Building the Education Revolution

The photo above is of the brand-spanking-new gymnasium at Paringa Park Primary School, courtesy of the Rudd Government’s “Building the Education Revolution”. Apparently the BER funding doesn’t allow for gyms that are big enough to fit 3 full size courts, and the Paringa Park gym is no exception. You can fit 1 full-size court or 3 smaller courts with touching boundary lines. It’s essentially the same sized gym that Heathfield High had in all those years they won the AVSC overall trophy, so it’s more than ample to teach junior volleyball in.

Eldo remarked to me sometime last year that the increase in BER-funded gyms presented a great opportunity for volleyball to get a foothold in primary schools, which is exactly what Paringa Park has done. Paringa Park is a stone’s throw away from Brighton Secondary School, and most of the kids will inevitably feed in to Brighton.

I’ve been helping out at their thursday evening and sunday morning trainings for the last 2 weeks (preparation training for State Schools Cup). And it’s good fun. Out of principle, I try avoiding involvement with SIV related teams (no matter how loosely related). They’ll get a decent volleyball experience down the track anyway and I would rather coach kids who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to play. Retention of SIV players is often low and I have to put what little time I have into the kids that can potentially stay at the clubs I’m working for. I spent 9 years at Henley coaching kids that went on to Brighton then USC Lion and it got a bit tiresome.

Having said that there’s always an exception. The current impetus at Paringa Park started when my friend Ross, the parent of one of the kids at Norwood moved to Brighton and wanted to set up a school team for his youngest daughter to play in. He got a team of paringa park primary kids to play in a junior age team and the support of a motivated PE teacher who is keen to make volleyball a big part of the school. It ticks all the boxes for a good programme – enthusiastic parent whose kid is there for a few more years and will be involved for a while; an enthusiastic teacher; a new gym; an obvious pathway for the kids to go to. Ross asked me to help out with their schools cup preparation and it’s just great seeing him apply all the stuff he’s learned at the club into quality instruction for these beginners. He’s exactly the sort of guy every club wants to get a successful juniors programme going.

I’ve also been preoccupied recently with studying up on how primary school-aged kids can be taught how to play volleyball. It all started when i tried to source where this chart i saw on devo came from:

After googling it, I found that it was a lecture slide from the FIVB’s 2007 symposium on “Volleyball at School” website which is a treasure trove of stuff on how to coach mini-volleyball. And down the rabbit hole i fell.

Thing is, I don’t know a lot of people who teach and run mini-volleyball well, and keep doing it. They’re typically parents who get involved in their children’s extracurricular activities at primary school. There have been maybe 4 I’ve known in Adelaide, but only one of them is still doing it since their kids grew up. But what they do is incredibly important. They give kids their first chance at playing volleyball when as a sport it’s on the most equal footing it can be with the dominant sporting codes.

The symposium materials has experts from all over the world explaining how they run minivolleyball in their respective countries. There’s how you organise it, get people involved, educate the parents, and most importantly, how to teach volleyball well to beginners! It may not be as glamorous as coaching a state team, but something I feel is an essential part of the craft of coaching. Technically, the Paringa Park kids aren’t mini-volleyballers anymore – they’re transitioning to six-a-side indoor. But next year when i’ve finished studying up on it, i’ll definitely get involved in coaching mini-volleyball somewhere. As a volleyballer, it’s as important a job as being a kindergarten teacher.

Apparently, 8 teams including Paringa Park have entered the U14 girls division for State Schools Cup this year, so it should be good. There would be at least 2 teams from the SIV shools and one from WHS, but I have no idea who the rest are. Maybe primary school volleyball is booming in schools that just got a new gym. I look forward to seeing how they go!

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