February 2022, Articles

Beach Volleyball shifts gear thanks to Aspirational Fund

Over the past couple of decades beach volleyball athletes from New Zealand have done remarkably well on the international stage; doing it 'all by themselves' they were frequently the only team at major events without a coach or support.

The good news is that’s changing as Beach Volleyball goes into a building phase focused on achieving pinnacle event success, aided by a funding and support partnership with HPSNZ.

Beach Volleyball is one of 34 sports to benefit from HPSNZ’s new Aspirational Fund designed to enable investment in a wider range of sports with the potential to inspire more New Zealanders. Toni-Maree Carnie (Volleyball NZ’s Chief Executive) says it’s not simply the funding from HPSNZ, but ‘the entire componentry for high performance success’ provided through the partnership, that will make the difference.

“The funding is critical. The ability to have a coach, the ability to fund our athletes to travel (which always came out of their own pocket), the fact that we can put a ‘building phase’ in place. All of those things are critical components for any successful programme and we’re now able to do that with the HP funding.

“But alongside that is the support we can get. We’re still very new to this, so to know that there’s an organisation of experts and specialists sitting behind that who are able to input, give us support, feedback, and be a sounding board, is fabulous.

“As well as some of the other core components like mental skills and wellbeing. Being able to support our athletes with those areas is really useful for us.”

The sport is delighted to have one of New Zealand’s high profile beach volleyball experts return to the country as national head coach for Beach Volleyball’s High Performance Programme – Jason  Lochhead, former player, College coach in the US, and coach to the US men’s pair at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

“When I first started, the key question I asked our high performance athletes was – what do you need? what really would make a difference? The answer was always ‘a coach’,” Toni-Maree says.

“Jason has had amazing international success. So for someone like that to be keen to come back to New Zealand and to work with our athletes is brilliant. He has a really good reputation – being incredibly strong in technical and tactical play.”

Carnie is delighted that multiple critical factors have combined to put the sport and their athletes in a strong position to realise their goals.

“Our aspirations and expectations are that we will be able to medal in some international events, that we will medal in men’s and women’s at the Commonwealth Games, and that we will qualify for the Olympic Games.”

“It’s like the stars aligning – the HPSNZ partnership, having a coach like Jason interested, having some really good athletes, and internationally FIVB are committed to New Zealand as well.

“It has been a really strong set-up with all of those components. It’s really exciting to have a programme in place, to be able to take our athletes forward.”