With the Southwest Series finals over we are taking a moment to reflect on the season. This year Fireball have run over 40 events in 9 locations the length of the country, from London to Newcastle to Cardiff. We are now proud to be the largest beach event operator in the UK! See below for a round-up of everything we got up to…
The 2022 season also saw our numbers grow from 216 players competing across the Southwest Series to 294! We also saw a far higher percentage of people competing at three or more events. We are so proud of how the Southwest Series has been grown over the last two years-it’s changed from an idea born in the depths of covid to a beautiful community of like-minded volleyball enthusiasts. We love that the Southwest Series offers something for the whole spectrum of beach volleyballers, from those who play every week and are aiming for the Southwest Series champions title, to being someone’s first ever beach volleyball tournament. It’s a testament to everyone who plays in the Series that the atmosphere is so open, welcoming and friendly.
Southwest Series Finals & Champions
Once again we would congratulate the winners of the Southwest Series Finals: Matt Pollock & Radu Floresco in the Men’s, Beth Morgan & Elisa Ionascu in the Women’s and Sam & Luca in the Juniors’. Also to our Southwest Series Champions, those who have racked up the most Southwest Series points across the entire season: Karol Baginski, Hunter Ferrell & Tio Constantinou. A huge thank you to dryrobe for providing the incredible prizes for this, a dryrobe Advance each! Check out what dryrobe have to offer here.
Pete’s Dragons Fundraiser
We received some horrible news early in 2022, that Fireballer and North Devon volleyballer Max Ellis had died by suicide. All those that had known Max were devastated by the news. We put on a special fundraiser tournament in Max’s memory in aid of Pete’s Dragons, a Devon-based charity offering support to families in the wake of a family member’s suicide. Together with the Academy of Beach Sports we raised £600 for a very worthy cause, and will continue to run this event every year in Max’s Memory.
This year we were thrilled to launch the Northern Series for the first time, in collaboration with Everton Beach Volleyball and Skyball Volleyball Club. We created a series of UKBT 3* events hosted between three venues: Bridlington, Crosby and South Shields. These built up to the grand finale in September, hosted by Everton in Crosby. Huge congratulations to the Northern Series Champions: Pete Makowski and Agnieszka Swistowska.
As a group of organisers we were so pleased with the reception that the Northern Series got, with 134 players taking part across the events. We can’t wait to grow the Northern Series next year and link up the Southwest and Northern Series in a grand showdown! Watch this space…
Investing in the Future
A big passion of ours has always been junior development. We love investing in the future and inspiring the next generation of beach volleyball players. To do that, we need great coaches, fit-for-purpose facilities and excellent links with local communities (more about all of this below!). We are SO proud of the work we’ve put into juniors this year. In London, we grew from one session per week in 2021 to 4 nights of junior sessions a week in 2022. We ran more junior events in 2022 than any other event operator. We hosted the national junior men’s programme at Fireball Beach in London and successfully ran 5 holiday camps through the year (more below). Over the course of the year, we worked with over 120 juniors at 2+ events, and ran outreach events in London, Wales and North Devon for a further 200 children, giving them their first taste of volleyball.
The time we have put into coaching our juniors over the last few years has started to show results on the senior level, with Fireball juniors Maia Darling, Lewis Bunton and Zak Maghur all qualifying for their first ever UKBT Grand Slam events this year. Testament to the hard work that they put in day in, day out with their local clubs, to the excellence of the coaches who have worked with them, and the hours of driving and money spent on volleyball by their parents! Lots of the juniors we have worked with did spectacularly well this year-they are too many to name, but they should know we are proud of all of them.
Above all, the message we spread to all our juniors is this: we want them to create healthy, happy relationships with our sport. For us, medals and winning is not the goal. We want the juniors we are working with to still be loving sport and being active when they are adults. If they are still playing beach volleyball then, even better!
Coaches and Staff
A huge part of this growth is down to the fantastic group of coaches we now have as part of the Fireball Family. We organised two beach volleyball assistant coach courses this year, in Cardiff and London. These saw 32 new assistant coaches be qualified. We spent over £600 on bursaries to coaches who applied to us for support to go to these courses as part of our commitment to help grow the base of coaches in the UK. Sam is also well on his way to qualifying as a course tutor, so that he can start to train up the next batch of coaches next year.
We had 12 coaches who worked for us through the summer in London and a further 6 who worked for us across the Southwest and Wales. We pay a fair, transparent wage to all of them, linked to their investment in their personal development and their qualifications. Lots of these coaches started their coaching journeys on a course that we organised.
Moving forward into 2023 we will be formalising the coach development programme that we started this year, offering courses, online resources and development opportunities for those interested in getting qualified and gaining experience as beach coaches in the UK.
The final part of the investment jigsaw for us is the development of excellent beach volleyball facilities across the UK. This year, we achieved the following:
- We continued to grow Fireball Beach, in London. This year we reached 65% peak usage (use at weekends and evenings). When we took it over two years ago, the venue was at 5%. We are aiming to reach 80% in 2023.
- We continued to invest in developing venues across the Southwest and Wales. We provided support and funds in Croyde with maintaining the local courts. We provided funds and new equipment for Exmouth beach volleyball club, and funds and event support in Cardiff.
- We delivered the first ever UKBT tournaments in Newcastle with our two Northern Series tournaments there.
- We created a database of places that people can play beach volleyball across the UK, which we are committed to updating periodically.
Moving forward into 2023 our goal is to provide more posts and equipment for clubs across the country to create semi-permanent or permanent beach volleyball facilities. This includes talking to councils to install and maintain posts at beaches and providing equipment and logistical support for local clubs to help them run more beach volleyball. More information to be released in our 2023 national strategy, which we will release in January.
Welsh Grand Slam #2
What a weekend of action we had once again at Barrybados for the second instalment of the Welsh Grand Slam! This year, we had a whole week of action at Barry Island, with taster sessions all week for new players, our half term camp, and then the elite Welsh Grand Slam tournament. It’s brilliant to be able to bring all the best players from the UK to the Vale of Glamorgan, including eventual Commonwealth Bronze medallists the Bellos brothers. Check out our podium…
Big thanks to the Vale of Glamorgan council, Cardiff Beach Volleyball, the UKBT and our fantastic volunteers for their support with the event. The Welsh Grand Slam will likely look a bit different next year-more details coming soon!
Croyde Residential #1
2022 also saw the inaugural Fireball Junior Residential at the stunning Croyde bay in North Devon. We had 40 talented young players join us for a week of volleyball, sun and loads of fun. We had fab group trips surfing, coasteering and Ringo riding led by our wonderful hosts from St George’s House, Georgeham. We can wait to do it all again next year. The dates are set, sign-up is due to open in November!
Winter Won’t Stop Us!
If you’ve made it this far, firstly, well done! And secondly, if the end of season blues have well and truly set in we are here to change your spirits. Because the WINTER SERIES is back and better than ever. We have 3 rounds already up on the website. It will be a king of the court style format where you play in courts of 4 people and play one game with each person. Your points difference then gives you the ranking going into the next stage of the competition. We love this format because it means you get to play with tons of different partners over the season, no refereeing and no sitting still in the cold! And who knows, you could meet your next partner for the summer season..
And if that wasn’t enough, we will also be launching brand new regular coaching throughout the winter in Cardiff! Sign up for these sessions will be announced soon so keep an eye out for that.
The last words to be said for this season are a huge thank you to all the wonderful staff who have helped make Fireball what it is this year: Danny, Amanda, Harry, Ines, Thabi, Flick and everyone else.
Lastly, from me and the entire Fireball Team, a huge thank you to everyone who has signed up for an event, tournament or coaching camp, welcomed new players and made this job such a joy. I do have to pinch myself sometimes when I realise that I get to do this for a living.
I will be spending the winter training in Brazil and working remotely on new exciting things for 2023. See you on the sand soon.