Court set, volleyball enthusiasts at the ready, all that was missing was the sand to make GB Beach Volleyball star Chris Gregory feel completely at home! Raeesa Mukhtar went down to see Chris continue to inspire young people to try new sports at Wanstead Leisure Centre on Wednesday (11 December).
Before the court flooded with the day’s class, there was some time to chat to Richard, who coached the session alongside Chris. As I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to volleyball, I trusted Richard to give me the low-down on the sport. The scoring system turned out to be pretty straightforward, every mistake you make, is a point for the other team. Also I found that once you learn how to volley properly, the game is pretty simple to get the hang of.
The screeching of shoes as the girls ready to take to the court, signalled that it was time to begin. Chris and Richard gathered everyone together, to get them started with a warm-up which included running up and down the court, this got the group energised, and ready to learn!
The two coaches were constantly on hand to give valuable words of wisdom, “Wherever the ball goes, follow the ball” was a key tip from Richard. While they practiced their volleying skills in pairs, I chatted to some of the girls’ classmates about sports.
Budding sportswoman Marie, aged 14, told me that although she wasn’t taking part in the current session, the ones she had attended were “really good and engaging” she highlighted the benefits of having someone as experienced and qualified as Chris join the session by saying: “he tells you how to do it properly”. It was great to hear that Marie had sporting dreams of her own as she enjoys swimming and rowing and the Olympics would be a “big goal” for her, especially after watching some people she knew take part in the London 2012 games. Head of PE at Wanstead High school chimed into the conversation, enthusiastically telling me that she has “never seen a girl’s group progress so much!” Beaming at her class she continued, “The enthusiasm and participation has been great, and having outside input…even I have been learning.”
A match was swiftly assembled as it seemed the girls were charged up and ready to show off the skills they’d been working on. With Chris on one side and Richard on the other, the whistle was blown and the match was in full swing. With constant tips and words of encouragement along the way the girls seemed confident and enthusiastic throughout.
During the match, Khadijah aged 15 told me how she felt about Sportivate. “Having external help from the coaches is really motivating. It’s inspirational to have someone like Chris. My mum is always trying to get me to involved but it’s hard with exam pressure, which is why having opportunities to do sports like this through school is important”.
An outburst of cheers from the winning team marked the end of the match. There was a final huddle with the coaches, “that was fantastic, next time, you’ll progress to the next level” said Richard. Some final words from Chris was sure to inspire the group to continue trying new sports, “don’t be afraid of trying…if I was, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Raessa Mukhtar nabs Olympic Beach Volleyball star Chris Gregory for a quick chat after his invigorating session:
So, how was the session?
C: “Good, a high energy group, lots of enthusiasm, this was my 4th time with this group.”
As Sportivate encourages young people who aren’t necessarily sporty to get involved with sport, do you think it is generally difficult to get young people active?
C: “Yes, I think it’s a major challenge and problem with young people who’d rather sit in front of the T.V, which is why these sporting projects exist.”
Do you have any advice for young people looking to get their foot on the professional sports career ladder, like you did?
C: “Just make the most of opportunities like this one, just take hold of them”
Finally, what is next for you and your career?
C: “Well Rio 2016 is the goal, but before that I’m going to Russia to prepare for the European Championships”
Post Author: Raeesa Mukhtar
Images by Ophelia Soares