SV Chelmsford SV Southend SV Press

Essex Pirates

Sitting Volleyball in Essex

GB National Grand Prix Tier 2 champions 2012

SVFinals1.jpg (88587 bytes)

You can follow Essex Pirates fortunes through their press reports.  On 14th April 2012 they became Tier B GB Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix champions by defeating  Portsmouth 3-0.  This puts them 5th ranked in GB.

During the 2009-2010 season a Sitting Volleyball Centre was established known as Essex Pirates in Essex.  This is the regional centre for the East and carries the support of Volleyball England as part of the development of sitting volleyball - a Paralympic sport for those with a physical disability.

The centre aims to provide the development link from recreational sitting volleyball through to the GB men's and women's Paralympic squads and is open to everyone, able bodied as well.  The team partcipates in a series of Grand Prix tournaments organised by Volleyball England for such teams. 

Reports of the Pirates progress can be found under Press Reports (click on SV Press button to the left).  In the 2010-11 series Pirates finished in 6th place and are looking to strengthen their sqaud from recreational to serious level, so would welcome anyone especially anyone with a physical disability, man or woman, to contact us to find out more.  Its fast, its fun, its inclusive - its sitting volleyball!

To see the team in action take a look at!
which is form the October 2010 Grand Prix in Sheffield and shows us playing London Lynx, current national champions.  We are in the blue shirts... and yes we did loose that one.

Training takes place as part of the 7.00-8.30 session on Thursday evenings at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford .  Click here for details.

Can you play sitting volleyball? Well, ask yourself the following questons...

I can sit on the floor unaided
I can move at least one arm
I can see a ball moving through the air
I can play recreational SV
I can slide around on the floor
I can move both arms above my head
I can catch and throw a football sized ball (or play it back one handed)
I can play in a team
I can train for more serious SV
I can move quickly around the floor
I can move to be under the moving ball
I am competitive in sport
I have a significant physical disability
I might be eligible for the national team


Ken Edwards   tel 01245 474425 (Chelmsford)
Tony Wood tel 07967 491573  (Brentwood)
Pete Guernari tel (07854 028677 (Colchester)


The award of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to London has sparked a revival in this version of the game.  Although at Paralympic level it is played only by athletes classified as having physically disably, outside this the game is a great leveller and men, women, able bodied and disabled can and do play together over the lower net sitting on the ground.   It is also a great sport for rehabilitation.

Over recent years both the Chelmsford and Brentwood club have run sessions devoted to sitting volleyball and its coaches have run taster and general sessions across Essex often linked to gifted and talented schoolchildren.  These have ranged across Essex Corporate Games, Mersea Disability Holiday, Presidents Club, Paralympic Handover Day, MENCAP Groups and others . Southend Leisure Centre has also hosted a GB training camp - for a report click here

A background to Sitting Volleyball

There follows more background on Sitting Volleyball, Standing Volleyball (another variant) and its development.  Anyone interested in knowing more about Sitting Volleyball in Essex is encouraged to contact Ken Edwards, Secretary, Essex Volleyball Association on 01245 47425.  2 Vale End, Galleywood, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8NZ.

Information at a national level is available at  


The Origin of Volleyball

While a game which somewhat resembled volleyball was being played in England as far back as 1591, it was only in 1895 that the American William G. Morgan developed a game, which was to be the predecessor of our present-day volleyball.   Spread by the U.S. troops and the YMCA, this sport which had meanwhile gained some momentum, reached the rest of the world.

The start of Sport for the Disabled

Sir (then Doctor) Ludwig Guttmann - Neurologist and Neurosurgeon - emigrated with his family to England in March 1939 as a refugee from Nazi Germany. At the beginning of 1944, while he was doing research at Oxford University, he was asked by the British Government to set up a Spinal Injury Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. At this institute, he put into practice unique ideas of treatment and rehabilitation of spinal cord paralysed patients - hitherto regarded as hopeless and helpless cripples with only a short expectation of life. That he was successful in establishing a spinal cord injury service, a model to the whole world, is a matter of history. But there was a particular aspect of his philosophy and foresight that was to have far-reaching influence on the lives, not only of spinal cord paralysed persons, but to many other types of disabled persons all over the world.

Sir Ludwig Guttmann used to say: "If I ever did one good thing in my medical career, it was to introduce sport into the treatment and rehabilitation programme of spinal cord sufferers and other severely disabled".

In 1948, the first Stoke Mandeville Games were held with a participation of 16 paralysed wheelchair competitors in archery. The Games became "International" in 1952 with the participation of a Dutch team of war veterans.

Sitting Volleyball

The first sports club for the disabled was established in the Netherlands only as late as 1953. Athletics and Sitzball - originating from Germany - were the main sports. Soon it was found that Sitzball, which is played sitting down in one place on the floor, was too passive; the search was on for more mobile forms of sport.

In 1956, the Dutch Sports Committee introduced a new game called Sitting Volleyball, a combination of sitzball and volleyball. Since then the gam has grown into one of the biggest sports practised in competition not only by the disabled in the Netherlands, but also by interested "able-bodied" volleyball players with an injury of the ankle or knee.


Since 1967, international competitions have taken place, but we had to wait until 1978 before the International Sports Organisation for the Disabled (ISOD) accepted Sitting Volleyball in its programme.  The first official International Tournament - under the umbrella of the ISOD - took place in 1979 in Haarlem (the Netherlands).

In 1980, it was accepted as a Paralympic Sport with the participation of seven teams. It has become one of the main team-sports in the Paralympic Programme. It is a fast, exciting and crowd pleasing sport, which can show the athletic skills of disabled sportsmen and women.

The international development can be called tumultuous. Clinics have been held all over the world and regular World, European and Regional Championships are organised annually.  Since 1993, Sitting Volleyball championships are organised for men and women.

Sitting Volleyball has the potential to grow into a sport in which the disabled and non-disabled persons can play on a high technical level.

Standing Volleyball

Standing Volleyball was played by disabled sportsmen long before the International Federation was founded. It has its roots in Great Britain and was originally only played by amputees. Due to the variations of amputation, a classification system was set up and players were put into one of nine categories. To encourage those with a more severe amputation to participate, a point system on court was introduced - each player received points for the degree of amputation - and 13 points was the minimal team requirement on court.

In 1984, it was decided to open up the game to allow other disability groups to take part, thereby encouraging more nations to participate. Although this initially created more classification problems, the WOVD finally, after four years, established criteria for classification, which includes those players with various arm or leg disabilities.


Small international competitions have taken place since the 1960s, although it was not until 1976 before volleyball was accepted into the Paralympic Programme in Toronto. Since 1980, volleyball has had a regular international calendar.

Copyright 1997 WOVD

Main differences between Sitting Volleyball and Volleyball:

  1. The court is smaller — 10m x 6m (2m attack zone)
  2. The net is lower — 1.15m for men and 1.05m for women
  3. Players must remain seated on court during play including spiking
  4. Service can be blocked
  5. The passage of play is quicker due to reduced court size and flatter trajectory of attacks

 Sitting Volleyball in England

Sitting volleyball is an adapted game for people with disabilities, it has enjoyed full Paralympic status since 1980, with a Great Britain Team competing at the highest levels until 1991.  The game is an excellent vehicle for players returning from injury during rehabilitation.

The game ceased to exist in the UK in 1991, except on a small recreational scale in East Kent. As part of an effort to promote the game in Kent, Kent Sports Development Unit (KSDU) has purchased a purpose made transportable Taraflex floor for Sitting Volleyball, the only one of its type in the UK. Since then more have been purchased.

During 2005 a number of demonstration events were held notably in Kent assisted by the purchase of floor and posts. In January 2006 two new clubs were formed "Sitius Pent Valley" in Folkestone and "Sitz in the City" at Canterbury High School. These initiatives were recognised by the British Volleyball Federation and a Paralympic summit was held in Loughborough for interested parties hosted by Volleyball England. As a result a British Volleyball Federation working group was established, chaired by Gordon Neale (CEO Disability Sport England) to develop both participation and elite squads in preparation for 2012.

Taster sessions were run in Essex, Suffolk and Cambs, demonstration events run at National Finals in Sheffield in April 2006 and a number of other festivals and regular training established including the London Lynx Sitting Volleyball Club based at Mile End which has become the base for the GB squads.  This group has competed in international competition including the Europeans(2007 in Hungary).

Much of the early promotional and development activity was actively supported by members of the Volleer Club, based in Holland whose coach (Joze Banfi) and players some of whom were in the Dutch women’s team who were 2004 Paralympic silver medallists and World champions in 2006.  Joze was the first coach of the GB squad.

During all this time England has retained strong representation of referees in Steve Walton and Maciej Chodzko-Zajko amongst the best in the world.  In August 2007 Sheffield hosted a WOVD/ECVD Referee and Classifier courses which were attended by two English referees.

The appointment by Volleyball England in July 2009 of Matt Rogers as an officer dedicated to the development of sitting volleyball will it is hoped gibe much needed impetus to the spread of the game.

Web sites

World Organisation for Volleyball for the Disabled
European Committee Volleyball for the Disabled .
Volleyball England   has a dedicated Sitting Volleyball Section.

Personal thoughts

The availability of specific information for coaches on sitting volleyball is improving with Volleyball England now running sitting volleyball workshops and a coaching booklet in English having become available.  WOVD also has a coaching qualification route. There are more similarities than differences between sitting volleyball and other forms of the game with the main differences to my mind being around movement.  Tactics are affected by the rule differences e.g. service blocking allowed, and also the speed of the game requiring quick reactions. 

Having played sitting volleyball, and got the bruises in the appropriate places, I can recommend it as an inclusive sport for players both with physical disabilities and not together on the same team. Even gender differences are reduced as no jumping is allowed. Sitting volleyball features in Volleyball England’s VolleySport and Mini-Volley courses and in the National Schools Competition Framework. Some of us consider it remains one of the best opportunities for a 2012 Games volleyball medal. If you want to try it out, keep in touch with or know more about what is going on, watch the Volleyball England website or let me know.