Of the nine awards handed out at the annual celebration of achievements in volleyball, four were specifically focused on under-25s.
We spoke to Volleyball England to find out a bit more about the young winners and the reasons behind their nominations for the awards, given out at its awards ceremony at the National Cup Finals on 1 April 2017.
Young official of the year – Jake Welch
At just 16 years of age, Jake has already proven his dedication and enthusiasm for volleyball officiating. As a Grade 3R referee, in the last 12 months alone, Jake has refereed at the 2016 School Games Finals at Loughborough University; had appointments at National Volleyball League games and the Challenge Series and has served as a young official mentor at the Youth Sport Trust’s National Talent Camp in December 2016.
Jake’s long term goal is to become an international volleyball referee and already he has shown a great commitment and desire to upskill himself and learn from others. He has made use of referee mentors both locally and nationally and is always seeking ways to improve his ability on the stand.
Young volunteer of the year – Sarah Booth
Sarah has been heavily involved in the East Midlands league, where she coaches and plays for Loughborough Panthers, a mixed team with a variety of ages and experiences. She has also dedicated her time to De Montfort University volleyball club where she coaches the beginners’ mixed team in the local league. She also referees a local league.
Sarah helped to create an all-female volleyball club in Leicester which now has over 30 female players, playing in both the local and regional league. Sarah captains the regional team which is undefeated so far this season. At her university, she is also the HEVO (higher education volunteer officer) for this year and has already run a 14-team UV tournament to raise money for charity.
Young coach of the year – Joel Matthews
After previously developing the volleyball programme at Nottingham University and playing a major organisational role, Joel has taken on the role of coach to the University Men’s 3rd team. The squad consisted of students who had barely any previous involvement with volleyball but Joel went to great lengths to develop the knowledge and skills needed by the players to compete. Joel conducts himself professionally on court and is an ambassador for young coaches in England.
Higher education volunteer officer of the year – Fred Kufa
Fred has fulfilled his HEVO role with passion and persistence to make sure that volleyball gets the representation it needs to progress on campus and in the community.
In conjunction with the University, Fred created a weekly volleyball session, open to community members and stu-dents. Over 50 people have now attended this session, with five of them managing to progress through to the BUCS teams. Following that success, Fred was able to successfully bid for development funding to create and enter a Brad-ford Volleyball Club into the National Volleyball League Division 3 North.