Volleyball team bounces back just months after facing oblivion
It is hard to believe, but just 18 months ago, the Wombourne Volleyball Team was struggling to survive.
With just seven players and no coaching staff, the future of the club, which played at Ounsdale School in Wombourne looked bleak to say the least.
But fast-forward to May 2015 and those seven members have now become 50 and the club has achieved the prestigious title of Volleyball England Club of the Year.
The dramatic change in fortunes has been attributed to a £10,000 cash injection from Volleyball England after it merged with Coseley volleyball team and moved training sessions to Dudley's College's Evolve campus.
Spokesman and player Mike Blower, who plays in the men's second team said the Wombourne club had been going for 20 years, but had seen numbers dwindle as players had moved on or left the area.
But since the move and the merger there are now up to 80 people a night training with the club as students and teachers at the college also join in with sessions.
He says the transformation is due in no small part to the partnership with the college, which had helped to open up the sport to a new younger audience, while the London Olympics in 2012 had also helped to increase interest in volleyball.
The club used the £10,000 grant to help get eight coaches qualified and haven't looked back since.
He said: "There are lots of players are people who have played volleyball before, though we have had a few come on the back of the Olympics legacy. We have got a few people experiencing it for the first time.
"Having that grant and the publicity it brought enabled us to pick up players and we get regularly contacted by players who want to get back into volleyball."
The Coseley team was also struggling before the merger - with just five players. Former Wombourne player Adam Granger, who had moved to Coseley then approached his old club asking if they could join forces.
Mr Blower said: " As Wombourne only had seven players at the time, we readily agreed.
"We were short of players on match days. I don't think we were necessarily in danger of folding as a club.
In a volleyball team you need six to play and we were down to the bare bones.
If anyone had dropped out and was not able to play, we would not have been able to field a team."
The club competes in the West Midlands Volleyball League and has a mens' team in each of the league's three mens divisions, as well as ladies teams in each of the two ladies divisions.
Of the 50 new recruits who have helped swell the numbers and save the club from extinction, approximately 28 have joined the men's section with the rest in the women's.
Mr Blower said last year, two of the men's teams were in division three, but one had since been promoted, meaning the club now has a team in each division.
There was also promotion joy for the ladies teams, with the first team moving up from division two into division one at the end of last season.
Mr Blower added the sport appeared to be growing in popularity in the West Midlands, while the top teams in the area included Birmingham University and Maiwand.
The teacher, who lives in Penn, said he had been introduced to volleyball by his brother's girlfriend Paula Jennings, whose brother Chris Jennings is one of the longest-serving Wombourne members.
Mr Blower said people who had never played before had joined, simply because they liked the sport.
Mr Blower said the award, which the club received at the National Volleyball Centre in Kettering, Mr Blower added: "It is a massive achievement. We have been told that there were 50 nominees shortlisted for the award.
"Considering that two years ago we were scraping around for players, to go from that to where we are now is a massive achievement. Even on the night, we did not expect to win, so to be named Club of the Year 2015 is tremendous."
The club used to play at Ounsdale School in Wombourne, but moved to its current base in September 2013.
The volleyball season runs from September until May.
l For more information about the club, visit www.wombournevolleyball.co.uk
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