Harry Tattersall Smith fine tunes his skills for the summer with the volleyball club
I guess when I think of volleyball the first things that inevitably come to mind is bronzed Adonises and bikini babes frolicking on the beaches of Rio and Miami … but Glasgow?
I’ve come along to train with one of the fastest growing clubs at the university and meet with men’s captain, the highly charismatic Vihar Georgiev.
From having played volleyball a couple of times, I perhaps had a slightly ill-conceived notion that I was a fairly proficient volleyballer/ist, yet within five minutes I’ve had my ‘technique’ torn to shreds and my arms are bruised. I’m put right by a diminutive middle-aged women, who assures me I’m doing it all wrong and if I do this, that and the other, I’ll be on my way.
I have no plans to take heed of her advice — I mean really, what can she know that I don’t? — but then out of nowhere, this charming little lady almost leaps her own body height before unleashing a farcically powerful (and ultimately emasculating) smash, and it is then I concede defeat and abandon my unorthodox style.
One thing I never realised about volleyball was the degree of artistry dedicated to each move. Each play is meticulously thought out and repeatedly drilled until it’s seemingly second nature. A whole array of decoys and dummies, blocks and counter-blocks. So much so, that watching it can easily see someone mesmerised by the sight of several colossal six-feet-plus giants leaping and diving in strictly choreographed routines.
The men’s season if effectively over, and although no silverware has been won, Vihar is delighted with the squads performance. “Last season we lost a lot of our big players, and with a squad consisting of many players new to the game, maintaining our position in the premier division is a huge achievement and one next season we can definitely build on.” Yet it’s not completely over and Vihar insists he will not allow his squad to get complacent in the aftermath of survival from a tough relegation dogfight.
“We still have the BUCS trophy down in Liverpool, and we really want to go down there, play our best stuff and who knows what can happen.”
He is also buoyed by the growing enthusiasm in the club, talking of a time when the club was really struggling for numbers, but after another absolutely packed training session, everything appears to be very much on the up for the Glasgow University Volleyball Club.
Whilst then men’s squad have been fighting for survival the women’s team seem to be romping towards the women’s title and promotion to the National Division One. They currently sit unbeaten at the summit of Division Two, and barring any major hiccups, seem destined next season to once again be competing against the nation’s finest.
Vihar enforces on me a very positive message, and talks to me about the club’s mantra. “Of course when we play we want to win, but for us that is not all, for me it is about having fun first. If you are having fun with your sport the winning will come naturally.” Vihar hopes that in time the squads can rebuild and regain the success of past teams. “In 2005 we came runners up in both the Scottish and British University cups. We don’t want to equal those records. We want to go on and beat them!”
The club is a great social hub and has a real international vibe; I play in a team of five with only two of us boasting English as our first language, and this really seems to be no anomaly. I ask a friend who has been converted to volleyball since arriving at Glasgow about how many nationalities he thinks are involved: “Countless, I think that’s what makes it so great, even if there is sometimes a language barrier, everyone is always laughing and joking around, there really seems a sense of community about it.”
The club has its social drop in sessions on Thursday nights from 7.30pm at the Stevenson Building, and is definitely worth checking out if you want to stay fit, but cannot stomach the lonely hours on the treadmill.