King of the court
BARBADOS’ volleyball captain Elwyn Oxley who has represented the ideals of pride and industry (even against overwhelming odds) for the past 18 years – has shown that old Barbadian fighting spirit that never says die.Whether wearing the national colours as he has done since 1992, or the green and gold of champions club Deacons, or just a pair of shorts on beaches throughout the region, Oxley epitomises a passion to excel in a sport that he loves. And, whether you supported Oxley’s teams or not, spectators could only love and respect this modern-day volleyball gladiator who is retiring from national duty after years of yeoman service.No Barbadian volleyballer has won more awards locally or regionally than Oxley, and he has the proud record of representing Barbados at12 consecutive Caribbean Volleyball Championships (CVC), winning ten and capturing the MVP title a record four times. Oxley has also won every individual award except the Best Setter, as he does not set.The born and bred Ferniehurst, “Deacons man” may be summed up as an ordinary person performing extraordinarily and consistently for more than two decades. Evidence was when Oxley became the first person – who barely stands six feet in thick socks – to win the Best Blocker Award at the 2000 Caribbean Volleyball Championships.Previously, and since then, no person other than a centre player has won that award.Ironically, the former St Lucy Secondary student might not have played volleyball were it not for former Deacons Division 2 standout player Kenrick Carvalho. “I remember in the early days I had loved football, and whenever the volleyballers were practising on Deacons Hard Court, they hated that I was playing football nearby. When the volleyball came close by, I would give it a vicious toe punch,” Oxley said with a grin.Encouraged to take up volleyball by Carvalho, Oxley started in Division 3 in 1990, a year that he could have made the Barbados team to the CAC Games in Mexico when other Deacons players Michael Handley, Andrew Culpepper and George Skeete made their debuts. However, Oxley opted to train with the Eagles club and went off on a tour to Antigua.Winning the Junior MVP in 1990 and jumping straight to Division 1 created a winning culture for Oxley, who became possessed with the passion to excel in every facet of the game, and to strive to win every point and every match, regardless of the rank of the tournament or opponent.Oxley, who grew up without his biological father, who passed away when he was nine months, has spent all of his life with his mother Gloria Oxley and stepfather Selfido Goddard. Oxley has been able to pass on some of his positive values to his son Ashe who is a ten-year-old student of the Gordon Greenidge Primary. Ashe is Olxey’s Barbadianising of Axe, the lone African player whom he had played against in the Brazil team in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1999.Ironically, that tour proved to be Oxley’s controversial elevation to national captaincy after his Deacons teammates, including then Barbados captain Michael Handley, “withdrew” at the eleventh hour from attending the games. Refusing to join his teammates in withdrawing, Oxley adopted the mantra “I am going to represent my country, even if I have to play with five other primary school children”.The notion of dying for one’s country was underscored by Oxley on the morning of the 2000 Caribbean championship finals in Barbados when he woke up with his right arm swollen to proportions of Popeye’s. “Even if they have to cut off my hand then, I still have time to learn to spike with my left hand before the match!” quipped Oxley, who went on to win another MVP title, leading Barbados to the championship.Oxley, who first worked at Big B Supermarket in the 1980s before becoming a delivery driver for Confectionary & Snacks, realised one of his other passions, driving, when he joined the Transport Board in October 2000. Since then he has established a reputation as a no-nonsense driver who orders the schoolchildren to “make themselves tidy” before boarding his bus.Despite the many triumphs, volleyball also brought pain for Oxley, particularly in 2001 when NORCECA came to Barbados and he had to sit in the stands because of a serious knee injury. Oxley also missed the entire 2001 domestic competition due to that injury. Losing the 2008 CVC at home and the 2010 edition in Suriname on the eve of his 39th birthday were also bitter pills for Oxley to swallow.Although he has announced his retirement from national duty, he is still committed to competing on the beach where his drive for excellence is yet in top gear. A qualified FIVB Level II coach indoors and Levels I, II and III on the beach, Oxley is already geared up to seeking out new horizons in coaching where he can give back to his country and inspire others to excel in volleyball.