Kent County Volleyball Association – A History
The origins of structured volleyball in Kent can be traced to a man named Stan Hastie, who, at a meeting at Canterbury in June 1976, was instrumental in setting up the Kent and District Volleyball League (“KVL”).
Stan was an amiable Irishman who can properly be described as the father of Kentish volleyball, and was the first chairman of the KVL committee.
The Kent Volleyball Association, later to become the Kent County Volleyball Association (“KCVA”) was conceived at the AGM of the KVL held at Northfleet Sports Centre on 6 May 1979, and first saw the light of day two weeks later, on 20 May 1979 when, at its inaugural AGM, Stan Hastie agreed to act as its first secretary, and Jim Baker was appointed as chairman.
Sadly, Stan is no longer with us, but his memory is preserved in Kent Volleyball with the Mens KO Cup being named the Stan Hastie Cup.
Currently, KCVA offers Mens and Ladies divisions, with clubs spread across the county, and with teams from Dartford and Canterbury competing in the National Leagues.
We also have a Foundation League, which is intended to provide a competitive environment for new and fledgling clubs and players, who may be looking for a more social involvement before getting into a formal league structure. Many of the current KCVA clubs have a foundation team.
Volleyball has seen a significant uplift in interest following the success of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and many people have discovered what an exciting and active sport it is.
Once you have read this potted history, take a look around the KCVA website to find out a bit more about us, and contact details for your nearest club.
* 1979: the inaugural KCVA comprised 7 clubs, none of which, surprisingly, has survived to the present day. During that year, for the first time, Kent entered men’s and ladies’ teams into the south-east inter-county tournament, and a county representative attended meetings of the umbrella London and South East Volleyball Association.
* 1979/80: in those early days of the KCVA, club and team growth was little short of meteoric. In the first season 19 teams participated in the league. Orpington were the first league champions.
* In 1981, the first referees’ course in Kent took place in Ashford.
* 1982/83: by now, the league had grown to 29 participating teams, drawn from 18 clubs, with all major towns in the county represented. A fourth division (including a ladies/mixed division) was added in 1982.
* By that time, the celebrated Folkestone invitation tournament, including teams from Holland, Belgium, France and West Germany had become an annual fixture in the county.
* In 1983, the Black Lion Sports Centre, Gillingham (now Medway Park) hosted the first international match on Kentish soil, between England and Scotland (seniors and juniors). 4 teams from Kent were participating in the National League.
* 1985/86: 36 teams from 21 separate clubs were participating across 6 divisions, some divided geographically. Over 400 players were registered with the league secretary, and a Kent volleyball newsletter to clubs appeared for the first time.
* March 1987: the draw for the knock-out cup was made live on Radio Kent, and 3 representatives of the KCVA committee took part in a one hour talk-show discussion. By the following year, volleyball had been granted a regular, two minute slot every Saturday evening on the same channel.
* In November 1987 a team from the Kent Fire Brigade (representing England) played a match against a team representing the Scottish Fire Brigade at an altitude of 4,406 feet, close to the summit of Ben Nevis. England won by 3 sets to 1, raising some £6,000 for the Children in Need charity. The Kent newsletter reported plans to schedule a return match the following year on the Goodwin Sands, five miles out in the English Channel. Sadly, if that match did take place, history does not record its outcome.
* The rapid expansion of volleyball activity across the county during these years inevitably placed proportionately greater demands upon members of the KCVA committee. Frequent committee meetings, often placing a substantial travelling burden upon individual members, became necessary to resolve the increasing number of issues thrown up by a busy, multi-league fixture programme.
* Committee meeting minutes over the years reveal that many of those issues were routine and relatively mundane, but there were also unusual circumstances for the committee to preside over:
- the cancellation of a match following the discovery of two unexploded Second World War bombs in close proximity to the playing venue
- following a last-minute change of rules, prison authorities had refused to allow the participation of some of a visiting team’s players who were under the age of 16.
- the excuse that a match could not go ahead because a visiting player, on his way to the game, had fallen into a ditch and broken his ankle while taking a comfort break at the roadside
- a visiting player, on arriving for a match at a police establishment, had been arrested and detained in custody following recognition of their car number plate
- One particularly tricky issue arose from a situation when the expectant wife of one of the players (who was amongst the spectators) had suddenly gone into labour. The husband had (eventually!) been persuaded to leave the court and accompany her to hospital, thus depriving his team of a vital player. After long and anxious deliberation, the committee ruled that the match should be replayed, on the strict understanding that the same excuse would not receive favourable consideration in the future. (The baby was a boy named Marcus – where are you now??).
* The 1987/88 season witnessed what was probably the peak, in sheer terms of playing numbers, of volleyball involvement in Kent. There were some 39 participating league teams across 6 divisions, including three teams from prisons on the Isle of Sheppey. Although it has not proved possible in the period which has followed, to sustain playing numbers of that magnitude, the KCVA and the Kent League have continued in much the same format, and conventional volleyball in Kent has been supplemented by other, now well-established, forms of the game.
* From the early 1990’s, beach volleyball became a popular fixture on the golden sands of north Kent. Indeed, in 1992 Volleyball World magazine reported that volleyball had become so popular on the beach at Broadstairs that it had become necessary to increase the number of available courts from one to seven. It was recorded that, on one balmy summer evening, 140 people had turned up to play on the beach!
* From 1992, Kent became an established venue for Beach Grand Prix tournaments. A two day Grand Prix event at Margate in July 1993 attracted sponsorship worth £11,500. Major beach volleyball events on the north Kent coast have continued to the present day (most recently, Margate has hosted the Beach Volleyball Student Championships and a Volleyball England Beach Tour), and high-quality outdoor beach facilities have sprung up across the county.
* In 1998 “sitting volleyball” made its first appearance in the minutes of a KCVA AGM. Over the ensuing years, Kent has become an important driver for sitting and disability volleyball in the UK:
- In 2005, Kent acquired the first Paralympic sitting volleyball floor in the UK.
- The county now has two sitting volleyball clubs, has recently hosted the inaugural south-east sitting volleyball tournament, and has become a frequent venue for major sitting volleyball events, some with an international dimension.
- Much of this success has resulted from the seemingly tireless enthusiasm and commitment of Tom Middleton MBE who first joined the KCVA committee in August 1990 in the capacity of youth development officer.
- Tom’s fantastic efforts in the field of Volleyball development were recognised when he was the winner of the Children’s Coach of the Year Award at the UK Coaching Awards 2012.
* An important component of Tom’s success has been the excellent financial and administrative support from the Kent Sports Development Unit (KSDU) of Kent County Council. From 1996, Kent volleyball has enjoyed the continuous support of a part-time Volleyball Development Officer, partly financed by KSDU and operating out of their offices. Steve Brown, who had been involved with Tom in junior development in Kent for some years, became the first Kent VDO in 1996, and Tom took on the post two years later. In the years which have followed, Tom has taken responsibility for a vast number of initiatives, too many to enumerate, in the areas of junior, beach and disability volleyball, not only in Kent but also across the UK. He has rightly been described as a fantastic ambassador for volleyball, and Kent has been fortunate to benefit from his services.
* 1988 onwards: As is often the case with many sports, individual clubs have dominated Kentish volleyball for periods of time. In the early years of the Kent League, Orpington and Folkestone tended to share the spoils. For a period of five years from 1988, with the exception of one season, Sheppey VC were Premier Division champions and knockout cup winners.
* That period coincided with the domination of the Kent Ladies Division, for five out of six years, by Orpington Ladies VC.
* 2000 onwards: Honours since the turn of the millennium have been spread more widely, with men’s honours having been shared mainly between Strood, University of Kent and Canterbury VCs, and with Dartford Ladies VC having taken the ladies’ division in 4 seasons out of 6.
* It is probable, however, that no Kent club will ever come close to the success of Tonbridge VC which, over 8 seasons between 1993 and 2000, won each of the League’s Premier Division and the KCVA Knockout Cup on 7 occasions.
* The strength and success of individual clubs have been reflected on a wider stage. Men’s and Ladies teams have achieved numerous honours at south-east regional tournaments, county cup competitions (Kent ladies on at least two occasions), and EVA Trophy competitions.
* Nor has the KCVA neglected the opportunity to host senior and junior international matches within the county, commencing with that between GB and Australia senior men at Canterbury in 1993, and since followed by many other international tournaments.
* Tom Middleton’s extensive stint on the KCVA committee has by no means been unique. A remarkable feature of the committee’s life has been the length of service put in by several of its members. To this, in no small measure, can be attributed the many achievements of the KCVA over the past 30 years, and it is appropriate that the outstanding contribution of particular individuals should be acknowledged.
* Following his resignation as KVA secretary in 1980, Stan Hastie remained active in Kent volleyball for many years, as youth development officer and referees representative, prior to his untimely death. Stan was also responsible for putting together a team of youngsters from Kent, playing under the name of Kent Colts, to give them the opportunity to play at National League level.
* The post of secretary was then filled by Folkestone’s Ian Parker until 1991, when Ian Ruddock (at first on a joint basis and subsequently alone) took on the responsibility. And he is still going strong, more than 20 years later! His contribution to the efficient and effective organisation of the KCVA’s affairs cannot be overstated.
* Even greater longevity of service can be claimed by Graham Goodwin who has now completed more than 28 unbroken years on the committee in the capacities of fixtures and results secretary, or registration secretary, or both.
* Dave Lockyer also completed 20 years as a committee member, most recently in the capacity of treasurer. The reins have now been picked up by Tim Bown, with Dave moving on to devote more of his time to National Hospital Radio – something he has been involved with even longer than volleyball!
* Nick Pain’s involvement with Kent volleyball dates back to the early 1970’s. In 1995 Nick received a Kent County Council Coach of the Year award, and has served on the KVA committee since 1986, most recently as coaching representative.
* It is also appropriate to recognise the steady hand that has been the Association’s Chairman since its inception way back in 1979. Jim Baker has stood at the helm through the very early growth period and the subsequent ups and downs. Jim’s wise judgement and good humour have served the association well over the many years of his Chairmanship, and may there be many more to come. Jim also occupies the post of South East Volleyball Association Treasurer, just to give himself a bit of variety, of course……..
But the Association is keen to move forward, and is always keen to encourage new blood to join the KCVA committee, so they can help shape the future of the sport in Kent. There is a balance to be struck between the energy and enthusiasm of youth, and the experience which comes with ‘a certain age’ (we have plenty of the latter, and would dearly love some more of the former!).