Beach Lead Blog: exciting years ahead for beach volleyball

3rd December 2020

Beach Lead Blog: exciting years ahead for beach volleyball

2021 promises to be the start of the most exciting two years of beach volleyball in England since the London Olympics, writes Beach Volleyball Lead Phil Smith, who shares some important updates on Team England’s Birmingham 2022 preparations.

I’d like to warmly welcome everyone to the second instalment of the Beach Lead Blog. With us now heading into the winter months, I thought it was an ideal time to provide you all with an insight into what we were working on through the summer, information on our current projects and also a look ahead to what promises to be a very exciting 2021. 

In a year when all plans have had to be changed, adapted and then changed again due to the coronavirus pandemic and the unpredictability that accompanies it, the ‘Return to Play Working Group’ continues to work hard to keep up to date with the latest government regulations and push to enable as much volleyball to be played as safely possible. The Hub staff continue to try and keep you all as updated as possible, which is no easy task with the constant changes in rules and we hope you are finding the information helpful.

Fortunately, from August until early November we were allowed to run beach events for up to 30 people, so we were at least able to save some of the 2020 beach season. A massive thank you needs to go out to the UKBT and all of the event organisers for their efforts during the summer in putting together a schedule with very short notice and ensuring all of the requirements were followed. In challenging circumstances where significant adaptations were required to both the size and delivery of tournaments, the UKBT managed to put together a calendar of 31 events, which is an incredible achievement and allowed 350 players to play the sport they love!

Arguably the biggest spectacle was the UKBT Wilson Championship Series. This consisted of four events, with the first three enabling players to accumulate points and achieve automatic entry into the fourth event; the UKBT Wilson Championship Finals. The demand for these events was incredibly high, with there being reserve lists at all of the tournaments and the standard of play being high throughout. With the Home Nations’ athletes starting their preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Birmingham, this series proved to be even more important. Due to there being very limited opportunity for them to compete internationally this year, this series provided an excellent opportunity for them to return to competitive play against the best players in the country and continue their progression towards 2022. A big congratulations to Aga Adamek-Peiro and Giulia Rastelli and Javier and Joaquin Bello for taking home the women’s and men’s titles respectively.

In the June update I mentioned that we had just submitted our funding bid to Sport England for their Medal Preparation Fund for 2022 CWG and we were waiting for the outcome. I am delighted to confirm that we secured all of what we asked for, which is a fantastic result and will provide a significant boost to our athletes’ preparations for the 2022 CWG in Birmingham. The Beach Performance and Technical and Talent groups spent a significant amount of time over the summer creating what we believe to be a fair and transparent criteria which will be used to determine which athletes receive the Sport England funding and how the final selections are used to identify which teams will represent England at the CWG. Whilst the selection criteria for the Games is still awaiting signoff from Team England, I can confirm that the funding allocation will be decided through the outcome of a tournament between the top six English teams of each gender. This event is expected to take place in July 2021, and we will shortly be requesting expressions of interest from promoters to host it, and will be able to confirm more details soon. We see this as being an amazing opportunity to bring a top-level event to England, both for our athletes to test themselves in a high-pressure situation with a significant prize at stake, and also for our officials as they prepare for their role at the CWG.  It is sure to be an incredible spectacle of beach volleyball and one of the highlights of the 2021 calendar. 

Another important element of the preparations from the CWG was also ticked off when we appointed Chris Jones as the Beach Volleyball Team Manager for the Games. We are very pleased to have Chris on board and we are sure that his combination of experience and personality will mean he is going to be a great part of the team which will hopefully bring us a medal at the Games!

On the talk of roles, we are currently advertising for a Beach Performance Manager. This is another very important role in the development of beach volleyball in England and an incredible opportunity for anyone who wants to help shape the performance framework and work closely with our England athletes and coaches. If you are interested in the role, please complete the application form, and get in touch if you have any questions!

Looking ahead to 2021; it is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years for beach volleyball in England since the London Olympics. For a start, hopefully the virus will be more under control and we can start to return to some form of normality. Beyond that, I know that the UKBT have big plans to try and continue to build up the tour and provide even more high-quality events. They have come a long way in the last three years, and with the aid of their commercial sponsors, 2021 is shaping up to be the best one yet. With the 2022 CWG being the following year, 2021 is the year where beach volleyball can really establish its profile within sports in England. We fully anticipate beach volleyball to be one of the hottest tickets at the 2022 Games and we will be working to build up the buzz around the sport to help ride the wave through 2022 and beyond. CWG working groups are being set up specifically to ensure that we work from now to ensure that these Games really do form the catalyst of building the sport and opening it up to a whole new group of people.

From the teams’ perspective, 2021 will be a pivotal year in determining who will be selected to compete in the Games. All athletes have dreams of competing in a major games and having the opportunity to do this on home soil makes it a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am excited to see how our teams continue to develop over the winter and into next year, and it looks like we will have more teams competing internationally (once they can!) than we have recent memory. This can only help boost the level of the sport in this country and help to inspire our younger athletes.

On a final note, I’d just like to say thank you again to the whole beach volleyball community for the way that everyone has pulled together during this incredibly challenging year. It has been inspiring to see what we can do as a community when everyone is pulling in the same direction and working hard to make the most out of a difficult situation.

As always, if you do have any questions on what you have read here, or if you have any ideas for things we could do in the future, please do reach out to me and let me know via email.

Stay safe and see you all in 2021!

Picture: UKBT.

Beach Lead Blog: exciting years ahead for beach volleyball