Sitting volleyball stars visit Saxmundham Middle School

PUPILS at Saxmundham Middle School got more than they bargained for when they arrived for another day of lessons on Wednesday.

Their early morning assembly was hosted by the Great Britain women’s sitting volleyball team, who then proceeded to put the youngsters through their paces in a series of 30-minute training sessions.

The team, including setter, Emma Wiggs showed the kids how to push the ball properly with their fingertips and also how to get along the floor at a rapid pace, while still sat on their bums!

When hitting or attacking the ball, players must have one “buttock” or an extension of the torso still in contact with the floor.

The event was arranged by Team GB video scout Phil Smith, who is also a school governor at Saxmundham and whose daughter Jessica is a member of the GB development squad.

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Emma, 32, who has been in a wheelchair since the age of 18 after contracting a virus that affected the nerves in her arms and legs, is one of several hopefuls desperate to make the final cut of 11 for this summer’s Paralympics in London.

“We have to get out there and spread the message about sitting volleyball and the paralympics,” said Emma, who was joined by team-mates, including Jodi Hill, Maurillia Simpson and Amy Brierly.

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“It’s about proving to people that this is not all fluffy, easy and nice and an opportunity to get us out of the house, but that it is really hard work doing what we do.

“If we don’t change peoples’ perceptions during such a big event like the Paralympics, we never will.”

Each member of the team has their own unique story from those that have suffered amputations to those born with a congenital defects and those that suffered neurological disease.

Another member of the squad was a victim of the London bombings in 2005.

“I played hockey before, but had it not been for the virus I would have not taken up sitting volleyball and I would not be wearing a GB kit now,” said Emma, a former school teacher who, along with her team-mates, is self-funded.

“We all have an opportunity to do something special. We are a brand-new team that has been made from nothing in two years and have made swift progress.

We train in excess of 25-30 hours a week and, from July, we will all be giving up our full-time jobs so we can be the best we can be in London.”

Team GB are not expected to pull up any trees in the sport this summer against some of the better team including China, Japan, Holland and Russia but the Great Britain captain is not so pessimistic.

“Seven teams taking part in the tournament have been playing for 20 years or more so technically we should be years behind,” she explained.

“But we are more than competitive and have been close to taking sets of big teams in the last two years which is phenomenal.

“We also have the home crowd cheering us on and we are confident of out-performing our expectations.”

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