Sitting volleyball offers fun, fitness and friendship

Seated volleyball game

Perth locals were recently given the opportunity to get on court and try a vibrant sport which has featured at both the Paralympics and Invictus Games.

APM, in conjunction with Volleyball WA, recently ran sitting volleyball ‘Have a Go’ sessions to provide an opportunity for people with disability to play the sport.

The sessions were held at the Cockburn Aquatic and Recreation Centre at the Loftus Recreation Centre. Sitting volleyball originated in the Netherlands in 1956 a combination of volleyball and the German sport, sitzball as rehabilitation for injured soldiers.

The sport made its Paralympic debut at the 1980 Paralympic Games after gaining popularity in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. Teams consist of mixed classes in male and female events, with six on the court at a time.

At all times, a players’ pelvis must be touching the ground, and service blocks and attacks are allowed. The game is played on a smaller court and a lower net than the standard version of the sport.

“The event was an APM sponsored event which presents as a great opportunity to showcase inclusion at its best,” said Ben Rowe from APM.

Ben worked with Volleyball WA life member, and referee, Danielle Francis to help present the sessions.

two seated volleyball players hitting the ball to each other while a referee watches

Ben, who is vision impaired due to a degenerative eye condition, gave up sport in his early 20s as his sight decreased. Prior to losing his sight he had enjoyed playing a variety of sports.

He started playing Goalball in his early 30s and played for ten years at a high level. Ben is now the chair of Blind Sports Western Australia. The sport is designed specifically for athletes with vision impairment and involves throwing a ball with bells attached into the opposing team’s goal.

“I basically gave up on sport completely. I thought it was never going to happen and then Goalball came along. It opened the door for me to think that sports could be more accessible, Ben said.

“I see a lot of adaptive sports really taking off and a lot of mainstream sports peak bodies like cricket, football, tennis and volleyball are working out ways to be more inclusive.”

two seated volleyball players hit the ball to each other over a net

Ben said he first heard about sitting volleyball when it was played in China at the same he had travelled to play Goalball. APM and Volleyball WA were keen to introduce the sport to players who wanted to experience an activity which was not only fun but accessible too.

He said taking part in a sport not only maintained his fitness but gave him the added benefits of being part of a like-minded organisation including being part of committees at his club.

The goal of the 'Have a go' sessions was to gauge interest with the hope to develop an ongoing program.

Danielle first learned about sitting volleyball when she saw it played the Invictus Games and was inspired to bring it back to Western Australia.

She was a keen volleyball player prior to injuring her neck, diving into a swimming pool, while on holiday.

She wanted to show how fun sitting volleyball was for people of all abilities and how involvement in sport is a great boost for positive mental health.

Sport was a great way to develop new friendships with people who shared a common interest, Danielle said.

“Sport widens horizons. You make new friends and start hanging out. It opens so many doors. If you want to go into committees you can. There are no restrictions.”

The sessions have also been popular with other athletes with Brad Barclay, a national standing beach volleyball athlete from Western Australia's South West joining the sessions alongside para-athletes from swimming and wheelchair basketball.

Want to have a go?

More sitting volleyball ‘Have a go’ sessions are planned for later in the year - follow Volleyball WA and APM on Facebook for the latest information.

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.