Establishing a volleyball club: Stafford Knights
30th August 2019
Volleyball clubs don’t just spring into existence. That rings of stating the obvious, but when you stop to consider it, every club has its own story. They are built from people’s passion for volleyball and growing sense of community – not to mention a bucket load of effort and energy.
One of Volleyball England’s youngest affiliated clubs, Stafford Knights Volleyball Club was created a little over three years ago and the West Midlands outfit is testament to what it takes to establish a club and why it’s so worthwhile.
“The club was started by Tom and Sian Morris,” explains the club’s current chairman Markus Weber. “They set it up just to get a club running really.”
The area had been void of volleyball opportunities and so Tom and Sian got help in creating a new home for local people to play volleyball. With support from Volleyball England, a link was formed with Stafford College and the club was successful in application for grants.
“The funding helped to put the coaches through their qualifications and secure a 90 minute-slot on Thursday nights at the College,” says Markus. “Flyers and leaflets were put out and Sian did a lot on social media – it was really nice, loads of people came over the weeks to try volleyball out.
“We had loads of space and a long net which gave about three courts. We didn’t try to start membership as we found it was more popular when you simply had to pay on the evening.”
With over 20 regulars and a committee of volunteers, the club quickly began to grow.
“We introduced a second training night,” says Markus, as he takes up the story. “Tuesdays were for more advanced players, while the Thursdays remained open for people come down and try volleyball.
Entering the league
“This led to us deciding to enter a team into the West Midlands Volleyball League third division. With that came the biggest challenge the club has faced: we needed proper posts and net and the college didn’t have them. We raised money for the posts and Volleyball England helped us source a referee stand by making a connection with another club who no longer needed theirs. It took a long time for the paperwork to be completed so the college could install the posts in the sports hall – we couldn’t have a home game for months.
“For that first season, we were like the ‘Cool Runnings’ team. Most of us had not played competitively before so we just turned up, looked at what the other team were doing to warm up and copied them! It was great, someone designed the club logo and sorted the kit out. It was a men’s league but being in the bottom division women could play too so we had a mixed team – it was good fun. I remember when we won our first set we all celebrated!”
After adding competitive volleyball, the Knights were going from strength to strength and soon added a third night of volleyball.
“The third night was at a different sports hall and was just for social volleyball. It was great as we had so many different people come to play. I remember once we had a few refugees, who I think were from Iraq, come to play with us. Then another week we had a group of men from the local round table meeting come to try it out.”
The highs and lows
As with most sports clubs, things can often go in peaks and troughs and Knights soon found themselves having to adapt. The club moved out of the college and into the Beacon Sports Centre full time where they still offer volleyball on Tuesdays and Sundays.
“We went through a consolidation period,” explains Markus. “We compete in the league and have kept membership as pay as you go to keep it accessible. We have about a 50/50 split of players who came to the club with volleyball experience and others who were completely new when they started coming up to four years ago.
The club is looking up once more and is keen to welcome new people to their volleyball family.
“Our aim is to find more players who can regularly play at the level to play in the league,” says Markus. “If we can get more manpower we want to start the social volleyball night again too and we could have someone work with players who are starting to play from scratch.”
There have been trials and tribulations that can come with starting a volleyball club. People come and go. Venues can change. The club can outgrow itself. But Stafford Knights has proven its resilience and is still a thriving club with two sessions a week and competing in the local league.
As he talks, there is never a doubt in Markus’ voice that building the club has been anything but positive. The challenges are quickly swept by and there’s always underlying joy when he talks about the successes and how the Knights brings people together.
“It is great as there is a real international mix; we’ve had players from Poland, Philippines, Greece, Croatia, Spain, France, Netherlands, Italy, Lithuania, China, USA, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Iraq and I am from Germany,” says Markus. “It’s really nice and it’s social too as we often stop for a drink after matches or training. The best thing is that you have people who are friends who probably wouldn’t have become friends otherwise.”
Volleyball has its home in Stafford so expect one of Volleyball England’s youngest clubs to be celebrating birthdays for many years to come.