FOR many people, beach volleyball is the kind of sport which seems just fine in slick Tom Cruise movies like Top Gun or pristine Baywatch sets.
But you’d probably fathom rain-soaked British beaches might not be the ideal place for such a sun-kissed and stylish sporting activity.
Thankfully, London 2012 has ripped up that image in fine style, with the Olympic event held at Horse Guards Parade proving one of the hottest tickets for the games.
It seemed everyone from David Cameron through to the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wanted to be seen supporting our team. While team GB didn’t win, it’s certainly inspired more than a few people, including those of us at the Herald, to don shorts for a match in Worthing’s very own site near Beach House.
Mercifully, the skies remained unexpectedly blue for our game and our coach, Stefan Sykes, of Coast Café, which has been enjoying a successful sideline in managing the beach volleyball facilities.
As the venue’s manager explained, it’s been a case of a very welcome transformation of the site – from under-used tennis courts into a sand equivalent that’s now used by a host of clubs from around the area.
Settling down to business, we were shown the key moves – the defensive “dig,” then a “spike”, which primes your shot, and then launching into either an attacking smash or strategic poke over to the opposition’s side.
With the net being set at men’s competition level – at what seemed well over 7ft high, there was not too much all-action smashing happening between our teams, despite our very own gang of newsroom supporters cheering us on.
But credit where credit’s due, the sports team of Steve Bailey and Ollie Berry, and reporter Alex Therrien, were an impressive trio and quickly gained the upper hand in our contest.
In truth, just merely keeping the ball in play appeared the greatest skill to master, along with maintaining a consistent serve, all of which added to the tension.
Being around 6ft 4in tall, I’d perhaps envisioned leaping for some attacking moves, but was on the defensive for much of the game – which proved frustrating as a sense of friendly rivalry unravels.
The sports desk – predictably – ruled the roost, but we at the very least managed to nick a few points from them in what proved a highly satisfying afternoon’s work on the courts. Olympic fever is very much still alive and well.
Coach Stefan summed up the court’s success so far: “It has been going really well with the volleyball here.
“It was originally the suggestion of Dani Kinrot of Worthing Volleyball Club to convert the courts and we managed to get a grant of £47,000 from Volleyball England for it.
“The borough council loved the idea and we’ve already had five or six tournaments here this year and there’s been a real range of people playing, from small two-year-olds playing in the sand upwards.”