The Southwest Series: What’s It All About?

The Aims

The Southwest Series was established in the summer of 2020, amidst the chaos of coronavirus, in order to provide an outlet and an avenue for people from the Southwest to be able to play some good-quality beach volleyball across the region.

There are three aims of the Southwest Series, which we will discuss in later sections:

  1. To be welcoming, inclusive, fun and transparent
  2. To provide a pathway for players from the Southwest to excel on a national level
  3. To give back to the volleyball community around the Southwest and Wales through these tournaments

To be welcoming, inclusive, fun and transparent

Ivonna and Urmas enjoying the Southwest Series

What we really wanted when we established the Southwest Series was to create events that are for everyone. Events that players can come to and have a good time, whether it’s their first ever beach tournament or their hundredth. It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many events that you go to where this doesn’t happen!

Here are a few things that we’ve put in place to make sure that we hit these targets:

  • We make sure that you get as many games at your level as possible. We do this by either a.) using powerpools, where you play pool games against people of your level or b.) splitting the competition into a plate and cup after the pools (or both!) Now, for those that haven’t been to loads of tournaments, this may sound like gobbledegook, but what it means is that hopefully you get fewer games that are one-sided. Traditional tournament formats mean that you often only play teams of your level at the knockout stage-we want you playing fun, winnable, competitive games all day long. Hence why we play off for every single position, and why we have the plate competitions, so that less experienced teams still have prizes to play for. Tournaments should be for all the teams playing, not just for the four teams in the semis.
  • We greet every team with a smile. Our organisers pride themselves on getting to know all the players that come and play at our tournaments. Our goal is to create a community, to help build beach volleyball across the region-and we do that by getting to know each and every person that comes to our events.
  • The entry fee is the entry fee, and that’s it. There are no membership fees, no hidden charges, or anything else. We want affordable, competitive volleyball, that gives back to the community. More about that later…

To provide a pathway for players from the Southwest

A big part of what we see as our responsibility is to help develop the next generation of players from the Southwest and Wales to compete nationally and internationally. We’ve asked ourselves how we can best achieve this, and here’s what we’ve come up with:

  • Create a Southwest ranking system that fosters competition and rewards regular competing
  • Create events at a level where juniors can compete-whether it is their first senior event or as a bridge to competing on a national level.
  • Develop a junior series to run alongside the senior series, for younger juniors, with the same emphasis on regular competition and a similar ranking system. This has been planned out but covid prevented it this year-we will be implementing it next year.

We are pretty happy at what we have achieved this year, given the circumstances-we’ve had lots of junior players take part in their first senior events (in Cardiff and Croyde), and some of the juniors are currently in the hunt to win the overall series-they will be transitioning to competing nationally in the next couple of years.

We’ve also provided regular national players a platform to be able to compete at a good level and get regular competition without having to travel to London, and have attracted some good teams from across the country!

To give back to the volleyball community across the Southwest and Wales through these tournaments

Academy of Beach Sports Chairman Ian Huggins handing out the prizes for the Plate Competition

This is perhaps the part that is most important, in my opinion. We recognise that the organisations that do the really hard work of getting people to start playing volleyball, and encourage them to play their first beach volleyball tournament, are the clubs. We want to help them continue the work that they are doing.

That’s why we’ve set up the series in the model that we have. We work with the local club to deliver the event, wherever it is. We can take the tour to anywhere with sand-we can provide all the equipment required to host a tournament: balls, nets, scoreboards, antenna, gazebo, branding whistles, prizes etc, as well as creating a tournament format and taking all the entries. We send an experienced tournament organiser to run the tournament.

Then we make sure that the local club that hosts the event gets something out of it. At least £10 of every entry goes to the club that hosts the event, and the club can sell food, drinks and club merchandise too. So it’ a win/win situation; players at those clubs get a great event at their venue, clubs do well out of the event too, and we have an excellent range of events on the Southwest Series calendar. Next year, hopefully without covid restrictions, we will be looking to expand the series to incorporate more venues across the region, to make the series as accessible and inclusive as possible.

What we really want is a sustainable model that is good for everyone. Good for the future of volleyball in the southwest and Wales; good for the clubs; and good for players.

We’d really welcome any feedback on this-please feel free to comment below with anything you think, and if you’ve been to an event this year we’d love your input-there is a feedback form here.

If you want to see where and when the next Southwest Series event will take place, head here. If you’d like to see the current rankings, then head here.

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Next Event:

Southwest Series Round #3 Porthcawl