21 Reflections on 2021 from the Chief Executive, Sue Storey

21st December 2021

21 Reflections on 2021 from the Chief Executive, Sue Storey

As 2021 draws to a close, Volleyball England’s Chief Executive, Sue Storey, looks back on the year. She makes 21 reflections on 2021, a year full of success stories, despite the huge challenges the world has faced. 

  1. 1. Covid – 12 months ago we thought it was nearly over and were looking forward to the pandemic being behind us, little did we know that the enormous scale of the challenges of a global pandemic were going to last the whole year, and beyond it currently seems. 
  2. 2. Volleyball England Staff – The amazing team at Volleyball England have continued to work their socks off to support the sport this year, some started the year on furlough and some continued working throughout. Everyone has worked so hard this year, thank you to the amazing team at Volleyball England, you have been just brilliant. 
  3. 3. Staffing changes – So many changes this year, we bid farewell to Fiona and Jonathan (although Jonathan did part with the words 'I’ll be back…’ as he left for his secondment to Birmingham 2022). We welcomed Charlotte, Laura, Alice, Leila, Mark and Jack. We also said hello and goodbye to Natasha and Callum, whose roles in the workforce area helped to springboard them into careers in new industries. Please share our Project Officer job advert with your network! 
  4. 4. Board – We bid farewell to 3 board members, Jefferson, Seyram and Ian, and welcomed 5 new board members, Phil, Jess, Jake, Ronu and Dave. We also had a short appearance by Alastair before he resigned due to timings and work issues. I am delighted and honoured to work with such a brilliant board who have the best interests of the sport at heart, are totally invested in the sport and give up their time for free to support volleyball, thank you! We had a really great board awayday in October to consider how we will ensure we are consistently a high performing board, we reflected on how the ‘new’ virtual meeting world can be used to support our us. We will be moving to new ways of working in 2022, where board meetings will be split into functional meetings (virtual) and transformational meetings (face to face, when the magic happens). Exciting times ahead for the board. 
  5. 5. ‘The Game Plan’ Strategy – We reflected on our first year of new strategy in September and are proud of the achievements so far, there’s lots more to do but we are definitely heading the right direction to achieve long term growth for the sport. 
  6. 6. Return to Play Working Group – A massive, massive thank you to all those volunteers and staff who have provided the guidance, support and challenge for all the decisions on return to play protocols. We have worked so hard and spent many, many hours on the dual role of keeping people safe and getting people back playing volleyball – it’s been hugely difficult as we have tried to be navigate our way through the government guidance to clarify what it means for volleyball. 
  7. 7. Junior Participation – Who would have thought that the combination of a pandemic and a cartoon (Haikyuu!) would have done so much to bring juniors into volleyball. Virtually every club with a junior section is reporting a huge influx of players and our junior competitions entries are up by over 250%! Great work everyone involved in junior volleyball. 
  8. 8. Volleyball England Foundation – We have developed a collaborative model of working with VEF and agreed to working much closer together for the good of the sport. VEF has made significant inroad into fund raising, including the sitting volleyball grants and the massive, fantastic work to deliver funds to clubs through the ‘Return to Play’ grants which has topped £250k – brilliant work VEF, I am delighted to be part of the journey to support this. 
  9. 9. Commonwealth Games – So much work has been done but there is even more to do to grasp the opportunity of a home games and Beach Volleyball being included. There is plenty to do for anyone who wants to help out with delivering a fantastic Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Check out our Birmingham 2022 page
  10. 10. Indoor competition – We waited, holding our breath for 9 months before we saw the long-awaited return of the NVL and regional and local competitions. It’s been such an exciting start to the season and we are soooooo pleased we can finally talk about matches that have taken place every week – long may it continue! We have everything crossed that last weekend’s postponement is a temporary hiccup. 
  11. 11. Sitting Volleyball – We’re also delighted to see the return of the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix, such an exciting sport with massive potential. Many thanks to Richard for his work with the Sitting Volleyball Working Group and the development of the 7-point plan to grow this sport. 
  12. 12. Beach Volleyball – I was so pleased to see such a huge increase in the entries for UKBT events this summer. It’s fantastic that the beach playing community is growing and it’s brilliant to see the increases in participation. Well done to Jake, Andy and everyone who works so hard to make those events happen and top effort from the athletes who have given such amazing competition across the tour. And what a spectacular event the UKBT finals weekend was, right next to Bournemouth Pier, in glorious sunshine with a massive footfall of spectators. It was brilliant to see so many of the volleyball community coming to the event to support. It’s certainly a huge highlight of the year for me. 
  13. 13. BVF – British Volleyball Federation has gone from strength to strength this year, under the leadership of Volleyball England Honorary President Richard Callicott OBE. Updates and changes for Board composition, financial procedures, governance, protocols with home nations, performance structures and I have taken on role of Company Secretary. All aimed at supporting the best beach, sitting and eventually indoor athletes that the UK has.  
  14. 14. National Squad Support Fund – BVF were successful in receiving £260,000 for beach athletes and £375,000 for sitting athletes in the NSSF. They are working closely with home nations to deliver performance improvements. 2022 will be so exciting for NSSF developments. 
  15. 15. FIVB – Volleyball England have been successful in being awarded funding from the FIVB Empowerment fund, more details to follow as we develop plans for this award, but a very exciting development to have recognition for the sport at international level. 
  16. 16. CEV – Volleyball England are developing the relationships with CEV to look at ways to collaborate better to support English developments. 
  17. 17. Sponsorship / Commercial – I am delighted with the progress made in this area, we have signed a fantastic deal with Errea for kit and we have numerous other deals looking very positive - more to follow in 2022. 
  18. 18. Sub-groups / Working Groups – A massive thank you for all those who give up so much time to support the delivery of the sport through the various groups. We are streamlining processes and alignment with the strategy and will be working closely with the experts on these groups. 
  19. 19. Athletes – What a year it’s been for all athletes of the sport; many of you joined the #volleyfit activities as preparation for returning to play, many of you have had training and matches stop/start all year, had challenges with travel to domestic and international competition, have worked so hard to keep fit and ready to play the sport we all love. And still whenever I meet athletes, they remain positive and the passion for the sport shines through, whatever level they play at. I wake up every day thinking it’s a privilege to work in sport, thank you for keeping so positive so often. 
  20. 20. Sam Jamieson – One personal reflection is the work of Sam Jamieson to support the delivery of the sport. Sam is most definitely the ‘engine room’ behind the work of the team, the board and myself. We literally would not have got through this year without her hard work and commitment. Thank you Sam – you are a fantastic person to work with and have been a rock over the last year.  
  21. 21. Looking forward – Now I have reflected on 2021, with all the highs and the challenges, I can look forward with great excitement on what is to come in the New Year. 2022 will bring many challenges and many, many highlights, we have so much to look forward to and so much to share as a volleyball community – it’s going to be an amazing year! 
21 Reflections on 2021 from the Chief Executive, Sue Storey