Island volleyball player prepares for trip to Italy
Another ho-hum summer sports camp? Not for volleyball standout Garrett Bucklin, who will travel to Italy this summer on a tour of four cities while playing volleyball matches against Italian club teams. The Good Will Ambassadors Volleyball Tour, a volleyball camp with a cultural enrichment twist, will host this unique tour of Italy.
The tour is part of the Sports for Youth Foundation, a non-profit “dedicated to the development of youth through sport.” Director John Littleman started the program 32 years ago.
The two-week trip will include six-on-six indoor and two-on-two outdoor beach volleyball.
“They’re going to mix in Italians and Americans and they all know how to play volleyball,” Garrett said.
Garrett grew up with volleyball. He can recall watching his parents playing beach volleyball when he was young and remembers joining them occasionally. “Getting the feel of it,” he said. Garrett said that both his mom and dad played volleyball in college and that his mother still plays and coaches.
She was his coach last fall when he was a member of North Kingston High School unified team.
Currently, Garrett is the setter on the junior varsity boys’ volleyball team at North Kingstown. He said the team is relatively new, with only two sophomores returning from last year’s team. He explained that during tryouts at the start of the season coaches sought Garrett’s leadership for the team. While most of the freshmen are new to the sport, Garrett’s experience and skill for setting the ball have been instrumental in this season’s success and the team’s winning record.
This summer he’s going to take those skills on the road.
His interest in the tour goes beyond the sport, however. Garrett described his grandmother, a summer-Jamestowner of Italian decent, who has piqued his interest of all things Italian, including, he said, “The people, the sights and the food.”
Self described as a good student, Garrett said that he likes history, adding that his fondness for the subject is another reason that he is looking forward to his cultural trip in July. The trip will include three days in Rome and visits to the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Roman Forum. Other cities will include Grosseto, Florence and Venice.
Garrett has attended four volleyball camps in the last three years and he is routinely moved up to the next oldest age group. Beginning with the North Kingstown summer camp in 2009, Garrett was encouraged by camp coaches to “come back next week when high schoolers with one-year experience
[start],” he said. “I was 12 years old.”
Last year the same story played out when he attended the all-high school camp for volleyball as a 13-year-old.
The trip to Italy is not the first time he has combined travel and his favorite pastime.
Last summer, Garrett was the only Rhode Islander in his age group to attend and participate in Penn State’s weeklong volleyball camp. Garrett characterized the experience as “very cool.” He described the impressive college campus, the multiple gyms and field houses and the training table set up for the athletes at meal times. He explained that the Nittany Lions are a perennial NCAA Division I powerhouse. The summer practices of the collegiate athletes ran concurrently with the camp and a highlight for Garrett was being able to watch Penn State play. He added that several of the Penn State coaches were also camp coaches, including a small defensive specialist, or “libero.”
This 5-foot-6-inch senior, who worked with Garrett’s group, was the center of defensive play, traversing the court with ease.
Besides his high school team, Garrett is also a player for the Rhode Island Blast, a club team. Garrett is the only freshman on the team. His under-16 team earned a second place finish in the New England club championships, beating the huskier U-16 from Connecticut.
Told by his varsity colleagues at North Kingstown that they expect him to be on the varsity team next year, Garrett is forever building his experience. He has assisted coaches in the youth volleyball program at Lawn Avenue School for the last two years.
Every Thursday night he and his mother go to Peace Dale for what Garrett described as “basically a pick-up game.” Here the age requirement (over 19 years old) is once again waived for the play-beyond-his-age Garrett who gets in when the total attendance for the evening is less than 42.
He explained that he has rarely sat out because of a full house, and in those rare cases he substitutes for his mother. The format, according to Garrett, is to play two games and sit, giving each of the player’s substantial game time.
A lifelong Jamestowner, Garrett likes the small-town feel of the island and the walkability of life in the village. He and friends enjoy the docks, ice cream at Spinnakers and occasional sailing makes for a full schedule of his ever diminishing leisure time.