Welsh teams debut in Europe
The event is an important landmark for Volleyball Wales as it shows how far a small, unfunded Governing Body, depending on the good will of its volunteers can go, but also to show the importance of the contributions made through Cardiff Metropolitan University. The Coaching and Support teams are made up nearly entirely from staff and current or former students of the University.
For many of the players, they or their siblings, are the reason why Volleyball Wales was resurrected in 2009. The idea to compete in the (Sainsburys) UK School Games, which was being held in Wales’ capital city Cardiff, seemed like a good reason to go out and find some talented youngsters with volleyball potential. To say that volleyball in Wales is a minority sport is an understatement. The first trials saw about 30 sporty people try out but only 1 of which had ever played before. So the journey from that to being able to enter the European Championships has been a rapid rise from nothing.
The players come from just two clubs in South Wales although all of them originated from Cardiff Celts Volleyball Club. Within the Welsh squad there are a pair of sisters, two pairs of brothers and a brother and sister. There is no time for sibling rivalry and they all work as hard as each other.
The youngest players are just 15 in the men’s team (Frazer Gregory) and 14 in the girls’ squad (Tahlia Taylor) so Volleyball Wales hopes that they will learn a lot from this experience and share it with future squads. Connor Hetherton turns 18 on the day after the team will return home from Luxembourg so the members of the squad are hoping to start the celebrations early for him.
“It’s been a tough, but exciting journey preparing for the tournament. With limited opportunities as a minority sport, it has made every training session a crucial aspect to our preparation. Competing in an international competition will be an unbeatable experience that will sure bring many memories that will last a lifetime”, says Tom Dacey, captain of the men’s U20 team.
Many of the players have recently taken part in the British Colleges Championships where both teams came third behind two English Colleges. The individual and team performances improved over that weekend which was great preparation for the challenges ahead in Luxembourg and San Marino.
The players have never competed at this level before, but this is also the first time for the coaches and managers too. There has been a lot to do off the court as well, which has been very difficult for those with busy full time jobs outside of volleyball.
“The hard work that has been put in to this competition has been immense both on and off the court. It has been such a learning curve for all involved, at every level, but I think that we are ready and we are certainly looking forward to arriving at the competition and having the chance to play some Volleyball” Yvonne Saker, President Volleyball Wales, says.
Volleyball Wales thanks the CEV for their continued support and hopes that by entering this competition, they are showing that the CEV support is continuing to help grow the sport in Wales.