Review: Year 1 of The Game Plan
14th September 2021
After launching our new 10-year strategy we have been busy laying down key building blocks for success, writes Sue Storey, Chief Executive of Volleyball England.
One year ago marked the start of an exciting new chapter for volleyball in England. While sport was, like everything else, paused for large parts of the pandemic, Volleyball England used the downtime to develop The Game Plan, an ambitious new strategy to drive forward the development of volleyball, beach volleyball, and sitting volleyball over the next decade.
After years of turbulence, we had stabilised and repaired and were ready to start building towards a brighter future, one in which we would work closer with the volleyball community to build an unstoppable engine room to grow the game.
But before we look back on the first year of progress, let’s remind ourselves about the strategic priorities and key enablers that sit at the heart of The Game Plan.
As the sports body for volleyball, beach volleyball, and sitting volleyball, our purpose is to lead the growth and improvement of all disciplines in this country while our vision is to be a sustainable, self-sufficient organisation; more relevant and better connected to the volleyball community.
And to achieve this, we identified three key workstreams.
1) Volleyball For Life: to better understand, articulate and promote the opportunities that volleyball provides for anyone, at any stage of their life.
2) Get Keep Grow: to strengthen the English volleyball club structure by working hand in hand with clubs to help them achieve their ambitions.
3) and An Ace Service: to work collaboratively to deliver and continuously improve the products and services that most benefit clubs and the wider volleyball community, while also ensuring they provider healthy revenue streams that enable reinvestment in the sport.
Ultimately, we hope to work closer with the community grow the game through greater retention, and identified digital, data and insights as key enablers to achieving a step change.
Emerging from lockdown earlier this year we went about shaking up the team at Volleyball England to ensure our resources are appropriately aligned to key work areas. As a result of the restructure, everything we do is now in support of either Volleyball For Life, Get Keep Grow, An Ace Service or business services (finance, communications, governance, etc).
We recruited specialist new personnel, including a data and insights contractor and a business development specialist, to bolster the Hub team, and also re-organised our subgroups – in which volunteers from the community work alongside staff – as part of a wider governance review so that everything we do is in support of achieving The Game Plan.
With our core team reduced to a bare minimum during the peak of the pandemic and the remaining staff focussed on supporting the Volleyball Family to navigate through Government guidance and overcome associated challenges, progress on The Game Plan has been frustrated. But it has not stopped us in our tracks, and I am pleased we have seized opportunities to push ahead and make progress against each strategic priority,
Starting with Volleyball For Life – it was wonderful to see the smiles of young budding players who met Olympian Jess Carlin and our own England Talent Pathway Athlete Carla Hulme at the launch of Volley2s, our new national programme for KS2 children, in May. This easy-to-follow programme focuses on a simple throw and catch game in the first stage and progresses to introduce more advanced volleyball techniques. It is supported by a free guide that has been downloaded almost 250 times and is helping teachers and coaches to attract more youngsters into our player pathway.
Elsewhere, despite the turbulence of the past year, we have launched a new Assistant Coach Award and refreshed the Volleyball England Officials Academy in support of our coach and official pathways, respectively.
During the Hub re-structure we strengthened what was previously known as our ‘Memberships Team’, which now comes under the Get Keep Grow workstream, so that we can provide even better support to clubs. We hope clubs felt the shift in our focus during lockdowns through our work to guide them through the return to play process and the launch of VOLLEYFIT to keep members physically and mentally active.
Earlier this year our data and insights team launched our Club Health Check Survey and are now working through the findings to see how we can improve our products and services. The survey took place as restrictions relaxed and clubs returned to activity, and so we took the opportunity to ask clubs about their immediate challenges. For clubs who told us about financial challenges, we signposted them to local funding opportunities. And for those who were struggling to access a venue, we located alternative facilities that met their requirements in the area.
Work is now ramping up to create even better and more regular support systems to be able to more effectively assist clubs throughout the year.
Last but not least, An Ace Service. From the National Volleyball League to junior competitions, the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix and coach and referee courses, the pandemic forced us to cancel or pause many of our core products and services. They have now returned, or are on the cusp of a comeback, but with fresh thinking and new ideas behind them. For example, live streaming will become a big part of Volleyball England competitions and our junior competitions have now switched from a cup-style knockout format to a series of grand prixes following consultation with clubs and players.
Like any good game plan, we have had to be flexible and react to changing circumstances, but it is pleasing we have been able to lay down key building blocks from which we can build on.
For more on how we aim to achieve our strategic ambitions as laid out in The Game Plan, please read through our implementation plan summary, which provides an overview of what’s to come.
Working together with members we know we can achieve remarkable things and are excited about what is to come.