Why sitting volleyball?

If you’re in the Volleyball Guernsey community and you’ve missed the news that we now offer sitting volleyball, you’ve done well. I’ve tried hard to get the word out there, via our website, Facebook page, Twitter, email, radio…

Why am I doing it? Good question, and one I’ve asked myself on many Saturday mornings at 9am, when I’d rather stay in bed.

By 10am when we get on court, I know exactly why.

Roll back a couple of years to when my body decided it didn’t want to listen to my brain any more. The MS doesn’t help, but age probably plays a part too. I was asked if I was interested in trying out with the GB sitting volleyball squad. That experience has been told before, so I’ll leave it that it was a brilliant weekend and opened my eyes to how things could be. Ask me if you want to hear about that weekend. Preferably over a beer.

I was still playing standing volleyball, but I knew my time was limited. Recovery was rough, if I felt up to playing in the first place. So after 26 years I decided to hang up my knee pads. It took just a few months warming the sofa to know I needed something else, so I finally got my act together. Could I introduce what was, effectively, a brand new sport into an environment where people are already spoiled for choice with activities?

I’d read about, and met, some amazing people who showed me that I could still keep my competitive spirit, despite not being able to throw myself around on court. More on that later.

Suddenly I seemed to be making up excuses:

  • I don’t know how big the court is
  • I don’t have a net at the right height
  • I’m busy
  • People won’t be interested
  • I don’t know how to teach the game

I got chatting to a few people at the South West Volleyball Association and the main response was that it didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect. Just have a go.

So I did.

I booked a court, invited a few mates, and taught them what I knew so far. It helped that they knew volleyball and that they were game for a laugh, because laughing was pretty much all we achieved first time. That, and throwing ourselves around the court again.

But it was enough to show me that the basic equipment I had was enough. And that’s when the hard work started, just trying to convince people that yes, it was a real sport.

Yes, we would actually be sitting on the floor.

No, you didn’t need to know how to play before turning up.

Then I met Jason Shambrook for lunch. Man, that lad’s enthusiastic. He gave me loads of ideas, including suggesting that we could showcase it at the Coaches and Performance Conference. We got 16 people giving it a try and I nearly exploded with excitement. Half the players had never tried volleyball before, so it was 5 minutes of brief explanation, then 40 minutes of trial and error. And more laughing.

Since then, I’ve had support coming in from lots of quarters:

  • The Guernsey Sports Commission has produced a couple of videos of us. Check them out on their YouTube channel. Excuse any errors in the first one (nerves)
  • The Lords’ Taverners love the idea and have pledged some funding when we need it. As yet, I’m still making do with what we have and trying out all the options
  • VolleySLIDE. All those questions about the court, the net and how to teach it were answered after an afternoon scouring their website. I continue to get moral support and encouragement from their messages too

So I decided I needed an event. The logical next step, in my brain, was a tournament. Get loads of people who didn’t necessarily know what to do, set up some courts and let them have a go. Support was coming in from friends I met through the MS Society, Rob and Ros Platts. ABN AMRO found out. They pledged the money to get it arranged, so one evening in April we set up four courts and had a go. That’s quite easily the biggest beginners’ session I’ve ever led. Over 50 people trying to figure out where to put their legs and remember how to crawl on the floor. And guess what? More laughing. And more throwing ourselves on the floor. Check that video out too.

Since then, we’ve had ‘newbies’. Suddenly it’s no longer just my mates messing around for an hour. Now we’ve sparked interest outside of the sport, and the word is spreading.

And that takes me to now. Still working out what next, but with nearly a year of experience behind me and people keen to keep going.

But actually I know what’s next.

Jersey, we’re waiting for you.

Portsmouth, we’re coming to get you.