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Northern Irish volleyball player making his mark in the snow

Graham Bell is looking forward to making his snow volleyball debut
Lausanne, Switzerland, March 23, 2017 – Graham Bell is quickly making his mark in the snow volleyball world despite hailing from Northern Ireland, a country not overly noted for its snowy climes. 

The 28-year-old is currently in the Austrian Alps in Wagrain-Kleinarl where he is working as one of the instructors at the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Your Way Snow Festival. He is also set to take part in the Snow Volleyball Goes Europe international tournament on Saturday and Sunday. 

Bell will play alongside Englishman Sam Dunbavin and in doing so they will become the first Great Britain snow volleyball team.

“I feel quite privileged,” Bell said. “I am also the first coach from Northern Ireland to ever get a professional contract. I am also the only Northern Irish coach to coach abroad. This weekend I will become the first Northern Irish snow volleyballer and I hope next year to be on the first Northern Irish snow volleyball team.

“I know snow volleyball already has a heavy following in countries like Poland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, but it is time for the rest of Europe to start catching up. I don’t see any reason why snow volleyball can’t become as popular as beach volleyball.”

“I started playing volleyball indoors. My first summer tournament was on the grass, followed very quickly by the beach. In England I was helping the Great Britain team in sitting volleyball and now I am here playing and coaching snow volleyball at the Volleyball Your Way Snow Festival.”

Volleyball or Football?

Bell began playing and coaching volleyball at the age of 18 in his native Northern Ireland. He then moved to England where he coached children, the England U20 team and Great Britain’s women. He returned home to work with the Northern Ireland team but also continued to play and represented them at the CEV Small Countries Division of the European Championship. 

Before then he faced the choice of playing semi-professional football in Northern Ireland or following his volleyball dream. 

“I was facing the decision – do I want to play volleyball and perhaps coach and play for my country or stay as the locally known football player and make a little bit of money,” he said. “Ten years later I don’t regret my decision. I travelled the world. I was with a professional team in the UAE for seven months. 

“I have been in Italy, Spain, the United States (California and Florida), coaching and playing volleyball, so for sure I have not made the wrong decision. I will always treasure the fact that I have my national caps with Northern Ireland.”

Bell moved to Austria with his Austrian girlfriend and his involvement with volleyball has continued to grow after she introduced him to Austrian snow volleyball player Florian Schnetzer. 

He introduced me to his indoor coach and here I am working with the Bundesliga team from Salzburg. I am also coaching Schnetzer and his beach volleyball partner Peter Eglseer. Last year we had a great summer together. We won a MEVZA event in Prague, we won at the International University Beach Games and we went to two of the smart Majors on the FIVB World Tour – in Germany and Croatia.

“It is important to have many kids playing. It is very important for me, even as a young coach, to be able to give back and to motivate the next person to believe that it is not too big, it is not too difficult, it is not too unrealistic a dream to follow in the same footsteps and even go further.”

The Your Way Snow Festival is a three-day festival and has hosted 400 children and has featured visits from FIVB president Dr. Ary Graça and Sydney 2000 men’s volleyball gold medallist Vladimir Grbic. On Friday the children will move up the mountain where they will be able to test out the snow courts where the international Snow Volleyball Goes Europe professional tournament will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

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