Heart & hustle: Harry Jones on his past, present and future
7th July 2020
Harry Jones, 22, is a third generation volleyballer out to carve his own legacy. Born and bred in Bournemouth, the 185cm-tall player honed his beach volleyball game on the south coast and now competes internationally, last appearing at a 1-star FIVB tournament in Langkawi, Malaysia in March. Despite his globe-trotting, it’s a city more than 100 miles north of his hometown that Harry has his eye on for 2022.
How did you get into beach volleyball?
Volleyball has always been in my blood. My late grandfather Brian Jones was a player and international referee and was instrumental in getting English volleyball off the ground in the late ‘60s. My dad Andrew followed in his footsteps as a player and coach. He was a setter for London Aquilla, who were once rivals to Malory Eagles, and is currently the Assistant Coach for England Senior Women’s Beach Team.
They got me playing indoor with my local club Wessex when I was about nine and from there I found myself naturally drawn to the beach by watching and eventually competing in tournaments. My first beach tournament was an English School Championships in 2011. My brother Lewie Lett coached Callum Hoare and I in the build-up and I think we finished 3rd; it was certainly a spark that kicked off my competitive drive.
Outside of my family, two people who have had the biggest influence on my development were – and still are – Vangelis Koutouleas and Kirk Pitman. Vangelis was one of my first proper coaches; he taught me how to train hard and introduced me to the bigger world of beach volleyball outside of the UK, helping me to break onto the international scene.
Kirk Pitman has also been an influential coach for me. His experience as an international player is invaluable, and he has always pushed me outside of my comfort zone and challenged me at times when others wouldn’t – you need that as an athlete. He has also opened up a lot of opportunities for me to train abroad, particularly last year in Australia, which has completely changed my outlook on things. I'm very grateful to both of them.
Can you recall your England debut?
My debut came when I was 15. Ryan Poole and I competed in the first Summer Youth Olympic qualifiers in the Hague, the Netherlands, back in 2013. It was such a special experience as the Hague has so much prestige as a beach volleyball venue. I remember thinking that I would be nervous, but we were just excited for the opportunity as playing internationally was new to us.
We managed to take a win against the Netherlands as well, before losing to Slovakia. It was such a learning experience and it gave me the confidence to carry on competing but also the drive to get better to reach the next level.
Thinking about your playing style, what do you bring to the game?
I’m quite well known for being a scrappy, hardworking defender; I’m very passionate and like to wear my heart on my sleeve as a competitor. I believe in hard work and like to think I bring that to every game I play, never giving up on a point.
…and what do you look for in the people you play with?
I’ve always looked for partners who have a similar drive and ambition as myself, and also players who are easy to communicate with and build a strong relationship with; trust is so important and that’s why most of my partners have always been good friends off the court.
What has been your proudest moment representing England?
My proudest moment was qualifying for the 2016 U21 World Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland, with Issa Batrane. We were the first English team to do so and it felt like a huge step forward because we had set a goal and achieved it. After that I felt like I had a sense of belonging on the international scene.
What are you most likely to be doing if you are not playing volleyball?
I’m usually hanging out with my mates or maybe working on a video or media project – it’s one of the main ways I make a living at the moment as it’s something I can fit around my training and competitions. Volleyball comes first at the moment, but one day I would like to work in sports broadcasting.
There are obviously ups and downs in sport, what keeps you motivated?
Passion is a big one; just having an innate drive to want to compete and play at high level has always kept me going, especially during the tougher moments. I feel like I still have a ton of room to grow and improve; I still feel driven to achieve the big goals that I’ve set myself from a young age, so that helps.
Do you have a volleyball role model?
I wouldn’t say I have one role model per se. I like to watch a lot of different players, analyse the way they do things and go about mastering their craft to help me grow. I’m always looking at the way they do things; the small technical aspects of their games, their game management style, and how they regulate and respond to things on court. I have so much respect for players competing at the top of the World Tour.
What are your sporting ambitions for the future?
I’ve got a lot of big goals I want to keep working towards: I want to be pushing towards high finishes and podiums on the World Tour, I want to be in the mix for Birmingham 2022 and in the mix for future major games and competitions.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to younger players?
Always keep pushing on, even if you can’t quite see the endgame, and be open to advice and change; it’s easier said than done but it’s key in making progress.