A taste of competition
22nd December 2017
The Under 15 National Championships is a tournament that helps young players fall in love with volleyball. As our profile of the tournament looked at, it is a tournament is enjoyed by young players just starting in the game and those who are already future stars of the sport.
As well as featuring established volleyball clubs and schools, teams of beginners can enter too. The thrill of entering a competition can help inspire all young players to fall in love with the sport and become committed volleyballers for life.
The deadline to enter teams into the 2018 Under 15 National Championships is getting near. Could the tournament help encourage young volleyerballers you know? Find out how to register before the deadline of Friday January 12, 2018.
Howard Ainsworth is a true lover of the sport and a volleyball coach at Urmston Grammar School in Manchester. The school had never entered in Volleyball England junior championships before, but Howard helped change that. Volleyball England chatted to Howard to hear what makes the Under 15 National Championships such an important part of inspiring the next generation of volleyballers.
Tell us about the Urmston Grammar School volleyball teams and how you came to compete in the Under 15 National Championships?
HA: I began coaching at Urmston Grammar three years ago and with a PE teacher from the school, Iain Hines, we have developed the Volleyball programme. It’s gone from a lunch time and one after school session, to training at lunch time, three times after school and once at the weekend.
The school had never competed in Volleyball England’s Junior National Championships until two years ago, but this year we will be entering six U15s teams (three Girls and three Boys), four U16s teams (two Girls & two Boys) and one U18s team (Girl). Due to the Volleyball programme only being developed in the last three years, most of our players are competing in age groups above their actual age.
Our school Volleyball programme attempts to provide as much opportunity for our players to train and play, so our boys A team (U15s and U16s) and our Girls A teams (U16s and U18s) also compete in the Greater Manchester adult league.
How important is the Under 15 National Championships for your teams?
HA: We enter the U15s National Championships because it is our main way to provide meaningful competitive six-a-side matches. It gives the players a clear focus and motivation for their training and development.
The competition is an extremely important part of our Volleyball programme as it gives the players a chance to represent the school in a prestigious competition and is guaranteed to provide the appropriate level of challenge as the rounds progress.
In the first rounds, the level of competition is at a grassroots standard so this allows us to enter U14s teams were the expectation is to gain as much experience as possible. For most players from the school it will be their first competitive six-a-side matches. In the later rounds, the standard of play is high and provides the perfect goal for the players to be motivated to train harder and more often.
How has your experience been of the competition? How do the players benefit?
HA: At the age group, young people often have many different activities in their lives. Having the tournament gives the players goals and more opportunities to play and enjoy the sport. When players start the sport, they first need to get comfortable with it and feel it is a genuine sport. To genuinely commit to volleyball though, they need to connect with it. They need the motivation which leads to development and success. The Under 15 National Championships does that – it provides players at all standards with motivation and helps their development, which helps them make that connection to volleyball.
It can be difficult to find matches for our teams at this age group, so the National Championships gives vital match experience and can provide two months’ worth of motivation to train in preparation for it.
It also helps players develop into the volleyball talent pathway of reaching regional and national standard. Jessica Tasker, one of our players, won the Golden Ball at the School Games. She played in the Under 15 National Championships and has progressed to representing her country.
I actually won the U15s National Championships when I was at school and went on to play for the representative squad so I personally understand how success in this competition can be the catalyst that drives commitment to training and skill development.
Would you recommend the tournament for other teams who perhaps haven’t enter a tournament before?
I would highly recommend the Championships to new teams and would encourage established clubs to enter more teams with younger players. The Under 15 National Championships is a tournament that benefits everyone. The early rounds are ideal for inexperienced teams that perhaps only train once a week, as there will be matches against teams at a similar standard. It is great for giving players experience of a tournament situation and they become better equipped psychologically to handle tournaments, and the challenge of translating training-level of performances into a match situation.
I think sometimes coaches or teachers don’t always have the confidence to enter their teams because of the prestige of it being a National Championships. However, it helps their players’ development so they should go for it.
What is it like facing teams from volleyball clubs?
It isn't a problem facing teams from Volleyball clubs. As a school, we benefit from certain advantages in that we can recruit players from PE lessons where they have received quality coaching and had a good initial experience of Volleyball. Our facilities are on site and I see my players nearly every day, so it is easier to develop good player coach relationships.