Across the Net
It’s one of the most played sports in the world and yet volleyball often comes with images of having fun on the beach. The truth, however, is that it’s a game open to many and loved by millions.
If you’re searching for a sport that ticks the boxes then volleyball scores pretty highly. With a basic level of fitness, you can play at most ages, it can be staged indoors as well as out, it involves zero body contact (making it less of an injury prone game) and it’s also highly inclusive.
Jim Baker is Chairman of the Kent Volleyball Association, which organises the sport in the county and aims to increase participation and support the staging of competitions for its members.
“Volleyball is a high-energy mixed team sport that can be played by most people regardless of ability. It’s also one of the few games where able-bodied and disabled people can play together and it’s ideal for improving fitness and co-ordination,” comments Jim.
“The other thing about volleyball, as with many other sports and physical activities, is that it’s as good for mind as for body. We live in a high-stress world so exercise can really help by providing social interaction, support, fun and a distraction from everyday pressures.
“We run male and female divisions, with clubs spread across the county,” adds Jim of a sport played by two teams, usually of six players, separated by a net with each team aiming to score points by grounding a ball on the other side’s court.
“We’re also a Foundation League, which is intended to provide a competitive environment for new and fledgling clubs and players who may be looking for a more social involvement before getting into a formal league structure. Many of the current clubs have a foundation team.”
As part of its work, the national governing body Volleyball England supports all aspects of the game within further and higher education.
Research has found the sport is one of the top five students are most likely to try at university. So, with more than 300 higher education teams playing volleyball across England, the student game is a key focus for Volleyball England.
Nurturing the next generation of players is vital because volleyball faces challenges, not least of all in last year’s annual funding cut from Sport England of 34%. Volleyball England reacted however by implementing a new structure designed to support the game at grass roots and to provide the professional resources required by the sport’s extensive volunteer base while, at the same time, maintaining some support for high performance talents. But what of the state of the game in the county today?
“There are two clubs that play National League Volleyball in the county. Dartford VC has a male team as well as a female team playing in division three and division two respectively, while Maidstone VC has a ladies’ team in division three,” explains Frank Wellings, coach at Dartford Volleyball Club.
“In addition, both of the Canterbury universities have teams playing in competitions organised by BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) – the governing body for university sport in the UK.
Take a seat
Sitting volleyball allows both able-bodied and disabled players to participate together and Volleyball England’s Sitting Centre Network has grown rapidly since development work began in 2009.
There are a number of Sitting Volleyball Centres across the country (including one in Canterbury) that aim to offer training provision to a mixed group of able-bodied and physically disabled individuals. They each have a nominated, qualified coach committed to developing the understanding of sitting volleyball and run an integrated programme that recruits players with the potential to go on and represent Great Britain as well as competing in the Volleyball England Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix.