Sue Storey: 7 highlights from my first year as CEO
6th November 2020
12 months on from being appointed Chief Executive, Sue Storey shares some of her favourite moments and insights from leading Volleyball England.
Wow, what a first year. I can’t quite believe everything that has happened in my opening year as Chief Executive. It’s been a turbulent and testing year with much to look back on with pride. Below is but a selection of the many personal highlights since I joined Volleyball England.
1) Fantastic first impressions
I was overwhelmed with the support and warm welcome I received when I came into post and began roaming the country to meet some of the extraordinary people who are committed to making volleyball the best it can possibly be. So many passionate people were keen to meet me and help me to understand all the various bits of our Volleyball Family.
My first event was attending IBB Polonia’s match against Mladost Zagreb on 30th October at the Copper Box Arena, the week before I officially started in post. It was also the first time the CEV Champions League Volley had been brought to England, and what an amazing event. There was such a brilliant party atmosphere, and a chance to see some of our best athletes performing at the highest level while also getting to know all of those in attendance.
2) The Dream Team
Volunteers are the absolute backbone of volleyball and I am so grateful for everything they do to deliver and develop the sport in England. They spend countless hours each week to enable the Volleyball Family to enjoy the game and what is so satisfying to hear is how much enjoyment and fulfilment our volunteers get from their work too.
The Hub team and Board have been a pleasure and an honour to work with, it is great to be a part of such a committed and hardworking group of people. We have had such a tough year and they have bounced back from the multiple challenges with such vigour and determination to make a difference. I really do look forward to every team meeting to see the smiling faces of people who are keen to do their best for our sport.
As well as the players, coaches and referees, we have such an amazing bunch of passionate and committed people in our ‘Dream Team’, and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the Volleyball Family.
3) Digital transformation
Soon after I joined Volleyball England, one thing that struck me was how difficult it was to be digitally connected to each other across sport – and I’m not just talking about VolleyZone, we know about the challenges with our platform and are still working hard to improve it.
As I keep saying to anyone who will listen, it’s currently easier to order a pizza than it is to book sports activity. That has to change if we are going to encourage more people to play volleyball and to make the nation more active.
Along with Chief Executives from other sports bodies, we are working with Sport England to try and change our digital footprint and try to push through a digital transformation of the sports sector. I would like to personally thank Lewis Wiltshire from 7League who, with colleagues, is supporting the sector on its digital transformation journey. Lewis has really helped me to improve my digital footprint and be more connected to the community.
I love the connections I’ve made with people on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin and I’m really enjoying the conversations I’m having to promote volleyball. If you don’t already, please follow me on social media (@SueStorey), I’d love to hear from you!
4) One of the biggest participation sports in the world
Another highlight was discovering that volleyball is the second biggest participation sport in the world, with an estimated 800 million people globally who play the sport regularly.
We know there are huge opportunities for growth in England – I often say it is very much a sleeping giant of a sport here. We know how great the sport is and that fact means it’s an easy sell for everyone else to learn how great volleyball is. We are all great ambassadors for the sport and we can build from that passion. The sky is very much the limit!
5) The Game Plan
I’m very proud to have worked with the Board, Hub staff and volunteers to develop and launch our new strategy. The Game Plan is our new 10-year strategy which puts our efforts where they are needed most.
One of the new focuses is to collect more data to allow us to make evidence-based decisions. This will ensure we deliver the best services and products we can to the volleyball community. Clubs and volleyball pathways are also key focus areas.
Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported our new strategy. Sadly, delivery is slightly delayed at the moment but will be pressing forward as soon as we can. Thank you to everyone for their support so far and in the future as we work to strengthen volleyball in England.
6) The countdown to Birmingham 2022
As the first lockdown eased, I was delighted to get out in July to mark 2 years to go until the start of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. It was brilliant to see some of our contenders playing beach on a mock-up court in the centre of Smithfield Market in Birmingham - the location of the beach volleyball arena in 2022.
It’s a fabulous location right in the centre of Birmingham and we are working hard to ensure we capitalise on the amazing opportunity of a home games to highlight, promote and grow the sport.
If you haven’t already seen it, please do watch the beach volleyball showcase video from the day here.
It may seem strange to list this as a highlight when clearly it is not, however, the global pandemic has been a learning experience for us all and so much about our everyday lives has changed - and some of that change has been positive.
We are definitely more digitally connected, we have learned to manage a crisis better, we have reduced our carbon footprint through less travel and we have learned to work together in new and innovative ways.
From a volleyball perspective, I loved seeing the engagement with our #digginginthegarden and #VolleyRoundTheWorld campaigns. I have also really enjoyed the increased connections through virtual meetings and have been absolutely delighted that so many clubs switched to increasing junior sessions when the rule of six began to impact indoor sports. So many hundreds of kids across the country took to the volleyball courts and started playing or increased the amount of time they played as a result.
This shows there is clearly a need for junior development and I hope we can find ways to support as many clubs as possible to capitalise on this new interest in the sport. Clubs with junior sections have been able to retain court time and increase revenue, plus coaches have had a great time harnessing all that enthusiasm.
Thank you to everyone for helping make this first year as good as it's been in such a difficult time. I look forward to working with everyone in the coming years to deliver for volleyball. We will be back, and we will build back even better.