The Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) has an interesting problem.
Located within a few hours of 94-percent of the province’s population, OVA’s problem certainly isn’t finding elite athletes. In fact, there are thousands of top-tier youth volleyball players among the 13 million citizens in Southern Ontario.
Instead, OVA’s problem was providing equal access and opportunity to the handful of volleyball clubs in the more rural Northern Ontario. In a province larger than the state of Texas, youth volleyball players can live in towns as far as 1,400 kilometers from the Association headquarters in Toronto. Some clubs from areas like this competing in provincial championships or select team tryouts in Toronto are met with a barrier of astronomical travel costs and lengthy time commitments for the whole family.
"Based on the costs associated with travel, lodging, food, tryout fees, and any necessary equipment, the total cost could range from several hundred to several thousand dollars." - from Volleyball Canada's Solution for Saving Athletes Thousands
While the coaches at Ontario Volleyball Association could not do much to shorten the drive from Thunder Bay, they certainly accomplished the next best thing. OVA teamed up with GMTM to create a virtual talent identification process for youth athletes from across the province.
#OVAUpdate: The Athlete ID Process for Indoor & Beach Team Ontario is open!— Ontario Volleyball Association (@ova_updates) December 8, 2021
The ID process will be done virtually this year using GMTM where athletes will submit information about themselves for Team Ontario coaches to view.
Athlete ID info
👇 https://t.co/2xGoZiyoXx pic.twitter.com/EQVpuVLFsv
The Team Ontario Regional Program and Virtual Tryouts hosted by OVA on GMTM allowed athletes to train, tryout, and connect with coaches from their own community. The Virtual events helped reduce the travel cost and time commitment for every athlete and provide the most accessible talent ID program for coaches and athletes alike.
Hosted annually for the last two years, the free Ontario Volleyball events on GMTM had over 1,000 athletes submit videos for coaches in the spring of 2022 - and even more in the 2023 events that wrapped up this week. The events invited athletes - aged 15 to 21 - to start the tryout process for their provincial team without the normal travel costs.
"In the past, tryouts and showcases were the only way for players to be evaluated by coaches and scouts, and it was a necessary expense for parents hoping to help their child secure a college scholarship or national team opportunity. In short, parents chose to spend the money on youth sports in hopes that it would save them university expenses down the road." - from Volleyball Canada's Solution for Saving Athletes Thousands
Based on the success of the National Team Tryouts hosted by Volleyball Canada, the virtual events hosted by OVA helped coaches discover and engage with more athletes. The events, which included talent ID activities for both Indoor and Beach players, were fundamental during the pandemic, which restricted in-person events.
"Organizations are able to provide continuous content and resources to educate and support their athletes, keeping them active and improving. Athletes have more visibility into the evaluation process, allowing them to understand when coaches are evaluating them and where they stand. Coaches and scouts are able to use tools that make the evaluation process more efficient and enjoyable for all parties." - from Volleyball Canada's Solution for Saving Athletes Thousands
A few years later, the time saved and cost benefits virtual Talent ID make it an invaluable tool for the Ontario Volleyball Association and Volleyball Canada.