Tag Archive for Volleyball England

Volleyball England making a turn

When I coached in England I wrote an article about the competition/participation conflict. I wrote a follow-up when I got a reply to it from someone at Volleyball England. I also talked about it with U.K. coach Jefferson Williams, whose interview is one of those in the first Volleyball Coaching Wizards book. The focus of those pieces is on the challenge of developing competitive teams, clubs, and structures when increasing participation is also a priority – sometimes is the bigger priority.

At that time, Volleyball England was very focused on growing participation. It was part of the mandate of their funding from higher up. That apparently has changed.

A new focus has developed at V.E. They describe it as “core market”. A recent letter from the newly appointed Core Market Officer clarifies what that means:

For me, the simple answer is that the core market is made up of anyone involved in organised, competitive volleyball. These people could be players, officials, coaches or volunteers. They might be operating in a formal club environment but could just as easily sit outside a club structure – in a school or a youth organisation for example.

They could be participating within an officially sanctioned VE environment or even outside (more of that later). And they will represent the whole range of playing standards from novice to elite and from junior to senior.

What the core market will not include are those people who may only be playing occasional recreational volleyball; people over whom we have negligible influence.

That last part is the big shift. For years V.E. encouraged efforts to get more people into the sport, even if that was just on an “occasional recreational” basis. Clearly, that is no longer the case. The concentration now is on the competitive side of things.

I, for one, agree with this move. It’s the competitive side of the sport that in the long run drives participation. V.E. needs to raise the profile of volleyball in that country. The more visible it is, the more interest there will be in playing the game. The greatest visibility is always on the competitive side. People see the game played and become interested in playing. That’s how a sport grows.

Now to actually get that going. Have a look at the article to see how the plan to do that.

Could Brexit kill UK volleyball?

This isn’t a place for political discourse. It’s a sports coaching blog. I’m not going to get into a debate as to whether I think it’s a good idea for the UK to leave the EU or not. What I will say, though, is I think volleyball there could take a real hit after the British voted to opt out of the European Union.

During my time coaching at the University of Exeter, and for the Devon Ladies in the National League (NVL), I worked with players from something like 25 different nationalities.Here’s the list as I can remember it:

  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Bulgaria
  • Belarus
  • Taiwan
  • China
  • USA
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Brazil
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • England
  • Malaysia
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Ukraine
  • Lithuania
  • Japan
  • Denmark

Obviously, not all of the countries above are from the EU, but quite a few are so. I wouldn’t expect there to be much impact on the non-EU representation among students playing for university teams in BUCS. Nothing much changes for them, but UK schooling does become a little less financially attractive to EU students who can’t get local tuition rates. Also, there could be an impact on exchange programs with EU universities, though I don’t really know that mechanism (Erasmus).

Beyond the universities


Alex Porter, former England national team player and current director of volleyball at the University of Essex (which ties in with the Tendring NVL club) was asked on Facebook, “How many NVL clubs will go to the wall now through lack of players coming from Europe?

His reply was, “Most.”

I’m sure he means from Supers 8s right down to Division 3, and perhaps all the way to local leagues. Most of the players we’re talking about aren’t professional or semi-professional ones. Rather, it’s mainly about EU citizens working in England and playing volleyball on the side for the love of the sport. There is already an issue with requirements for foreign players to pay a transfer fee to be able to play in the NVL, and the Brexit decision seems to just pile on that.

I wonder if this negatively impacts Volleyball England’s funding. A big chunk of what they’ve received from above in recent years is for growing involvement in sport among young people (I think 14-24). How many of those being counted are EU citizens and thus won’t be available to be counted in the future?

It’s not just players. I know of a number of foreign-born coaches across the country as well.

I can’t speak very well to Scotland or Northern Ireland (both voted strongly in favor of staying in the EU, by the way). Volleyball in N.I. is not very strong, even by UK standards. Scotland, though, has a bit of history and has maintained a senior national team even when England was forced to drop theirs for a few years (only this year brought back). My impression is that Scottish volleyball is also quite diverse, but I don’t have direct experience as I do with England.

I don’t know, but I fear

It will be a while before we see where the results of this referendum takes the U.K. A lot of decision need to be made, and it will take time for things to settle out. My fear is in the interim a lot of good work by a number of people in the UK to try to grow the sport is disrupted by the uncertainty, and that is a very sad thought.

 

More volleyball coaching education this week

This should be an interesting week.

On Wednesday I head off to Kettering. I haven’t been there since last summer when I helped out with England Girls Juniors and Cadet trials. This time around the focus will be on coaching development. Nominally, I’m attending the FIVB coaching seminar on Outside Hitting and Serving. There is also a setting seminar going on at the same time. It was a tough choice picking between the two. I ended up going with the hitter one because I’ve spent less time focused on those area in my coaching career than on setting. Also I’ll get to heckle my Volleyball Coaching Wizards partner, Mark Lebedew, who is presenting the seminar. Sue Gozansky, is running the setter one.

After the FIVB seminar, on Sunday, will be the Volleyball England annual Coaches Conference. Sue and Mark will both take part in that as well to talk about team aspects. There are also a couple of technical seminars and it looks like one on strength and conditioning. This is the official agenda.

During the week I’m hoping to have time to get Sue’s interview for the Wizards project recorded, and maybe a couple of others as well. Honestly, being able to interact again with my fellow coaches is at least as big a motivation for me as the educational sessions. Look forward to a report.

Volleyball England influencing university volleyball

Volleyball England recently announced an extension of its Talent Pathway into the university arena. The Talent Pathway is the progression of volleyball athletes through the youth ranks toward senior national team selection. They call it a senior academy program. The expressed idea is that it will provide English players a way to continue their progression and development beyond the Juniors level. England brought back the senior national teams in 2015 after they were defunded following the Olympics.

The announcement relates to what I wrote about in regards to the conflict between the competitive needs of university clubs and the demands put on them in terms of growing volleyball participation. I am all for making university volleyball in the UK stronger. It benefits the sport overall, and it should eventually develop a player pipeline for the national team (as it does in the US). From that perspective, I approve of the move.

But …

Let’s be honest, though. University volleyball (BUCS) is simply not strong enough at the moment. It does not provide a meaningful developmental platform for prospective international and/or professional caliber players. Barring a massive influx of talented athletes, it won’t be any time soon. The reality of the situation is that this will be all about playing top level NVL volleyball. Specifically, that means Super 8s.

That’s all fine and good (if it works as intended). Let’s just not think this is something which will have a direct impact on university volleyball. All it will tend to do is create a very clear group teams far above the rest. If other schools are encouraged to better support volleyball to be more competitive, then great! I see just as much chance, though, of them looking at this and saying “Why bother?”.