At my 6’2”, Ashley Jordan looked down on me ever so slightly as she visited the offices of Barbados TODAY yesterday after training, ahead of her teams’ victory over defending champions Trinidad and Tobago in the ongoing CAZOVA Junior Championships.
At just 15 years-old, this young lady from Harrison College has already been representing Barbados internationally for four years, including two senior appearances in 2014 at the World Championships in Peurto Rico and then in Trinidad at CAZOVA.
The young Jordan who comes from what can arguably be described as ‘volleyball royalty,’ made her own waves during the CAZOVA Youth Championships in Curacao, where she not only captained the team but took individual titles for Best Opposite and Most Valuable Player. Still eligible for Juniors in 2017, this bright talent continues to modestly make a splash on the local and international volleyball scene.
Currently playing in the Championships taking place in Barbados at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Jordan came in with her coach Andrew Bratwaithe, who is also the team’s assistant coach, as well as the head coach of the senior unit.
Both spent some time discussing Ashley’s career, this current tournament and the way forward for the sport in Barbados.
How did you get into volleyball: (AJ) My dad was a former national player, one of the most outstanding middle players Barbados has ever had (she says proudly). My mom has also been playing from her school days. She is currently the manager of the Junior and Youth teams for both Boys and Girls. So I grew up around the sport, I learnt how to walk at the gymnasium… so just seeing volleyball all the time and I always wanted to go watch the matches. So I felt the need to play the sport.
Being exposed to it from such a young age, was there any other sport that peaked your interest: (AJ) Actually I used to swim before, however, I found it a little boring and preferred the pace, action and excitement of volleyball. It’s why I really love it.
How does it feel to represent your country: (AJ) Its actually a really good feeling, especially now that I am the captain. Everyone keeps telling me I have a lot of potential to become a great player. It really is a great feeling.
What does preparation for a tournament like the CAZOVA Junior Championships entail: (AJ)Actually right now one of the biggest issues is a training venue and that makes it hard. However, we use Springer Memorial School. We train at least four times a week, morning sessions, beach sessions and we have gym sessions, so it’s kind of hard, especially with the junior teams, as training intesifies coming up to tournaments.
What has been the main challenges in the preparation for this tournament: (AB) Like Ashley said the main challenge is a venue to train and I think that plagues most of the national sporting programmes, [but] we have been able to improvise. But the consistency of practice and the repitition that you need has not been there as it should be. However, we are always prepared to work with what we have so we’ve done as best we can under the circumstances.
Volleyball takes a lot of your time how has it affected the rest of your life: (AJ) I wouldn’t say it has really affected my life, because it has always been a big part of it because of my mom and dad. It is a little more difficult for me though, currently playing on all three teams. The seniors would usally train at night, and the juniors would train at four in the afternoon, so after school I head to juniors then to seniors, then to head home and do my studies. So far I have been balancing it well.
What would say has been your most memorable moment representing Barbados: (AJ) It would have to be earlier in the year this July at the Youth CAZOVA Championships. It was the first tournament that I was part of a team that won. I was also the captain of the team and it felt as though I was able to contribute a lot to the win. So that would have to be it for me.
Currently playing on youth, junior and the senior teams what would you say is the difference: (AJ) I would just say the level of play. It has been a smooth transition for me so far. I would say the transition from youth to juniors is easier or smoother from juniors to seniors as the competitiveness goes way up. Especially when you consider the competition at the senior level, not only regionally but internationally.
Where do you play and what is the role and function of that position: (AJ) In the youth team I am the off-setter, however, for the junior and senior teams I play setter. The setter usually is the person mostly responsible for touching the second ball, so you are really involved in the play all the time. The setter basically controls the team and I find being in that role along with being captain gives me the opportunity to really dictate the play better. For the youth team, while also being the captain, I am the off-setter which you can basically say is the back up setter. I can say I like the setter role better as I feel I make more of a contribution to the game and our victories.
Besides your parents, who would you say have been most influential in your volleyball career: (AJ) I’d say Shernell Beckles-Pooler, who is also a former setter and captain of the national team, we are very close… she has been my mentor.
How do you feel about the first game against Haiti: (AJ) I’d say that we were confident, however, we were a bit nervous. This is not the first time we have played in this tournament for most of us, but it is the first time we have been at home. I wouldn’t say it was a bad match, however, we made lots of errors and they were able to capitalise and took control of the game. So its looking like Haiti will be in the final and we are looking forward to facing them again!
Besides Ms Jordan are there any players you think are key to the performance of the unit: (AB) As I said its a talented team, but there are individuals that you can single out. Shonte Seale who has represented Barbados in netball, both at the junior and senior levels has just made the team and we anticipate that she will go on to make the senior team over the next couple of months. She is our most agressive spiker and as such is one of the keys to the success of the team. We also have Aaliyah Durant who would have represented the youth team earlier this year in their victory in Curacao and she would have stood out there. She is playing at the off-setter position for us and we also expect her to come alive as the tournament goes on, but the team generally is a well-rounded and well-balanced team.
What is the most important thing for this team at this tournament and moving forward: (AB) The most important thing for this team, is just that… the team. As far as we are concerned we have individual players who’s skill levels will allow them to standout, but as a collective you can’t win without a team and we want players to understand that being a bench player is as important a role as any other. There is no disrespect in that. You come of the bench to make a contribution without which the team cannot succeed. The team is the most important thing.
Looking forward what are some of the goals you have set yourself: (AJ) At the moment I am really focussed on getting a full volleyball scholarship. I’m in the process of choosing a school and trying to find the right fit for me, I don’t want to choose a school to early and then find a better fit. I still have a little more time where that is concerned. After that, the aim is to become a professional volleyball, [but] at the moment its all about the scholarship.