Future is bright for Volleyball in Harlow

Lifestyle / Wed 4th Dec 2013 am31 10:50am

By Mark Sweeney

A VOLLEYBALL coach is on a one-man mission to grow the popularity of the sport across Harlow town.

Finishing 4th in the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2012 World Championships, Bulgaria has a thing or two to teach the UK about the sport, and Bulgarian Ilia, 44, is the man to do it. A two-time champion in his home country, Ilia has been playing volleyball all of his life, as most of his country-mates have, and now lives in Harlow as a supply P.E. teacher and volleyball coach.

Since taking over Harlow Volleyball Club just over two years ago, Ilia’s men’s team has won the Essex Cup and started this season with the best home record in the league, currently sitting 2nd, but he states that there are problems with what is still a growing sport in this country.
He explained, “Since the London Olympics, the popularity has grown, but the level in the UK is still poor.

“Many schools do not have the correct facilities, and most do not even include volleyball in the curriculum. Only two schools in Harlow have the right set up.

“I would like to get schools involved so that children grow up playing volleyball and progress into men’s and women’s teams. If I can achieve success at that level, then I will be happy.”

Despite the sport growing in popularity, with the number of people playing volleyball in the UK doubling in the past five years, and as many as five new faces on the day I visited training, volleyball still suffers from funding problems.

To try and promote the sport and get children playing, Ilia is trying to arrange the first Harlow schools tournament to be held at Passmores Academy, with several schools already agreeing, including Harlow College.

With enough players, Ilia hopes to be able to have two teams in the Essex leagues, as other towns do, but states than targeting schools is most important.

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