Support through Sport UK's Colin Marston spoke to Rob Richardson about sitting volleyball ...
You’ve been the British Captain since 2009. How did you get into the sport?
Sitting volleyball did not used to exist in Great Britain. In 1991, the programme was disbanded. However, after the announcement that London had won the 2012 bid, the British Paralympic Association reinstated the sport. I was spotted at a ParalympicsGB talent identification day. I got involved by literally just sending ParalympicsGB an email to say that I wanted to take part in a sport! I had no prior experience of sitting volleyball and I just wanted to play a team sport. As I do not use a wheelchair in my day-to-day life, sitting volleyball really appealed. My first day in the sport began with 10 other hopefuls in a shack in Uxbridge. It all steamed rolled from there!
Are we right in thinking that you come from an extremely sporty family?
Yes. My dad played professional cricket for Warwickshire and my uncles played professional cricket for England and sometimes even played in the same Test Matches. My sister does dressage to a high standard (not Olympic level) and my cousins are into golf. I could not, for obvious reasons, play cricket - but I wanted to take part in a team sport. I am proud to be the first person in my family to compete at the Olympics.
How many GB caps have you had?
I currently have 78 GB caps. No one to date has got 100 and I would like to be the first! I am currently ahead of my peers and assuming I play well and keep getting selected, I aim to get 100 GB caps by Summer 2014.
The GB team came eighth at London 2012; what was it like playing in front of a home crowd at your home Paralympics? Was it the pinnacle of your sporting career to date?
Prior to the Games, the sitting volleyball team lived in a bubble and were based at a training camp in Loughborough. When we went out for our first match at the Paralympics it was a bonkers situation! The arena was sold out, we went out on to the court pretty much like bunnies in the headlights! We had only previously played in front of 500 people - that first London Paralympics match was in front of a crowd of 8000! I am especially proud to have taken part. It was crazy being asked for autographs, doing media, finding out people were queuing for hours to get tickets to see us ... For a sport which, until very recently, did not exist it was bonkers. We got thousands of followers on Twitter. The atmosphere in the arena and the format was similar to the beach volleyball games held at Horse Guards Parade. It was a great spectator event. What was very odd was how normal the media interviews (TV and Radio) and walking out in front of the 8000 strong crowd all got. I am certainly proud to have taken part and represented Great Britain.
So tell us a bit more about the sport ...
Sitting volleyball is played along the same lines as normal volleyball. The only difference is you are sat on your bum, the court is smaller and the net is lower. One cheek / buttock must remain on the court at all times. The game is fast and furious. The main thing is that is very accessible. Unlike other disability sports, such as wheelchair basketball where the wheelchairs cost thousands of pounds, sitting volleyball can use existing sporting equipment which is found in most schools and sport centres. For example, you can adapt badminton nets. It is quick and easy to set up and a great team sport to play.
Sitting volleyball is played on a 10 x 6 metre court.
The game is played with a 0.8 metre-wide net set to a height of 1.15 meters for men and 1.05 meters for women
There are six players on each side.
When hitting or attacking the ball, the player must have one buttock or an extension of the torso still in contact with the floor.
What position do you play and what does this entail?
I am a Setter. The other positions are Hitters and Blockers. There are two Setters on court at any one time. The role of the Setter is to dictate the play. I think of it as the 'Dennis Bergkamp role' (I am keen Arsenal supporter!).
Why would you encourage anyone reading this to get into sitting volleyball?
Simple. Sitting volleyball is an accessible sport which is very easy to set up and play. I am an Ambassador for Sainsbury’s to promote both the Paralympics and healthy active lifestyles amongst children. I was recently at a Primary School leading a masterclass in sitting volleyball and was fortunate to be joined by David Beckham and the Chief Executive for Sainsbury's. Whilst we were there, we got a lad who was in a wheelchair to take part with the other kids in a game. It was obvious to David and I this lad was the best on the field and it was great to see how sitting volley ball brought together both able and disabled kids who competed on a level playing field.
If readers are keen to have a go at sitting volleyball, where can they find out more?
Firstly, go to the Sitting Volleyball England website.Here you will find information on clubs in your area and more about the sport. You can also find out about sitting volleyball awareness workshops, where you can get a course leader to come to a school or corporate event and get to experience sitting volleyball firsthand.
Thank you for chatting to us, Rob.
Team GB's next major event is the European Championships, in September. After this, they are hoping to compete at the World Championships (in 2014)and are currently on the hunt for sponsors. Please contact Support through Sport UK if you are interested in being a sponsor.