Brothers Patrick and Elwyn Oxley with their sons Ashe and Akeel. (Picture by Dominique Bonnett.)
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It’s safe to say that when it comes to volleyball in Barbados, the Oxley family runs things.
Back in the day, the names of brothers Patrick and Elwyn Oxley were synonymous with the sport. Elwyn was an outstanding national player for 24 years and Patrick an excellent coach from 2013 to 2017.
“Back in the day for me I played First Division volleyball for Deacons and was once a member of the Barbados National men’s team. I retired from playing indoor volleyball for Barbados in 2010. I’m still presently representing Barbados in beach volleyball though,” Elwyn said.
But surprisingly, Elwyn revealed that being a national volleyball player was never in his plans, as football was his first love.
“Being a national player was never a goal of mine. I started out playing football but was encouraged to play volleyball by a friend of mine who played for Deacons at the time. I decided to give it a try and fell in love with the sport, and there was no turning back since,” the 46-year-old said.
His younger brother Patrick, 44, didn’t have the joy of playing for the national team, but he has been instrumental in the coaching of the national volleyball teams.
“Coming up in Deacons, which is a sporting community, it’s not hard to get into sports once you want to. I played a little volleyball at school as well. It was a turning point for me in life because it kept me out of trouble so I stuck with it. Volleyball did a lot for me and further in life I gained the opportunity through the Sports Council camp to do courses in sports, mainly volleyball. That’s how I got into coaching. I was never a part of the national team like my brother but I coached the junior and youth girls,” Patrick explained.
Fast forward to the present: Elwyn’s son Ashe, 18, and Patrick’s son Akeel, 17, have followed in their fathers’ footsteps and are dominating the sport. Ashe, a former student of the Coleridge & Parry Secondary School and now at the Leonard’s Boys’ School and Akeel, a student of the Christ Church Foundation School, are both members of the Barbados national volleyball team.
In a recently concluded tournament in Suriname, with Elwyn as the coach of the team, the boys came out on top, and their dads couldn’t be more proud of them. Akeel was voted Most Valuable Player and Ashe Best Outside Spiker in the tournament. It was also Elwyn’s debut as a coach, so it was an all-round celebration for the family.
“Seeing my family do so well in a sport that I played for so many years, the feeling is really great,” Elwyn said.
Patrick added, “For me to see my son and my nephew doing so well, I’m proud. There are a lot of fathers and sons or mothers and daughters involved in volleyball and that’s also good.”
For the younger Oxleys, following in their fathers’ footsteps has been great, but it wasn’t something they actively thought about.
Ashe, like his dad, was a football lover but also fell in love with volleyball after being introduced.
“I did not want to follow in my dad’s footsteps. I loved playing football and I only got into volleyball because of my friends and others who were playing and I love my team so I gravitated towards volleyball more. When I made the national team I never thought about my dad but it felt good making the team and going to Suriname and Jamaica and being coached by my dad,” he said.
Akeel, though, longed for years to be on a national team like his uncle, but had to focus on his schoolwork first in keeping with his father’s wishes.
“I always wanted to be a volleyballer since primary school. My dad told me I had to wait until I got into secondary school because I had to focus on Common Entrance first. Then I started playing club level and I progressed as I got taller to an attacking player and it led me to greater passion in volleyball and I made the team in 2015 and went to Jamaica. It has been a good experience so far and I’m looking forward to travelling more,” the quiet Akeel said.
Overall, Elwyn and Patrick couldn’t be more proud of their sons and the work they are doing.
“For me, my son, I didn’t force him to get into volleyball. I gave him the choice . . . . Seeing him playing and elevating to the level he is at now I’m very proud of him. Both he and his cousin have worked very hard. They are two disciplined youngsters and as a coach I always say as long as you listen and put in the work you would go far,” Elwyn said.
Going forward, the dads just want their sons to remain focused on their goals and to stick with the sport they all love.
“Stay focused. Don’t only concentrate on the volleyball aspect of life. Strike the balance between the sports and academics. When it’s time to study, then study. When it’s time to practise volleyball, focus and practise volleyball. Give the two equal efforts and just go on down the road. Once they remain positive in everything they do, they will do well,” Patrick said.
Elwyn added, “I just want them to continue to work hard and to respect time. Keep playing hard and be honoured to represent your country. Going forward I just want them to continue and I will be here to guide them along the way. I know there are other coaches out there that want to guide them in a positive light as well. I just want them to remain focused and stick with the game.”
On the behalf of his cousin, the shyer of the two, Ashe thanked his dad and uncle for their guidance over the years.
“We love them both, they’re good people. I just want to thank them for always being there for us.” (DB)