Volleyball was one of the sports at this year’s World Transplant Games which took place in Malaga, Spain from 26 June to 2 July, a multi-sport event for athletes who have survived either a heart, lung, kidney, pancreas, liver, small bowel or bone marrow transplant. The 175 athletes making up Team Great Britain and NI returned home with an amazing 360 medals. This marks a fantastic achievement in a high-profile and competitive sports arena.
Team GB&NI had two teams competing in the volleyball tournament at the Games, and Scottish volleyball was well represented, with three players in the squad: Peter Hickey, Rory Wilson and Millie Stobie Platts. Peter and Millie had the distinction of being the oldest and youngest squad members, while Rory and Millie, at 6’10 and 4’6 respectively, were the tallest and smallest GB&NI players.
In addition to the three players from Scotland, the squad was coached by Bill Stobie. Bill is head coach at Nuvoc VC in Edinburgh, and is also on the coaching staff for the Scottish Men’s National Programme. He got involved with the transplant team after his daughter Millie, who plays for Nuvoc in the Junior Scottish Volleyball League, was invited to join the squad. The squad had high hopes of bringing a medal home from Malaga, having finished fourth at the last three World Games but were up against tough opposition from more established volleyball nations like the Netherlands, Italy, USA, Canada and Argentina. However, the standard of play was much higher than at any previous Games and, despite some close and competitive matches, neither of the GB&NI teams managed to progress from the group stages to the semi-finals. The tournament was eventually won by the Netherlands, who beat Argentina in a closely fought high quality final. The GB&NI players all agreed they had played better than they had played before. And, while they may not have won any medals, the players were all proud to have competed for their country, and proud to have raised the profile of transplant sport, organ transplantation and the importance of joining the organ donor register.
Bill said “I am so pleased with how well the teams performed in Malaga, even though we didn’t get the results we had hoped for. Volleyball is a minority sport in this country and the pool of players for this tournament is obviously limited to those who have had a transplant. So, as you can imagine there was a wide range of ages, abilities and experience represented! The squad included regular and ex-club players, but it also included recreational players and relative newcomers to the sport. I have, though, been so impressed with the commitment the players have shown, and how hard they all worked as we have prepared for the Games. Every training session as well as the trip to Malaga was self-funded, so we only had three training sessions and one training weekend together, but it was fantastic to see how well the teams gelled and how much they improved their skills and game play. We knew we were up against it once we saw the standard of the other teams, but we went out with a positive attitude and just tried to play our game. The teams both rose to the challenge and competed well against strong opposition. Peter, Rory and Millie were a credit to Scottish volleyball, and the squad was a credit to volleyball in the UK as whole. Our aim will be to build on this performance for the next World Games in 2019, hosted by Newcastle.”
Following on from the Games in Malaga, the volleyball players will be in action again representing their respective hospital teams at the British Transplant Games which take place in Scotland in North Lanarkshire later this month (27 to 30 July), with the volleyball taking place on the morning of Friday 28th at Wishaw Sports Centre. The opportunity to volunteer at the Games, at the volleyball tournament or at other sports, is currently advertised on the SportScotland website: https://sportscotland.org.uk/jobs/vacancies/british-transplant-games-volunteer-opportunities/.
The GB&NI volleyball squad are already looking ahead to the next World Games in 2019, and will be training hard over the next two years, and hoping to improve on this year’s performance. Any volleyball players (current or former) of any standard who have had a transplant and would like to get involved in the team should contact Bill Stobie.
(1) The Scottish contingent: Bill Stobie (coach), Rory Wilson, Millie Stobie Platts and Peter Hickey.
(2) Millie and Peter bring youth and experience to Team GB&NI!
(3) The long and the short of it: Rory and Millie discuss tactics during the match against the Netherlands.