Encouraging young girls to have the confidence and determination to get involved with sports is not easy. In the UK, there is a significant disparity between the number of men and women regularly exercising – a disparity which doesn’t exist in many other countries. Campaigns like This Girl Can are working to combat the nationwide issue, in an effort to “get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size and ability”. That’s exactly what South Bucks Volleyball Club are doing too and we are very happy to be sharing and celebrating their incredible story.

South Bucks Volleyball Club

Where did it all begin?

When Ohio-born Lauren Tucker agreed to start volleyball coaching for young girls in her local area, she couldn’t imagine that, four years later, it would lead to a UK programme that would introduce hundreds of girls to the sport.

When Lauren first moved from the U.S. to the UK, she found that the sports provision over here was significantly lacking. In particular, Lauren’s daughter, Isabelle, was very disappointed with the limited volleyball opportunities. She’d grown accustomed to training 6-8 hours a week with the Orlando Volleyball Academy and playing in the US national championships.

Keen to keep her daughters interested in sports, Lauren and her partner took matters into their own hands. In April 2016, they started to run coaching sessions at Isabelle’s school, Wycombe High, and had a huge surge of interest from students and teachers alike.

“For me, it’s all about empowering these young girls; getting them playing sport and feeling confident about themselves during what can be the problematic pre- and early teen years. I wanted to create an environment where no-one is worried about making mistakes. We’re we’re still playing properly competitive volleyball, not just tossing a ball around.”

What’s the programme doing now?

10 months later, the same sessions have 25-30 young girls playing volleyball on a regular basis. The programme was even extended to other local schools because of its huge success and popularity.

“The results have been amazing because we’ve got 9-16 year olds all pitching in together, laughing, shouting and high five-ing. Age is no distinction here because they’re all beginners; they’re all developing their skills from the same low base.”

South Bucks Volleyball Club

From all of these sessions, the basis of South Bucks Volleyball was born. Lauren established the club in September 2016 and they now play in the Berkshire League. Suitable for all ages and strengths, the club has a development team, an adult mixed team and a junior programme. More coaches have been brought on board and grant money has been secured and used to encourage schools to put volleyball on the curriculum.

This year, the programme has been extended to help boys as well as girls. Therefore, even more children are benefitting from building the confidence, strength and determination that playing sport gives you. In January alone, Lauren and her fellow coaches reached 700 schoolchildren through the programme. That’s a lot of new volleyball players!

“I think that volleyball has provided an outlet for many of these young girls who hadn’t yet found their favourite sport. Now they’ve found it, they’re not letting go. The same applies to the girls’ parents and their teachers; their enthusiasm has been overwhelming. This actually came as something of a surprise to me. I mistook the initial enthusiasm for typical British politeness. I assumed it would quickly peter out but I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Why do programmes like this matter?

Lack of participation in sport is a common problem for women in the U.K. Research shows that millions of women and girls are afraid to exercise because they fear being judged. Two million fewer women than men engage in regular exercise, but 75% of women say that they would like to do more exercise. Programmes like the South Bucks Volleyball Club are so important because they provide a platform for girls to get involved with sports, without fear of being judged or feeling pressured.

“In an effort to keep our daughters happy, we stumbled across a sizable, untapped market for girls’ volleyball in the region. We’ve got PE teachers attending our beginners’ courses so they can keep the programmes running. Also, we have local University students coaching on our behalf. Moreover, Volleyball England is coming down to run talent identification sessions as part of their Futures programme. And, most importantly, we’ve got hundreds of young girls playing volleyball with a smile on their face. It gets me quite emotional every time I talk about it because I’m so proud of what we’ve all achieved.”

We’re so proud to have South Bucks Volleyball Club as one of the GoRaise team and be playing a part in their fundraising, so that the team can continue inspiring young girls to get involved with sports. We are also happy to see that Lauren finds GoRaise useful to raise extra money for the club:

“GoRaise was a no brainer for us. It is a great tool set up to support our team through commercial channels our players and families are already using. There is nothing for them to lose (no cost), and only something for us to gain–so it is a great proposition!”

Every little donation helps, and with club growing up fast Lauren wants to ensure they have all the necessary equipment and resources:

“Our club is expanding so rapidly we need to make sure we have the right equipment. Examples of equipment include (but are not limited to); volleyballs, net systems, t-shirts, tournament fees. As we are a non-profit, all of our fundraising goes directly back into supporting our club.”

If you’d like to support South Bucks in their fundraising mission, you can raise funds for them every time you shop online using their GoRaise page. We can’t wait to see what the team achieve next!