Off-court progress means sitting volleyball returns stronger

26th March 2021

Off-court progress means sitting volleyball returns stronger

Richard Osborne, Sitting Volleyball Lead, details major off-court projects and progress since starting in the role in September that will ensure the sport is ready to come back fighting.

In the 1980s there was a very popular US soap called Dallas that revolved around the often-troubled feuding lives of the Ewings, an affluent Texan oil family. One of the main characters, Bobby Ewing, had been killed off in the season eight finale only to famously return in a shower scene at the end of season nine, rendering the whole of that season a dream in the mind of Bobby’s wife, Pamela Ewing. The last 12 months has felt the same to me, as if I am in a deep sleep imagining that a terrible virus has wreaked havoc on the world, bringing everything to a complete standstill, but at some point I will awake and find it has all been a figment of my over active imagination.

The truth, of course, is that the virus is very real and has had the effect of stopping many things in their tracks, including our beloved sport. For sitting volleyball, there has been no training (except where some clubs have delivered virtual training) or competition since last March; however, this period of inactivity on the court has enabled important work to take place off it.

Last September I took on the Sitting Volleyball Lead role at a time when there was a lot of effort being invested in the return to play proposal for sitting volleyball. I take no credit for that work, which was led in the main by Jonathan Moore and members of the Return to Play Working Group and included Steve Smith’s inspirational idea to design a plastic membrane net that will assist in reducing the risk of transmission amongst players.

Thanks to a collaboration between Volleyball England, volunteers, the Volleyball England Foundation, Sport England and Sportset, sitting volleyball will soon be back.

My first action as the Lead was to assemble a working group and I am delighted that everyone I approached was keen to come onboard. As we stand, the Sitting Volleyball Working Group comprises:

  • Janet Inman, Secretary, Volleyball England Foundation
  • Steve Smith, Founder of Sitting Bucks SVC
  • Stewart Thorpe, Communications Coordinator, Volleyball England
  • Herman Prada, Sitting Volleyball Referee
  • John Worrall, Project Delivery Team Lead (Competitions), Volleyball England and sitting volleyball player for Great Britain’s Men’s Team
  • and Dave Williamson, Head Coach of Sitting Bucks SVC.
  • Ian Legrand and Sean Poole have also agreed to act as ‘critical friends’ on any technical issues, for which the group is immensely grateful.

So, what have we been doing for the last six months? Well, our focus at the moment is to create more clubs and provide resources to novice sitting volleyball coaches who are delivering sessions. Thanks to the Volleyball England Foundation, in 2020 three new clubs were introduced at Manchester, Leeds and Hull and I am excited to see them progress in the months and years ahead. The Foundation will once more be accepting applications around Easter time, so keep an eye on its website if your club wishes to add sitting to its existing sections.

We have also been working hard to refresh and develop the sitting volleyball webpage and in due course will add resources such as session plans, masterclass videos and a myth buster that sets out to dispel common misconceptions about coaching people with a disability. We have also recently launched a discussion forum on Facebook where coaches, players, volunteers - in fact anyone who is enthusiastic about sitting volleyball - can ask questions or share ideas, information and good practice; just search for ’Sitting Volleyball in the UK’.

There is some very important work that is being led by Janet to develop an outreach programme that will help foster links with disability organisations and other stakeholders, including professional interest groups, BUCS and Regional Volleyball Associations, with a view to building enduring relations leading to more disabled players taking up the sport. Janet is mentoring Kiki James, a work placement student from the University of East London, who we are fortunate to have for the next few months and who will be taking the lead in delivering much of the project. We also have the benefit of another UEL work placement student, Margaret Latchford, who is assisting in the development of a bespoke sitting volleyball coach education programme. In fact, it is incredibly exciting to see that, for the first time, sitting volleyball is being considered and mainstreamed into education and is a vital component in giving inexperienced sitting volleyball coaches the confidence to deliver sessions to participants who have a variety of needs.

This is just a glimpse into a basket of initiatives that are planned to be delivered over the coming months – and we hope to very shortly announce other projects that will help you get ready to return to play sitting volleyball.

Overall, then, it has been a very productive period that will advance the sitting volleyball agenda - and this is just the start. If you have any ideas about how we can promote sitting volleyball then do please get in touch.

Off-court progress means sitting volleyball returns stronger