Tevin Ferrell St. Jean has ‘big dreams’ for taking the sport of volleyball to a higher level locally and in the wider region.
The Soufriere native and professional volleyball player is presently riding high on the waves of success – and he earnestly wants to transcend that ‘sports energy’ to his locale, so as to help provide young athletes with a platform to excel in the sport.
After having completed his formal education in the Soufriere community, Tevin moved on to the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School [SCSS], where he graduated with elementary subject passes on his way to a professional sporting career.
Tevin, 26 comes from a sporting family where “there was a lot of competition within the family circle” and they held “high expectations” for him. “They wanted for me to be ‘somebody’ and to be a sportsperson, in whatever field …and an all-round athlete,” he says.
According to St. Jean, his athletic prowess shone through from a young age “running, playing football, basketball and other sports” and it was not until age 14, he developed an interest in volleyball.
His love for volleyball began at the SCSS and from thereon, there has been no turning back for this tall and elegant athlete who yearns to reach the pinnacle of success.
“It was at the Soufriere Comprehensive that I learnt to play the sport of volleyball, and there were a few teachers who originally taught me the sports,” Tevin said. However, amongst his many coaches, he credits two Soufriere residents, Leroy and Liam “and from there persons like Mark Antoine and Marvin James showed me how to play the sport, along with Terrence Verdant, and others and a Cuban coach all showed interest in me “and tried to show me as much as they know about the sport of volleyball”.
Though it took a while for Tevin’s interest to peak in the sport, nonetheless, it was not long before he got into full stride and began enjoying the game more.
“From there I started growing, but I didn’t take it seriously until the age of 18, when I first made the St Lucia National Senior Volleyball Team and from there I was inspired to be who I am,” Tevin recalls.
With the national player status under his belt, Tevin felt it was time to explore the horizons in the wider world of sport. He got support from Julian Biscette, his friend and fellow St Lucian professional-volleyball player assisted Tevin in helping him to forge an opening into the higher ranks.
About Biscette, St. Jean says: “He motivated me to become the volleyball player that I am now, because I saw him as the first professional player to emerge from St Lucia …and from there I was motivated.”
Tevin then confided in Biscette and “I told him that at the age of 18, I wanted to become a professional volleyball player and I would keep pushing myself and he would see me improve …and he saw me two years later and saw how much that I had improved, and he told the coach in Greece about me and then from there I went on my first professional contract.”
Tevin progressed over the years, and by age 21, he went on to do four years in Greece and his last season in Portugal, and now plans to travel and work in Romania.
With this yearning to become a professional athlete, how challenging has it been playing on the international sports circuit?
“It was challenging going to Europe …and you being by yourself, no family, no real friends and so,” he said. “It’s your job…you go over there, you play volleyball, go home, eat, take a little rest, go back home, train in the night , sleep… and then you just do the same thing for about ten months.”
The demands on an athlete is no easy task and Tevin attests to the hard work involved in sustaining a sports career. He notes: “It’s strenuous on the body and you need to perform at a certain level …because at the end of the day they bring you there and they pay you money, so you could come and showcase your talent and to grow and to be better and to win games and to win championships.
“So, you are expected to perform at a level. It’s harder than a lot of people think …and playing the sport that you love, it becomes business. Once you understand the business side of sports and how much your body is your business – and if you take care of your body, then it will help you in the long run to understand the business side.”
Kevin spoke about the rigours involved to maintain a rigid training regime. “The training is hard …usually training sometimes start at 10.00a.m., and finishes at 12noon, then you eat and you’re back on the court training from 5.00 to 6.00p.m until about 8 to 9 o’clock.”
On the tough physical nature of training, he adds: “Sometimes it get real hard, but when you get into the flow and you’re doing it every morning then you’re happy.”
Building up a network and being able to communicate with athletes and to be knowledgeable on other sports related issues is an important part of developing communication skills, says St. Jean.
He says adapting to the global environment, requires you getting to know players “and broadcast and widen what you know and who you know…because a lot of the teams that I went to is because sometimes I met one player, and after playing with him for a whole season, he went to another ream or another country and told them about me, and then liked me.
“It’s a lot of networking …and my agent also helps me, but at the same time, it’s to put you out there for the world to see you and see you in the biggest way possible.”
Kevin lists out some of his major achievements over the span of his six-year professional career. He declared: “My major achievement would have been in the previous season and last year in Greece, where against all odds …I did what I had to do to bring my team to the finals. And unfortunately we lost in the final, but then, from there my career just skyrocketed and people started to notice me as a ‘figure that he’s for real’ and he doesn’t just talk about it, he is it and he’s here to stay. So that was one of my biggest achievements, in Greece, in the Greek Cup League …and coming away with that silver medal was one of my biggest things.”
Kevin stamps his authority as a mid-blocker, but is versatile enough to switch positions, he says, when the team needs him to step up the play. “I am a mid-blocker …and I do play in other positions, but when I’m overseas that’s the main position that I always play,” he said.
The tall and angular professional says the sport of volleyball is evolving and is on the rise. “Volleyball has grown a lot and it has evolved a lot over the years…I feel that volleyball is a sport that is growing as the years go by, little and little and it’s becoming bigger.”
Kevin explained that the fundamentals of indoor volleyball and beach volley are ‘pretty much the same’, but beach volley is a bit harder to be jumping on the sand. In practical terms, he said, it’s two versus two and “you pretty much have to take up the whole court and you must have a good chemistry between you and the other player.”
While beach volleyball is good for the fun and excitement, he said, in contrast “Indoor- volleyball is the money sport, where you get to see masculinity at its highest…it’s at a whole different level.”
Lately, St Jean has taken a keen interest in the development of the sport within his community and wants to utilize the opportunity to make the most of it.
He asserted: “I want to show the younger generation that if I could make it out there, anyone can make it too. I didn’t grow up in the nicest conditions, but I made do with what I had and with a good support team around me, I continued to strive and be the best I could be.”
Additionally, he says: “What I really want to do in Soufriere is to show the sport more than it’s highlighted on the island. I want to show people here that volleyball is a sport, which should be taken seriously …there is a career to be pursued, you can get money and you can make a living for yourself from it, by aligning yourself with right set of people for support.
Kevin adds: “I am just trying to create a window for athletes to do something and recognize their true talent …”
He intends to collaborate with his colleague Biscette to show young athletes that “there is a way out and there are other things to do than the mainstream sports that they promote here…that’s doing just as well and even bigger things. I want for the authorities to highlight each sport and give young athletes the opportunity to showcase their true talent and not just confine them into playing just one sport , have them explore and be who they want to be.”
Now in the prime of his professional career, what are Kevin’s aspirations and projections for the future?
“I want to see the business side of the sport and maybe open a sports agency, and also to create different clubs in most of the communities here and to have an annual ‘Beach Volleyball Tournament’ here, where I can bring in talent from all over the world to play and to showcase something,” he said.
With such high expectations, Kevin says ‘the sky is the limit’. He declared: “I’m looking to that, and to eventually bring it all across the region … I want to be an advocate for the sport, so that athletes can get a chance to express themselves and really and truly be who they are, because there is so much talent on the island and more could be done.”