Invictus Games review part two: building a legacy
16th November 2018
Team UK secured a brilliant silver medal in the sitting volleyball at last month’s Invictus Games. Last we heard from head coach Richard Osborne as he reflected on the team’s brilliant performance at the Games in Sydney.
It was a particularly poignant occasion for Richard as his Team UK side were defeated by Georgia in the final, a team he coached at the previous three Invictus Games.
In the second of the two-part series, Richard takes the time to chat about the experience of being involved in the adaptive games for wounded, injured and sick service personnel and the impact it can have on the sport of sitting volleyball…
What was Sydney like as a host city of the Invictus Games?
I can confirm it has wonderful sports halls and hotels, because that’s all I saw for the most part! Seriously, it was awesome and, as is always the case, the volunteers were the heartbeat of the Games.
The opening ceremony was held at the Sydney Opera House, which is one of those iconic places that lives up to all expectations when you see it with your own eyes, and Team UK had been transported by ferry to the venue only to find itself stuck in the middle of an apocalyptic thunder storm that resulted in a lengthy delay.
The competitions took place at the Olympic Park, which conjured up images from 2000, when Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400m in her one-piece skinsuit, while Ian Thorpe (an ambassador for the 2018 Invictus Games) triumphed in the pool. I didn’t venture from the Park, even after my event had finished, despite the opportunity to have undertaken a spot of sight-seeing had I wished, because I knew that if I had ventured off-site I would probably have spent my time wondering what was happening in the powerlifting, archery, swimming and so on. The atmosphere was so fantastic at these events that I really didn’t want to be anywhere else.
It was not your first experience of the Invictus Games, how did it compare to other Games?
In some respects, it was very similar to the previous Games. There are the volunteers, adorned in yellow jackets, who are always so affable and pleased to help, to the merchandise stores with the customary branding and the players’ lounge, which in this case was a huge dome-shaped building dubbed ‘Invictus Games House’ where players and staff went to eat and chill out. These were common features at previous Games so there was a sense of familiarity, but the location was entirely different - the Sydney Olympic Park - which took it to a whole other level. The facilities were unparalleled and it is true that until your event is finished you just spend time going from training to eat, to training to bed and so on, so again a sense of familiarity.
What do you hope the Invictus Games can do for the wider participation in sitting volleyball?
The Invictus Games are essential for placing a spotlight on sitting volleyball and generating awareness of the sport. It is broadcast more widely as it grows which is increasing exposure and hopefully motivating more people to give the game a go.
If anybody reading this wants to play they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if there is a club near to them I will signpost them to it. Alternatively, if there isn’t, I will add their details to a database that I and another volunteer maintain and once there is sufficient demand in that area we will seek to introduce some sessions.
Pleasingly, a number of hopefuls who tried out for Team UK have fallen in love with the sport and carried on playing and my next task is to identify players from those 133 hopefuls who may be eligible to play for GB and invite them to try out for the GB Development Group which I coach too.
I hear that some members of the squad are looking at setting up their own team. Is that part of the legacy of the Games?
Yes, this is a fantastic outcome from the whole process but it is important that participants use the Invictus Games as a springboard for the future and that they continue to set themselves challenges going forward. One of my players, Paul Twitchell, is doing just that and is going to attain his Level 1 and 2 qualifications while already taking steps to create a sitting volleyball club in Telford. This is an amazing goal which will also benefit sitting volleyball which is continuing to grow steadily. In recent months, we have seen two new clubs emerge: Sitting Bucks, in Oxford, which is also co-coached by one of the Invictus Games sitting volleyball squad; and Salford, as well as potential for a new club in Gillingham, and with Telford due to roll out a club the future is looking bright and I, for one, could not be happier.