
But after successive losses, Edwards was still confident Fijian beach volleyball was on the rise.
He was approached by the world body, the Federation International de Volleyball (FIVB).
“They told me to get some documents together because they are looking at Fiji to be the hub of the Oceania. If that turns out well, we are going places,” he said.
“That is what we need. We need to expose our players. We have fantastic athletes and beach volleyball is not new in Fiji. Everyone, from the village to towns and our two cities, people know how to play volleyball.
“We cannot win in indoor volleyball, but we have a lot of chances in beach volleyball. It is important that we go back home and string some ideas and support to develop this sport.
“FIVB said they are looking at Fiji as the host nation of Oceania volleyball competitions.”
The Edwards had almost single-handedly developed the sport in the country.
“Beach volleyball is a passion that developed since I took up competitions in US from college competitions, clubs and some internationals. I love the sport and still do.
“When I came to Fiji, I continued and to have the opportunity to work with gifted Fijian athletes is a blessing.
“I started in 1998. I took the team to Guam in 1999 and I coached the team all the way through to the 2003 South Pacific Games before I took a long break. I returned in 2015 where I got our girls to win the first qualification into Rio 2016. Things did not turn our way into the second qualification because some people did not do their job, so I stepped out of it. When the new federation was brought in I decided to return last August.
“My family and I are into it all because we love to help the sport develop. It is a lot of effort and sacrifice.”
The Edwards have been leased a portion of beachfront at Nanuku in Pacific Harbour to see their dreams fulfilled.
It was the training ground of the team to the Commonwealth Games, the players and the family uprooting mangrove trees and clearing the beach to train.
“The sand is perfect for beach volleyball because it is deep. We have been leased the spot for four years and we thank the landlords.
“Getting the whole thing right is a test of mental toughness especially when we develop from nationals to competing in internationals such as the Commonwealth Games. I want Fiji to be recognised as a nation in beach volleyball. We can match rugby.
“We gave some good showing in the Commonwealth Games and that showed confidence in the athletes. Our goal is to get in and play well. This is a dream … come over here and be noticed.
“In here it is not about losing faith. In Fiji things happen slowly and we have to accept that. We should drive for progress. We should have developmental programs, coaching programs and tour Fiji to work with youths. We have big and long-term plans.
“We have limited resources but we have done so much and resulted in being here at the Commonwealth Games.
“We just got together for three months and qualified for the games. We have dug deep to come this far and playing in the Commonwealth Games is our best success story.”