Two young beach volleyball players from South Queensferry will be the first to represent Team Scotland in the sport at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.
Emma Waldie, 16, and Jennifer Lee, 17, have spent the past 11 years fine-tuning their skills at City of Edinburgh Volleyball Club.
They have been training intensively at the gym and on their local beach in St Andrews to prepare for the Games, which take place from 18-23 July.
Emma said: “Being first makes the whole experience that bit more meaningful for us. Although there are no expectations to live up to, we are delighted to be the team to set the standards for future Scotland Beach Volleyball squads.”
Jennifer said: “It feels like we have achieved so much as a pairing already to get here, which makes me feel quite overwhelmed!”
Indoor to beach
Emma and Jennifer were Under-18 Scottish Beach Volleyball champions in 2016 and have a wealth of experience in the indoor game, having been part of the Scotland Under-19 squad who took bronze at the 2016 SCD European Championships.
The girls have cut their competitive teeth in the past few years as a beach pairing, which has helped them develop their skills. Beach volleyball is entirely different from indoor volleyball; there are only two players as opposed to six, there are no substitutions and the size of court is different as are some of the rules. The pair have had to work on their physical strength, improving their speed, power and mental toughness.
“It’s just a bonus that Emma and I were close friends before we started playing beach, so it was easier and more exciting going in with an already strong bond.”
City of Edinburgh Volleyball Club received support from the sportscotland National Lottery-funded Direct Club Investment in 2015 and won the glittering prize of Local Club of the Year at the 2016 Sunday Mail and sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards.
The project has been an excellent example of partnership working in practice between sportscotland, the club, Active Schools Queensferry Cluster and Scottish Volleyball.
The club has more than doubled its youth academy membership in the first two years of the DCI projects and won Active Schools Edinburgh's Most Engaged Club of the Year award as well as the national prize.
The DCI investment was used to employ six part-time volleyball coaches to deliver new training sessions at Queensferry High School and Kirkliston Primary School and to drive recruitment and increase membership.
Providing higher quality and more professional coaching and having clear pathways from school and beginner level to club and national level are ways in which the club is focusing on sustainability and growth.
Ian Brownlee, head coach of City of Edinburgh's youth programmes, said: “We are delighted that the youth volleyball programmes we have established in Queensferry and cluster have given the athletes the development and support that they need to compete on the world stage.
"The DCI funding has allowed City of Edinburgh Volleyball Club to invest in young talented athletes like Emma and Jenny, allowing them to develop as coaches and leaders and in turn they help the club by coaching a new generation of players in the local high school and primary schools, and help our sport grow."
Find out more
Keen to get involved in volleyball? Visit the Scottish Volleyball website.
Direct Club Investment
In 2013, sportscotland announced that a £10 million funding stream would be made available to clubs across Scotland to support club development over a period of two to four years, giving clubs time to embed significant developmental change.
Alongside DCI investment, sportscotland created regional development posts to directly support the local sport clubs. This joined-up approach is reaping rewards four years into the programme, improving the quality of school to club to performance pathways and enabling Scottish Governing Bodies of sport to work more closely with their member clubs, and with local partners, to improve the opportunities for clubs to flourish.
Find out more about Direct Club Investment at the sportscotland website.