This week, we are very lucky to have Scottish Beach Volleyball players Mel Coutts and Lynne Beattie on the Fireblog. Mel and Lynne are one of the most humble, hardest-working teams out there. Both of them juggle working full-time and playing at a very high level, but their enthusiasm and passion for the game is a well that never runs dry. Keep reading for their stories about the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics, their plans for the future and how Scottish beach volleyball has been growing.
Please introduce yourselves:
Hi, I’m Lynne, I’m born and bred in Glasgow but moved to Edinburgh a few years ago to work with Scottish Volleyball in the role of Regional Development Officer.
M: Hi, I’m Mel, I live in Edinburgh and work for Edinburgh Council as a Strategic lead for sport & physical activity.
How did you get into volleyball, and how long have you been playing?
L: I first experienced volleyball at the age of 12 with my big sister showing me how to play in the garden, and so when I made the move from primary school to high school, I enrolled in the Summer volleyball camp and joined the school club.
At the same time, until I was about 16 years old, I also competed in the sport of Athletics, but made the move to join the local Glasgow volleyball club, Su Ragazzi at the age of 16, having decided volleyball was the sport for me.
M: I have been playing beach volleyball for 24 years now… (that’s a guess!), but I initially started just by turning up for tournaments in the summer. Then, after a few years, I started ‘training’ and taking it more seriously. I won all the British events and went to California to train full time. I played the pro tour in Mexico for 3 months and then based myself in Scotland when I came home.
I Played with Lynne in 2015 after recovering from an ACL reconstruction which was operated on in February 2014. I played in the Continental Cup with her and then prepared to qualify for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Lynne, please can you tell us a bit about the 2012 Olympics?
In 2006, the opportunity came up to relocate to Sheffield to train full time in an attempt to compete for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and so, despite just having qualified as a Pharmacist I gave up my full-time job to train there professionally.
During the summer months we would train as a squad in Sheffield but in the Winter months players would seek opportunities in leagues across Europe to challenge ourselves at the highest level possible. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to compete in a diverse range of professional leagues including: Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, which all, in their own unique way, enhanced my learning as a player and supported the team ambitions to be successful at the Olympic Games.
In 2012 I was selected as the Captain of the team to represent Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics; it was an absolute dream come true to play alongside and be coached by some amazing people.
Lynne, a quick question-as a fairly recent convert to beach from indoor volleyball, what was the transition like for you?
I have been playing volleyball for 22 years in total but had my first beach volleyball experience 5 years ago, when the opportunity to represent Scotland in the CEV Continental Cup 2016 arose. The transition to beach from indoor came at a time in my volleyball career where I was really seeking a new challenge. And although it was a challenge I embraced and enjoyed, it most certainly wasn’t easy. In fact, it was much harder than I could have ever imagined.
Simple movement patterns that I’d learned indoors became extremely difficult on the sand, and at times I felt like a beginner again, but playing alongside Mel with the experience and success that she has had on the sand definitely helped support my transition to beach volleyball, and I am still learning with every session and every ball that I play
Now on to the Commonwealth Games 2018, when you both represented Scotland at the games in Australia. What was the qualification and the build-up to the games like?
M: Qualification was a long and rocky road, lots of ups and downs but totally worth it once we qualified. The build up to the Games in the Sunshine Coast was absolutely brilliant, especially being part of Team Scotland. This was a wonderful novelty, and quite a change when you normally travel in a 2- to suddenly be part of a team of 300 was amazing!
L: Qualifying for and competing at the Commonwealth Games was the culmination of a lot of hard work from not just us as a team of athletes and coaches, but from our sport and governing body too. Achieving the goal that we set out to achieve made this hard work worthwhile and we really hope it has inspired others to believe in their goals and ambitions, whatever they may be; this was and still plays a big part in our purpose as a team. We have always wanted to get Scottish Beach Volleyball on the world map and show people what is possible with commitment to your goals.
What was your best moment of the Commonwealths?
L: My favourite memories from the Games include marching out as part of the army of Team Scotland athletes and staff into the Opening Ceremony arena, knowing you were part of something bigger than just your own team and sport. The support you would get from fellow Team Scotland members in and around the holding camp, in the village, and throughout your competition, was unbelievable.
My favourite memory however was stepping out onto court in the Quarter Finals, against the World Number 1s at the time, Canada, (eventual Gold Medallists) and leaving absolutely everything on court and soaking up the atmosphere of 4000 fans in such an iconic arena. To get the opportunity to test yourselves against the best team in the world is one of the reasons you play sport.
M: My most memorable moment was walking out into the stadium for the first time. What a fantastic experience! We played in the hot sunshine and got our first win.
Mel, How did you feel the competition went overall?
Overall, it would have been nice to do a bit better but a poor performance against Cyprus put us on the back foot coming out of the pools. On a positive note, though, we had 2 fabulous matches against what ended up being the gold and silver medallists, so no complaints there.
As a team, what are your plans for the future now?
Since the Gold Coast we have been continuing to compete domestically on the Scottish and UK Beach Tour and internationally on the World Tour. We’ve also been pulling together a comprehensive campaign plan to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022. This has been an exciting process to be a part of as we are able to use the learnings from Gold Coast to shape how this looks. There may be a few changes to how this looks now as a result of the current situation across the world, but we are adaptable and creative and so we have confidence that we will be able to find solutions as we continue our journey to Birmingham 2022.
I wanted to quickly take the opportunity to ask about beach volleyball in Scotland at the moment, which I know has been on the rise. Can you tell us how that is looking and what is going on there?
As a team, we have also been investing some time in supporting the development of our sport within our local community at Portobello alongside the local Beach Volleyball Club, Edinburgh Beach Volleyball Club and Scottish Volleyball. The local community have been so supportive in helping us achieve our goals and we want to give something back and ensure that more people have the opportunity to play our amazing sport.
Between Edinburgh Beach Volleyball Club and other elements of Scottish beach volleyball, we feel that the game is growing and look forward to seeing more young talent coming through. We are really excited by the news that the UKBT will be coming to Scotland soon and opportunities like this will only help.
If we can continue this momentum in Scotland alongside all our fellow beach enthusiasts and clubs across the UK, then together we can build British Beach Volleyball to a level and a profile that we have never seen before.
Finally, Lynne, if you could give a young beach volleyballer a top tip, what would it be?
If I could rewind and go back to being a young indoor volleyball player, I would play beach volleyball much earlier in my career. The potential impact beach could have on your all-round development as a player could be so valuable in all areas of your performance, providing you with a solid platform to play either discipline to a higher level than what might be possible without playing on the sand at a younger age. I also encourage young players to take opportunities to push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible, as this is the best way to learn.