Issa Batrane: Believe in being able to achieve greatness
13th August 2020
From competing at the 2016 FIVB U21 World Championships to the 2019 Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament, Issa Batrane, 24, brings motivation and mettle to the sand. The 180cm defender has already earned a host of titles including Junior British Champion and 2019 UKBT Grand Slam Champion and has ambitions for European, World and Olympic results. With unfaltering family support and a new partner in Freddie Bialokoz, Issa is undoubtedly one to watch over the coming years.
When, where and how did you get into beach volleyball?
I first found beach volleyball at my local club of Richmond Volleyball back in 2011/12 when there was the opportunity to train and play. I had already played indoor volleyball for Richmond for a year or two and just loved it.
After going through some of the indoor England Junior Pathway, I found myself moving to the LeAF academy in Bournemouth to initially play indoor volleyball full-time. It was there, after moving to Bournemouth during the summer of 2014, that I then started taking beach volleyball a little more serious with training. So much so, that I won my first Junior British Championships that year.
Can you recall your England debut?
My international England debut came in December 2014. I remember this because it was a home NEVZA tournament hosted right where I was studying in Bournemouth. I played with Phil Smith, one of the senior team players and someone who still does so much to help grow the game of beach volleyball here in the UK.
It was a rather cold event but having my first opportunity to compete along with it being on home soil with faces I knew cheering us on made it even more special.
Thinking about your playing style, what do you bring to the game?
I would like to think that I bring a lot of hustle, athleticism, fire power and hopefully smiles to the game. I can be a fierce rival on court but hopefully with the display of volleyball I put on and big play moments I’d like to think it leaves spectators and my partner happy and smiling throughout!
…and what do you look for in the people you play with?
For me, the most important thing I look for from a partner is just that level of effort. I know that you can’t always be the best team physically or technically but, in the end, if you don’t give up and keep trying to make plays your time will come. It’s a game of runs and momentum at the end of the day so giving that constant effort will result in runs hopefully when they are needed.
What has been your proudest moment representing England as a beach volleyball athlete?
This one is difficult because I have enjoyed and been proud of so many moments. One definitely has to be qualifying for and competing at the 2016 FIVB U21 World Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland with my partner at the time, Harry Jones. It was a great achievement from a lot of hard work with the coaching team.
My other proudest would probably be the Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament that was played in London in 2019 where myself and partner Chris Gregory managed to help qualify England into the next round of the competition which is hopefully still set to happen in 2021 post COVID restrictions.
What are you most likely to be doing if you are not playing volleyball?
When I am not playing volleyball or working out you can normally find me doing a range of things. I have different passions such as cooking, shoes, exploring new places both on foot and by bike as well as keeping up with latest technology trends. Having studied computing at Bournemouth University alongside training full time there I have found quite a lot of enjoyment in technology and the world of business too.
There are obviously ups and downs in sport, what keeps you motivated?
My biggest motivation has and always will be my family who keep pushing me to be better in all aspects of life. If you think I’m joking, then you should have seen our household during lockdown in the UK. My mother knew my workout schedule from my coaches so if I hadn’t completed it in the morning, she would be the first one to ask me when I’ll do it, if not now. But that is why I love them because they just want to see me be successful and they have sacrificed for me at times to give me a chance.
Do you have a volleyball role model?
That is difficult because I would not say I have any one volleyball role model. I have just admired watching the sport both as a fan and as a player analysing how to improve and gain more from watching better players games. If I were to list some I watch most, they would be Bruno from Brazil, Krasilnikov from Russia, Sørum from Norway, Lupo from Italy and Taylor Crabb from USA.
What are your sporting ambitions for the future?
In the near future, the biggest one has to be competing for England at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham along with many other goals that include European, World and Olympic results. Giving England some of its best play on the World Tour is most definitely a big goal moving forwards with my partner Freddie Bialokoz and it is something we look forward to working towards in the coming years.
Outside of this it would most definitely have to be inspiring those younger and from minority backgrounds to believe in being able to achieve great things in our sport of beach volleyball.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to younger players?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up. Like in a game there are many highs and lows in volleyball but you should not let one result or training define who you are. Go out there, work hard and constantly push to be better each day, no matter how big or small that next step might be.