Vanuatu beach volleyball players are preparing well for the 2019 Pacific Games to be held in Samoa next month.
Among them is 28-year-old Joshua Toares.
Originally from the small island of Maewo in Penama Province, Toares spreads his time between training and competing, as well as taking on coaching duties at the national volleyball development centre in Port Vila.
But it is his love of volleyball which underlines the desire to further his career and play more tournaments representing Vanuatu.
“I never thought that I will get to compete again when I was still coaching the beach volleyball squad, but then seeing the men out on the court training and playing, I asked our FIVB funded coach Michel Bargmann if I can also compete and he said yes,” said Toares.
Toares is the only member of his football-loving family who has a passion for volleyball and, although they cheered him on when playing matches at home, since leaving for Port Vila to follow his volleyball dream, he sees little support from them in relation to his chosen career path.
“Most of the feedback I usually receive comes from my friends, neighbours and my partner who keep on encouraging and supporting me in my achievements,” said Toares.
“But from my family, I think maybe they are too busy at work or with other commitments that they can’t make it to some of my past tournaments.
“Even though I coach or play at some indoor tournaments in Port Vila, I still need the support from my family, not to always be present at each game, but make time to come support me so that I can feel I am not alone and to give me courage to keep on playing.”
Back in Maewo, Toares considers himself as its best player, and is viewed by other players on the island as a tough and skilful opponent in local competitions.
Now based in Port Vila, Toares continues his career not only playing, but also coaching the National Women’s Squad and the emerging U19 players, while representing Vanuatu internationally at tournaments held across the Pacific and Asia.
For now though, his focus is on the region’s major sporting event – the Pacific Games in Apia.
“Training towards the Pacific Games has been going really good with the help of our German coach Michel and also from our strength and conditioning coach Charmaine Grame. I still feel that I need more training since I used to play as blocker but now in the upcoming tournament I will be playing as a defender.
“With some encouragement and training from my coach, I now practise more defending and it has really improved a lot in the past few weeks — and also with a lot of gym work to help get the athletes physically fitter.”
Toares believes that playing in the recent Arafura Games in northern Australia also helped him a lot, even though he and his partner lost their matches. He says they learned a lot from the experience of playing against other international teams which has helped prepare him for Samoa2019.
“My goal this year is to play as hard as I can, and with the help of my on-court partner, for us to try and win a Gold medal during the Samoa2019 Pacific Games, and make my country and families proud,” he said.
“I am so happy to be selected to be part of these Pacific Games, it will be my first time. I have attended some of the games only as a coach but I have never played. So, I think it is a good opportunity for me to get more experience and learn new skills too.”
In the long term, Toares is aiming even higher, with one of his goals being to play in Tokyo at the 2020 Olympics.