VOLLEYBALL: Juneteenth tournament to take place this week

The annual Juneteenth celebration in Odessa is considered to be one of the largest of its kind in Texas.
There are a number of activities that take place over the course of the celebration, but there is a new addition to this year’s festivities.
For the first time, a volleyball tournament will be held during the weekend.
The Regina McKnight Juneteenth Volleyball Tournament begins today and continues through Saturday at Bonham Middle School.
For McKnight, a longtime volleyball coach, incorporating the new event into the larger celebration provides a special meaning for her and the celebration as a whole.
“To add more events to a celebration is just going to enhance the celebration more than what it is now,” McKnight said. “There a lot of people who come back to Odessa from out of town and it just gives them more activities to do.”
McKnight says that the initial idea came from Jo Ann Davenport Littleton, who sits on the board of directors of the Black Cultural Council of Odessa.
After growing up as a volleyball player in high school and pursuing a collegiate career, Littleton said that she wanted to see the game continue to grow in the Permian Basin. Once that idea took root, it was just a matter of putting it together.
“After seeing volleyball continue to grow, I asked Coach McKnight and she felt it would be a great success,” she said. “We want to try and be inclusive of everyone and everybody.”
That willingness to try something new has resonated well with others. McKnight says that she’s received a lot of positive feedback from community members about the tournament.
She’s also received an endorsement from another long-time host of a Juneteenth event.
Danny Wright runs the annual basketball tournament that has become one of the more recognizable events as part of the celebration.
And as he gets set to host the tournament for the 39th time, he’s also looking forward to how the new volleyball tournament will get on the ground and grow.
“I know Coach McKnight will do a great job with the tournament,” Wright said. “It’s always great to add something that brings in more people. The more people you can add to be a part of the celebration, the better the event gets.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were six teams, from Odessa to Fort Stockton, committed to playing in the event. Though the field is starting off small, McKnight is encouraged by the early progress
“When we first posted the flyer about the tournament, we got a great response from the community,” McKnight said. “It was easy with this community because they love volleyball and it was just about getting the word out.”
With the word now starting to spread, the goal is to try and find something that works and build off of the early success for future tournaments.
“Everyone supports the celebration and it’s already been successful with the teams that have signed up,” McKnight said. “Hopefully, it’s something that we can continue to grow for years to come.”
“An event like this is fun because of the fellowship and just bringing people together,” Littleton said. “It’s a good start and we want to make sure that everyone has something to do.”
>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas