Turning participation into competition

A while back I wrote about the participation vs. competition conflict. It was mainly from the perspective of English volleyball, but with wider implications. Later, I received an email on the subject from Amy Dennis, the Young People Manager at Volleyball England. I want to share what she said.

This isn’t the full text of the email Amy sent me. It’s the stuff that I think speaks to the main points and will be of most interest to readers, though.

A defense of HEVO

Since the HEVO programme has been in place (over the last 4 years) there has been an increase in BUCS teams. While this will not all be due to the programme, there is link to universities starting recreational activity and then linking to BUCS. Albeit, it’s at the lower end of the leagues. Still, it is increasing the number of competitive opportunities for students to play volleyball. It could be argued that a competitive player does not just apply to experienced players. You can still be competitive as a beginner. Beginner players can be developed through a strong club structure that supports the player to progress into a BUCS team (depending on what the Club Development plan focuses on).

However, the students view point needs to be considered. They may be happy just being a recreational player and have no desire to play competitively in the BUCS league. I have some great examples from Universities where volleyball started as a recreational sport through the HEVO programme, developed into BUCS competitive teams and is now a performance sport at the university. The University of Derby and University of East London, to name just two.

Changes and developments

The recent changes to the league structure, introducing the Premier league has allowed for motivation and a goals for institutions regarding volleyball competition in BUCS. Many of these players also play in the National League teams in the Super 8s/ Div 1, so the level is clearly high. It is also important to offer competitive outlets for all levels of students, though. We have found where there is entries into local leagues this has both retained students and increased the ability of those playing. You have this set up already within Exeter so this is great and will develop the club for the long-term.

The English player verses international player debate is a difficult one. There are developments in place both within Volleyball England and BUCS to look at this. Volleyball England just launched our Senior Academy Programme. That will extend the athlete pathway within England. BUCS have also recently shared a proposal for an English Universities structure, which is due to vote on in December. It has not been confirmed which sports this could involve, though.

My points hold

This response obviously defends the HEVO program and the participation side of things. That’s totally fine. They are fair comments. I wasn’t really attacking it. I just said I’d like to see more effort put in to help develop and improve the competitive side of things. I’m talking about things like sharing best practices, etc. between and amongst university volleyball clubs. HEVO was, in my mind, in a prime position to facilitate.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John recently compelted a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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