The sport for all at Newbury Volleyball Club
4th November 2019
Volleyball is one of the most inclusive sports there is. It is enjoyed by both genders, all ages, and players with and without disabilities play together too. Even with the sport placing inclusivity at the heart of its values, what Newbury Volleyball Club is doing is truly remarkable.
The club run sessions for players with disabilities that require one-to-one care, including cerebral palsy and autism. The club began over 18 months ago and now sees between 6-10 players coming along to sessions with their carers and volleyball has had a profound impact on their lives.
“It’s amazing to see the players come out of their shell,” says Sue Sayers, the coach of the team and chair of Newbury Volleyball Club.
Setting up a team for players with disabilities was not part of Newbury’s plans but came about by chance.
“We had an email from young man who wanted to come along to the club, who had been playing at college,” explains Sue. “Haddon came along to our Tuesday session and has cerebral palsy. He struggled to pick up a ball but carried on the session and came to the next two sessions. He wanted to stay but it was getting to the point where it wasn’t safe for him to be part of the group.
“Haddon was keen to keep playing so I said that if he could find more people of similar ability then I would put on a session for them. To his credit, Haddon got a few people and we put on a taster session of one hour on.”
The sessions have become regular every other week, in the hour before Newbury’s usual training session and the club has gained financial support. They received a grant of £3,800 to help cover the costs of hall hire, equipment and coaching courses.
“The players have different disabilities,” says Sue. “We have players with downs syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and some I am not even sure what it is – but they all rely on one-to-one carers. All of the games are adapted and we use different balls, beach balls, soft balls and volleyballs, with each of our players.
“A lot can catch it off a bounce. One woman was terrified of giving the ball to anyone and over the weeks she learned to pass it over, which was a huge achievement. Nathan and Luca can pair up together and play a game together. We play King of the Court and the sessions are really varied – it’s amazing to see. Many of the carers will say ‘I didn’t think that was possible’ about some of the things the group achieves.”
Nathan has excelled so much that he has now also goes along the Newbury junior sessions, where the players can catch, throw, spike, block and dig the ball.
“I would happily put Nathan in a team but unfortunately there would be moments when the ref would pull him up,” says Sue. “If there was a development league where they could let certain things go, he could definitely play.”
The club has become an established part of Newbury VC and hasn’t just seen the players improve on court but benefit off court too.
“After the sessions the group will go to the pub and have a drink,” says Sue. “There is also no trouble getting volunteers to help deliver the sessions, as people from the club will come down before the usual club session.
“Haddon named the club ACO. That stands for Activity Community Opportunity. We always advertise ACO as part of Newbury Volleyball Club. There is no other reason that other clubs couldn’t do it.”
Newbury have had to begin to charge the players for coming to help cover the costs and there are some challenges which will need to be overcome so the incredible sessions can continue.
“The question is how we will manage when the grant money runs out,” says Sue. “If we had a long net we might be able to take more people which will help to cover costs.”
With the incredible impact the team has, everyone connected with ACO will hope a way can be found and continue what Sue reflects on as an incredible journey.
“I am impressed with Haddon,” says Sue. “I gave him a route to create something and I am impressed that he found people to come along. Being part of it gives me a big sense of satisfaction – it is hard work but it is rewarding.
“It is amazing to see the impact of these sessions - sport has an incredible power to connect with all different types of people.”