Being a HEVO

21st September 2017

Being a HEVO

This weekend will see 80 students attend a conference which will prepare them to become volleyball ambassadors at universities across England. The students will take up roles as Higher Education Volleyball Officers (HEVO) in which they will put on recreational volleyball sessions, which are separate to competitive university teams, as an enjoyable and sociable way for fellow students to play volleyball, regardless of their ability. The HEVO initiative is Volleyball England’s flagship programme for increasing participation in the sport.

So why do the students become HEVOs and what do they get out of it? We spoke to a student who was a first-time HEVO last year to get the low down…

Matthew Harrison was already a volleyballer before he heard about the HEVO programme. Having taken up the sport in college, he carried on playing at Edge Hill University and was good enough to be selected for the university team, representing it in the British Universities and College Sports (BUCS) championships. So when he was invited to join the HEVO scheme Matthew saw the chance to give something back to the sport but also help develop his own skills.

“Edge Hill sports department contacted the volleyball team looking for someone to volunteer to become a HEVO,” says Matthew. “I do a coaching degree so I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me, so put myself forward and went to the HEVO conference to do all the training about how to put on the volleyball sessions.”

It proved to be a good decision, as Matthew found being a HEVO a great experience and will continue in the role this coming academic year. His natural coaching instincts were ideal for the role and he has been able to help people of all abilities enjoy the sport.

“I really enjoyed being a HEVO last year,” says Matthew. “I was one of two HEVOs at Edge Hill. There were a range of abilities that would come along to our sessions and I enjoyed the challenge of designing sessions that appealed to everybody. It was great having two of us, as it meant we could float around and help the players in different ways. For participants who had never played volleyball before, we could do simple drills we had learned at the HEVO conference, while with the more advanced players we could use training drills I would use at my own training sessions for the university team. I still use the little booklet (Student Activator Award) that the HEVOs at the conference were given. I use the drills in my coaching now and adapt them.”

As with all recreational activities, the number of participants at Matthew’s sessions would vary from week to week, and while this was a challenge, he always found he enjoyed it.

“Sometimes we would have five people turn up, while on others we could get nearer 25. It was a challenge to plan sessions as you would never know how many would come along. Sometimes you would expect a great turn out and you would only get five. I would sometimes think ‘is it worth putting a session on with such a low number?’ But when we did the session I would always enjoy it and realise why I was doing it. On average, I would say we had about 15 each week.”

Part of the HEVO conference teaches the students how to organise and promote the sessions, including tips on how best to use social media.

“We used a Facebook page to promote our sessions,” explains Matthew. “For example, we recently had the freshers’ fair for this year coming and got everyone who is interested to join our page, where we share all the information. It’s great because last year the group became a real community. We would often have social events that were not to do with volleyball.”

Proof of how brilliant the scheme is at growing the game, Matt found the HEVOs to be a source of new team mates.

“We had quite a few players start on the scheme who when we saw their ability, we spoke to and they went on through to join the university team,” says Matthew.

While Matthew was doing a fantastic job in helping develop volleyball in this country, he has also developed his own talents that will help him in the future.

“I am definitely more confident in speaking in front of groups of people,” says Matthew. “I have also developed my coaching abilities, not just for volleyball but for the other sports I coach too. There are loads of transferable skills you learn being a HEVO.

Matthew is going to be a HEVO again this year and will be at the HEVO conference this weekend. His best advice for any newcomers to the scheme is:

“Make the most of it. You get out what you put into it. The more you put into it, the more you will enjoy it, I did!”

Being a HEVO