With the Niagara 2021 Canada Games a little over a year away, many athletes are finding creative ways to continue their training during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic in the hopes of representing their Province or Territory on the national stage. Among these athletes are Team PEI Training Team athletes Alina Crockett and Abby Hyndman.
Alina has been focusing on at-home volleyball drills in hopes of qualifying for Team PEI’s indoor volleyball team while Abby has continued training in hopes of qualifying for the beach volleyball team. We caught up with Alina and Abby who have been social distancing with their families at home in PEI to see how they have been training during these past few months.
With volleyball being a sport that requires a lot of space even when it comes to a simple bump, set and hit drill, Alina explains how she’s coping with spatial restrictions.
“I do have a yard to go practice in, but I think my biggest issue is not having anybody to play with,” said Alina. “My parents are both really supportive so they’ll go out and play with me, but they’re not volleyball players.”
Before the pandemic Abby had been very focused on strength training, but with all public gyms closed she has found creative ways to maintain her training from home to stay in shape.
“It was definitely a bit of a challenge, but I was able to establish a solid workout routine during quarantine,” said Abby. “During isolation I was working out about 6 times per week, partially to stay in shape and partially to fight off the boredom! We had very limited equipment at home so I was working with what we had, running lots (both long distance and sprints), HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, and lots of core work to prep for beach volleyball.”
Despite being naturals at volleyball, both athletes started their athletic careers playing different sports. Alina recalled how she came across volleyball and what made her decide to pursue it on a National level.
“I actually started playing kind of by chance because neither of my parents really played sports. I started playing basketball and then when I got to junior high I was like ‘oh volleyball, why don’t I try out for that’. it just kind of fit and I’d like to say that there was a moment that I thought I really want to do this, but there wasn’t really. I just really enjoy it.”
As for Abby, her passion for beach volleyball stems from her love of indoor volleyball.
“I have always loved the idea of beach volleyball and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, but until this year I never really had the opportunity. I am excited to see how I can adapt and improve my skills from indoor to beach. I have been playing indoor volleyball for 8 years and before that I was a competitive swimmer.”
In addition to the many hours training on court, both athletes dedicate a large amount of time trying to improve their skills off court. While watching playback videos, Alina and her coach will take the time to discuss where improvements are needed and what she should continue to work on. She also takes the time to analyze videos of professional athletes in order to help her better understand the game and learn techniques. Alina explains why it’s equally important to view things from an off-court perspective as it is to practice on the court.
“I think watching videos can only do so much. It just helps you know the game better It’s good to watch yourself play, and see where you’re lacking and see other people play at a really high level.”
Nicole and Megan McNamara who represented British Columbia at the 2013 Canada Games have become a central point in Abby’s video analysis. Not only have the McNamara twins had successful volleyball careers playing for UCLA, they also took home silver medals at the 2013 Games. These tremendous athletes have become a source of admiration for Abby.
“The thing I admire most about the McNamara twins is their aggressive style. They both have wicked jump spin serves, connect and communicate well with one another, and aren’t afraid to swing at the ball. Also, because they aren’t the tallest pair on the beach they have to figure out smarter ways to score and not let their height be used against them.”
Abby has also been analyzing videos from NCAA Beach Volleyball Pac-12, and how to communicate in different situations. Communication is such an integral part of any sport, and Abby described the difficulties of having to simultaneously communicate with her partner while still focusing on the game.
“I think communication and focus goes hand in hand. When my partner and I are communicating well I think we are more dialled in to the game and it ensures we are on the same page. When communication drops, it’s easy to fall out of sync with your partner.”
During these unsettling times mental health is certainly an important topic of conversation, and as an athlete it’s just as important to be mentally healthy as it is physically in order to perform at the highest level. To ensure she has a positive mindset, Alina has incorporated mental and leadership exercises into her routine and explained their importance.
“It’s really hard not knowing what would happen, when you’d ever get to play again. It’s good to just keep yourself focused on what you can do right now and mentally it’s really important to know what the goal is that you’re trying to work toward.”
Both athletes laid out their goals as they hope to qualify for Team PEI and the Niagara 2021 Canada Games.
“I am definitely hoping to qualify for the Games,” said Abby. “(The) Canada Games are such a memorable experience and I would love to have the opportunity to participate and compete. In terms of what we are hoping to accomplish there I think it’s too early to say. This is our first summer on the sand so we are still learning the game and figuring out where our strengths are. For indoor volleyball I am returning to play for Holland College for one more season so I hope to win a medal at Nationals, and lead the league offensively.”
“I am definitely hoping to qualify to be able to go to the 2021 Canada Games,” added Alina. “As for goals, I haven’t really thought that far ahead, but I just want to do my best. “I’ve never had the chance to go to a multi-sport event. There hasn’t really been any opportunities for me. I’ve gone to Nationals a couple times, but I’ve never gone to a multi-sport event.”
With certain social distance restrictions beginning to lift, Alina and her coach have already begun to discuss what training might look like while still respecting guidelines.
“We’re actually lucky here in PEI where we don’t have very many cases so we do get to go out onto the beach courts and do some cross training there. I think I started last week doing that. As for indoor, it could be a few weeks”.
Although fortunate enough to have access to a beach, Alina still faces challenges when it comes to practicing drills.
“There’s certain restrictions, like we’re not allowed to do game plays. A lot of it is just working on ball control. There’s a lot of serving drills and passing drills and because we can’t really play games”
All athletes will undoubtedly face obstacles over the course of their career, and while the challenge of a worldwide pandemic is unlike any other, both Team PEI hopefuls are focused on finding creative ways to train and accomplish their goals of hitting the court and the sand while competing for their Province in Niagara next summer.