Dis-Maties was informed in February that the first ParaVolley or “Sitting Volleyball” introductory session would be held at the DF Malan hall, and in all eagerness I went to participate. As a member of the Dis-Maties committee I am always eager to participate and advocate and sometimes I am reminded of the cornerstone of our student society which is simply enabling change. One often gets so caught up in advocating for the rights of people that you sometimes need to be reminded of the small things. This event was spectacular in its demonstration of how empowering a positive environment can be for abled and disabled alike. That maybe we all needed a bit of this change in our lives and our way of thinking.
The sport was introduced with a brief presentation and everyone was able to join for a practice session where we were shown how to play the sport. A competition between participating groups was then held to give everyone a chance to try out their new found skill. I use the word skill lightly in that I never knew it could be so hard to play a sport sitting down. The part of me that was never really any good at sports in school thought how hard could it possibly be, Ill simply just sit there and catch a ball. Aside from my crippling fear of things hurdling at my face, I have to say that the event taught me so much I didn’t know. Its really good exercise, regardless of the fact that you are sitting down its still a fast paced action sport with lots of movement, tactics and game strategy. Its also an inclusive sport for both disabled and enabled alike and is played from club up to Paralympic level.
British Paralympic athlete, Anton Raimondo introduced the sport to us. Its very similar to how you would play traditional volleyball except you play on a slightly smaller court, with a lowered net whilst sitting down. Raimondo and his partner, Tina, formed ParaVolley South Africa as a means to build Sitting Volleyball in South Africa as it has not yet received much exposure in SA. Their goal is to see SA compete in the World Championships or even the Paralympic Games.
Players from the Cape Town ParaVolley club came and showed us how the sport can be played and amazingly enough it is one of the few sports where people missing a leg have an advantage as it is easier for them to move around. I for one realized how extremely taxing it was for me to take note of where I was going. Trying to move myself across the floor with my hands, and having said hands back in the air in time to stop the ball to defend our part of the court takes some skill. But apart from all the nitty gritty I have to say it is the first time in 26 years, or since my dreaded days of playing sports at school, that I have played a group sport where I did not feel left out somehow. This sport is unique in that both physically impaired and abled alike can play together which in itself does form a great platform for inclusivity. Although in my personal opinion I think what makes it more unique is the people. The people in the group that have overcome obstacles, that have empowered themselves to reach a greater goal, and will make you feel that you can also reach for success in your own life.
Anyone is welcome to join the sport, whether abled or physically impaired and no volleyball experience is needed. Training will take place every week. Go check out their Facebook page ParaVolley South Africa or contact Anton at [email protected] Be the change you want to see in the world and join Maties ParaVolley.
– Helena Wiehahn