Clubs urged to take note of growing student volleyball programme

Volleyball continues to thrive in the English higher education system, claims a new survey out today. With many student volleyballers indicating a desire to remain involved in the sport after graduation, clubs are being urged to take advantage of the recruitment opportunities this presents.

There are currently 85 Higher Education Volunteer Officers (HEVOs) running volleyball activities at 71 universities across the country, meaning that only football has a larger recreational programme in place.

In the five months from September to January, over 4000 students played volleyball at least once at a HEVO-led recreational session.

Almost 1000 of those HEVO programme participants took part in a recent survey – in which 76% indicated they would like to continue playing volleyball after graduation. Just over half said they would like to play for a local club in a local league.

Commenting on the results, Rob Payne, Young People Manager at Volleyball England, said: “The survey results demonstrate that volleyball is becoming a much more well established university sport, thanks to the efforts of the HEVO network. It’s worth remembering that the survey respondents are recreational players who are new to the sport. This could represent hundreds of potential new recruits for those clubs who are able to tap into this market and form productive relationships with their local HEVOs.”

The survey paints an interesting picture of a new player’s introduction to volleyball at university. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents had never played the sport before going to university. While this may be a sad indictment of the lack of playing opportunities in schools, it does also prove that it’s never too late to get someone playing for the first time.

The HEVO programme currently boasts a 29% retention rate. A player counts as being ‘retained’ if they attend 70% of the sessions being run by a HEVO. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story as the programme often acts as a rapid springboard to more formalised competitive activity.

For example, the survey shows that 37% of participants go on to play in their university BUCS team while 38% play for a local club. If this transition happens quickly, a player never has the chance to be classed as being retained by their HEVO programme; the HEVO’s work has already been done.

The recruitment opportunity for clubs extends beyond the playing sphere. Up to a quarter of the survey respondents expressed a willingness to get involved with volleyball in some other way after university – 22% as a referee, 24% as a coach and 25% as a volunteer.

Rob Payne continued: “Across our sport, volunteers are like gold dust. There could be people graduating imminently who have so much to offer to a local club, whether they stay in their university town or head home. And let’s not forget the HEVOs themselves. There are 85 of these people who have already shown the determination and persistence needed to establish and maintain a recreational volleyball presence. If clubs don’t know who their local HEVOs are, I strongly recommend that they find out and begin to create a strong working relationship.”

If there is one concerning aspect of the survey results, it’s around the lack of volleyballing opportunities outside of term time. Only 11% of the survey respondents knew that they would have access to regular volleyball activity during their university holidays. Sadly, 66% of respondents have already resigned themselves to being inactive during those times.

Rob Payne continued: “University holidays account for 16 weeks of the year. That’s a dangerously long time for a new volleyballer to left with no further exposure to the sport. At Volleyball England, we recently launched an appeal for clubs to come forward with ideas of discounts and freebies which they could offer to students out of term time. As those offers come in, we’ll circulate them to the HEVOs, asking them to advertise these offers as much as they can to their programme participants.”

“I’m really keen to create a stronger relationship between clubs and HEVOs. The HEVO programme has grown from 62 to 71 institutions in the past two years but we may well have hit our growth ceiling now. All the institutions who want to be in the programme are already in. The next challenge therefore is to establish a culture of collaboration between clubs and institutions. In several years’ time, I’d ideally want to see productive connectivity between the two groups as the norm, not the exception.”

To find out more about the HEVO programme or to contribute to the Summer Student Homecoming Offer, please contact Rob at r.payne [at]

For any other ideas you may have about increasing participation in volleyball, please contact Volleyball England at iwanttohelp [at]

The survey was run by Volleyball England’s HEVO network during January 2017. In total, 970 respondents took part (58% female, 42% male).