Beach Lead Blog: An introduction from Phil Smith

12th June 2020

Beach Lead Blog: An introduction from Phil Smith

Phil Smith, who leads Volleyball England’s Beach Volleyball Working Group, shares some key updates on the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the coronavirus and the UKBT.


Firstly, I hope that you are all staying safe and keeping well during the ongoing coronavirus situation and secondly, welcome to the first ‘Beach Lead Blog’.

As a quick introduction, I’m Phil Smith and I am the current beach volleyball workstream lead for Volleyball England. The role is incredibly wide ranging, however it is essentially there to help with the development and progression of beach volleyball in England. One of my main aims is to try and improve communication lines between Volleyball England and the beach community, and as such I wanted to start this blog for a few reasons.

  1. To give you an insight into the kind of projects that we are working on from a federation perspective
  2. To help highlight some of the amazing work others are doing throughout the beach community
  3. To give you the opportunity to reach out and guide us if you think that there are other things that you feel we need to be looking into, or if there are things that you need help with.

Despite the fact we are unable to play beach at the moment due to the pandemic, we have been incredibly busy with off court work. We are entering into a very exciting period for the sport in England with beach volleyball featuring in the Commonwealth Games in 2022 in Birmingham. The prospect of a home games is not only an opportunity of a lifetime for our athletes and officials, but also provides a platform for the whole community to show the UK what beach volleyball is all about. Preparations are well under way, and recently we submitted the funding application to Sport England to try and gain additional financial support for our athletes looking to win a medal for England at the Games. I wanted to say a huge thank you to the Beach Performance Group, head office staff (extra special shout out to Gillian Harrison for pulling it all together), head coaches and everyone else that we called on for their expertise in helping to shape the bid. We should hear the outcome of the bid around the end of June!

We are also currently advertising for the Team Leader role for the England beach volleyball teams at the Games. This is a unique opportunity to have a vital role within the team, so if you are interested, please click here for further information. Applications close on 18th June so get your application in soon!

Another huge task at the moment is trying to get everyone back playing volleyball again safely as the Government gradually relax the coronavirus related restrictions. I’ve recently joined the team that are working on this, and hopefully you will have seen the communication updates coming from Volleyball England. We appreciate the community would like to know the implications that new government advice has for volleyball as it is announced, and rest assured the Hub is working hard to ensure updates are timely and clear. If there are specific bits of information you think are missing, or would help make things clearer, please let us know – this is a challenging time for everyone and we are all trying to figure out the solutions together.

The basic premise is that the 2-metre social distancing rule relating to meeting people from outside your household still applies when you are on a volleyball court (unless it’s your new bubble buddy from 13th June). This means that game play is practically impossible if you don’t live together as pretty much every rally involves you being within 2 metres of either your partner or your opposition, however specific practise drills may well be possible if they are designed in such a way to ensure social distancing rules are adhered to. Whilst I fully appreciate that everyone is desperate to get back playing again as soon as possible and it’s easy to say, “well x, y, or z are doing something different”, I would like to make a plea for you all to continue sticking with the government guidelines. First and foremost, this is for your own safety, however even if you are willing to take the risk, please try and think of the bigger picture both in terms of the overall impact the virus is having on the country, but also the sport. The last thing we want as a sport or community is to be on the front page of a paper being the example of people breaking the social distancing rules and having to deal with any reputational damage that may bring. We are all hoping that the restrictions get relaxed further in the next few weeks, so for now, start working on your socially distanced practise drills, however please hold out just that little bit longer before playing full games!

We have also been liaising with the UKBT and the Volleyball England Competitions Working Group following their consultation on the impact of coronavirus on the 2020/2021 indoor season dates. We are working to try and protect the summer months for beach tournaments, whilst also being sympathetic and understanding to the potential difficulties the next indoor season may have if it has to start later than normal. As the beach representative, I am advocating that keeping next summer free for beach tournaments is especially important as it is a vital prep year for our athletes, referees, lines judges and other officials who are aiming to be involved with the CWG in 2022. Thank you to everyone who has completed the survey that was sent to UKBT members about this. We had 415 responses, which helps provide us with important insights, and certainly helps beach gain a louder voice at the discussion table.

Finally, it was a lot of fun being a part of the recent Virtual UKBT Grand Slam that took place on Instagram. It was amazing to see how the whole beach volleyball community came together during a time we are forced to be apart. It was very entertaining seeing everyone’s creative side in how they tried to get (beg for?) votes and I know Jake and Kim at UKBT were absolutely delighted with the outcome and the social media reach that was achieved during the event. This can only help with the commercial opportunities for the Tour moving forwards, which in turn will help provide bigger and better events; so thank you to everyone that got involved and voted.

Hopefully this starts to give you a bit of insight into the work that myself and others are doing at the moment from the Volleyball England side. As I said, I’m aiming to provide regular updates so everyone knows what is going on, but also to give you the opportunity to raise any questions or ideas that you may have. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you want to discuss anything.

I do just want to say a huge thank you to all amazing people within the beach volleyball community who give up an incredible amount of their time, energy and expertise for the benefit of beach volleyball. There are some very exciting times to come over the next few years and we have the perfect opportunity to showcase our sport to the whole of the nation.

I hope to see you all on the beach again soon.

If you do have any questions on any of the above, or any suggestions, please email me.

Beach Lead Blog: An introduction from Phil Smith