Innovative new net paves way for sitting volleyball’s return
2nd March 2021
The development of an impermeable net system that reduces the risk of Covid-19 droplets being transmitted between players has paved the way for sitting volleyball to return.
Thanks to a collaboration between Volleyball England, volunteers, the Volleyball England Foundation, Sport England and volleyball specialists Sportset, sitting volleyball activity will be back as soon as the Government gives the green light for indoor sport to recommence.
This landmark moment signals the end of a long wait for sitting volleyball to return. Aside from virtual training sessions organised over video calls, the sport has been forced into a largely inactive state since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March 2020.
Guidance on the sitting volleyball specific safety plans that must be adhered to for the sport to return will be released as soon as further detail has been issued from Sport England on the roadmap out of lockdown. Volleyball England will also be organising a webinar to ensure sitting volleyball clubs and players can return to playing the sport with confidence.
Sue Storey, CEO of Volleyball England, said: “Working with partner organisations we’ve had to overcome a number of significant challenges to enable sitting volleyball to return. We were keen to ensure our athletes were able to play the game as close to the usual game format as possible and have worked hard to find ways for that to happen.
“I am absolutely delighted we’ve now reached that point and want to say thank you to the volunteers and colleagues at Sport England, the Volleyball England Foundation and Sportset for their help in getting us here. I can’t wait to see players back on court!”
The back story
While volleyball and beach volleyball were originally able to return in July thanks to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) approval of sport safety plans, sitting volleyball presented a set of unique challenges that required innovative thinking to overcome and reduce the risk.
A study conducted by Volleyball England found there are two main areas in which sitting volleyball falls into the increased risk category: the amount of time players spend both face-to-face and within one meter of another per set, and that interactions between players are often non-fleeting and last longer than three seconds, which was outside the government guidance.
Working with volleyball specialists Sportset, a prototype sitting volleyball net made from clear plastic film instead of square black mesh was developed and tested at the National Volleyball Centre in October. Credit to Steve Smith, founder of Sitting Bucks Volleyball Club, for coming up with the concept. Thank you to Steve and other dedicated players, volunteers and staff who supported the test event.
This test proved successful in reducing the risk but further measures had to be added to safety plans submitted to DCMS. Working together, these measures bring the risk involved down to a level that allowed DCMS to approve plans for the sport to return.
The next challenge to overcome was the cost of purchasing new net systems to distribute to clubs. In stepped the Volleyball England Foundation, a charitable organisation that is closely aligned to Volleyball England and which has been providing grants to support the creation of new sitting volleyball teams. The Foundation successfully submitted a bid to Sport England and has secured funds to supply every sitting volleyball club with at least one impermeable net.
Net orders have since been placed with Sportset and the new equipment – as well as cleaning equipment – will be ready to send to sitting volleyball clubs in the coming weeks. This includes new sitting volleyball clubs Hull Thunder, Leeds Gorse and Manchester Marvels.
Richard Osborne, Volleyball England’s Sitting Volleyball Lead, said: “As volleyball clubs wait in eager anticipation for the green light to return to training, the sitting community is buoyed by the news that Sport England has agreed to fund these bespoke nets for every sitting club.
“This means that we can get back on the court with confidence, in the knowledge that risks have been taken seriously and mitigated as far as practicable. On behalf of everyone involved in sitting volleyball, I would like to thank the Foundation for all their efforts in putting together the bid which not only covers the costs for nets, but also a sanitiser pack that each club can use to further reduce risks."
Simone Turner, Chair of the Foundation, added "The Foundation is excited to be able to help facilitate the sitting volleyball teams returning to play, feeling safer by using the Covid-approved nets. The Foundation were happy to apply for this important funding provided by Sport England that will help to ensure our sitting teams, clubs and communities stay safe, while still enjoying all the benefits of the sport."