Whitefield Tournament entries to open in April
28th February 2020
“Every year, people leave the Whitefield Tournament happy, if not exhausted and a bit sunburned, after a packed weekend of volleyball!” enthused Kate Falkner, Tournament Secretary.
Few names in English volleyball conjure up the same emotions as Whitefield. The longstanding event is the largest outdoor volleyball tournament in the UK, attracting around 120 teams per year, and is set to return to South Bristol Sports Centre on the weekend of 18th and 19th July 2020.
“There is a real festival feel,” Kate continued: “the tournament is a chance for you and your team to have a real social weekend together – having fun, playing volleyball and camping! Once you arrive, everything is available onsite from parking, camping pitches, showers, facilities and food outlets. The site and place are all encompassing, and the atmosphere is great with us usually hosting around 500-600 campers.”
Catering for players and teams from beginners to top level NVL standard, across 11 divisions, teams can expect to play around 8 matches over the weekend. In recent years the mixed gender divisions that feature 3 men and 3 women on court have become the most popular format.
Kate, who has been Tournament Secretary for the last 8 years, said: “Teams enjoy mixing it up and playing different roles in the mixed gender event and outdoors on a different surface.”
Weather permitting (sunburns are not guaranteed), 3 set matches are played, and the packed schedule can see games on until as late as 7pm on the Saturday night. “People can be pleasantly surprised by the organisation of the event and how much volleyball they get the opportunity to play.”
A welcoming tournament
“We really are open to new teams and there really is a level for everybody at the tournament. You’ll be playing a lot of volleyball and if not playing then you will be refereeing or finding time to grab a bite to eat, check the score and soak up the atmosphere of the event!” Kate said.
“If a team is looking to enter for the first time, then I’d really encourage them to enter early as some divisions can be sold out in as little as 30 minutes. We always take care to keep all teams informed both before and during the tournament.”
The tournament features a blend of new teams and ones who have been attending Whitefield for decades. One team who epitomise the ethos of the tournament is Purbrook Park as Kate explained: “They were all students at school together and now, years later, they take part in the men’s side of the tournament dressed in school shirts and ties! This really embodies the tournament’s sense of enjoyment first, sharing moments with good friends and playing lots of volleyball.”
Organised by the City of Bristol Volleyball Club, the success of Whitefield is down to the 50+ strong volunteer workforce whose effort and dedication extends beyond the tournament weekend to months of planning and preparation.
Kate said: “At 10pm on the Saturday, after we have all been working really hard, all 50 of us volunteers sit down together and eat as a group - this is my highlight of the weekend. Then, after a few hours respite, we start all over again when we wake up on the Sunday. And this sense of team and togetherness, I think, passes on to the atmosphere of the event. I’m really proud of the team and providing a lovely experience for everyone."
With a rich 46-year history, a number of people have been involved in the tournament from its inception to the present day, including Ron Richards and Phil Gorton. This continuity has been instrumental to the continued success of the event.
Still, over the years, the Whitefield Tournament has faced its fair share of challenges. Recently, this has included torrential rain and flooding in 2007, South Bristol Sports Centre in Bristol burning down in 2019 and, 5 years ago, the event was forced to move from the site it had been hosted on in Bath since 1982.
But the essence of the Whitefield Tournament has always prevailed, as Kate said: “Really, it doesn’t matter where it is. It is the people and the organisation that makes the event.”
Entries to the Whitefield Tournament open at 8am on Saturday, 25th April. To enter, or for more information, please visit: whitefield.cbvc.org.uk.