Locals serve up new initiative

Posted on September 23, 2016 by Mat Pellegrino

A local church and a new area sports group have banded together to help start two youth intramural volleyball leagues at Midway’s Community Life United Methodist Church.
The idea sparked from Mi Familia Volleyball Club, the area’s newest volleyball club, who approached the church about starting the leagues on their campus.
John Carroll, Mi Familia’s Assistant Director said the church needed direction to start youth leagues, and Mi Familia was looking for the space to host youth leagues, which the church had. So the two got together and decided to test the waters on forming a set of grassroots and middle school volleyball teams. And Carroll said the response was overwhelming.
“The sports director needed someone to help them form the league, and we needed the facility, so it worked out,” Carroll said. “The sports director didn’t really have a sports background, and Mi Familia does. So it was a partnership between us two.”
Pretty soon word spread and the club was able to sign up over 50 youth players to incorporate 6 complete teams into the local volleyball leagues.
“With the lack of middle school sports in our county, this is a great way to get kids into sports. Navarre Youth Sports Association does not have a volleyball league and without middle school sports available, Mi Familia identified this need,” Carroll said. “All the surrounding counties have their middle school sports and Navarre doesn’t.”
Even though the leagues are tied into the church, the idea was never to only include members of the church in the leagues.
One of the coaches tasked with mentoring the one of the 4 middle school teams is Rob MacFarland.
“I knew a few of the people over at Mi Familia, and they approached me about coaching a while back. My daughter plays and I went and got some qualifications for both indoor and beach volleyball,” MacFarland said. “My team played their first game (Sept. 10) and they play for 6 weeks.”
MacFarland said he immediately jumped on the initiative when he was approached about coaching because of the large interest in getting middle school sports in the area.
“We have no middle school sports in the area. The only things we have are the club sports like NYSA or different clubs,” MacFarland said.
But it was space that was the biggest issue in the beginning.
“The church had the space and the equipment for volleyball, which is difficult to find in the area,” MacFarland said.
Carroll also stepped up to coach one of the youth volleyball teams. Carroll has been playing indoor and beach volleyball for over 30 years and has coached youth sports for more than 8 years.
“It’s really open to the public. We even have girls from Milton and Pace who come down here to play,” Carroll said.
Although the season has already started, MacFarland said the initiative has gained some momentum. Mi Familia has also eyed hosting a beach volleyball league, but is currently only hosting indoor volleyball games at the church for the youth.
The league currently has 4 middle school teams of 8 to 12 players and two other teams of second, third, fourth and fifth graders.
“We wanted to reach out to the younger kids too because we really don’t have that sort of program in our area (for the younger children),” MacFarland said. “You didn’t have to be affiliated with the church to sign up. They are essentially giving us the space to do this.”
Teams practice once a week, and on Sept. 10, teams played their first games inside of the church. The teams will play for the next four weeks, and the season will come to an end.
“We were really surprised at the number of kids who came out. They church has a summer camp, and at the camp, they threw out the idea to parents and it brought them out,” MacFarland said. “There is a good interest in this, and it’s neat that it’s growing. It’s a good way to get involved if you’ve never seen volleyball.”
The Assistant Director didn’t even hesitate when asked if they plan to return the league to the church next year.
“We’re going to continue to do it every year. There is no limitation on the growth of these leagues (grassroots and middle school),” Carroll said. “We wan to help Navarre. We want to help the community.”
For more information on Mi Familia Volleyball Club, find them on Facebook or visit www.mifamiliavolleyballclub.com.