DMU student wins 'Officer of the Year' award from Volleyball England

Computer Science graduate James Morris has been recognised by Volleyball England with an award for his efforts in leading and co-ordinating opportunities in recreational volleyball at DMU.


James, who regularly volunteers as a Higher Education Volleyball Officer (HEVO), was awarded ‘HEVO of the Year’ at the Volleyball England Annual Awards for 2019.

The HEVO programme offers university students a voluntary position to work with Volleyball England and their university, creating opportunities to encourage new players into the sport.

James won the award for his success in encouraging more than 60 staff and students at DMU to participate in his ‘welcoming and fun’ weekly recreational volleyball sessions. He has also recruited more than 40 members for the university volleyball club, the highest number the club has seen in recent years.

On top of this, James has extended the impact of his efforts in delivering volleyball to creating partnerships in university sport and delivering talks on important topics such as mental health. 


We caught up with James to hear more about how he got involved supporting recreational sport through both the HEVO and DMUactive schemes:

How did you get into volleyball?

“I stumbled onto volleyball during the Rio Olympics on TV in summer 2016. The men's finals were happening right then and I couldn't switch over because it was so exciting. I had always been very tall compared to most people around me and I thought I'd give it a go when I started at university that year. I was just glad DMU supported it at all since volleyball is rare to find in the UK.”

What is the best part of the sport?

“Part of why I enjoy it is down to the people you play with. The friends I've made while playing in a team have become invaluable and even though I’ve graduated I will be coming back to see how the team does next year. Although I can't deny that practising one specific technique for weeks to have it finally work perfectly at the most crucial time does make you feel invincible!”

Why would you recommend it as a sport for someone looking to get active?

“To me, sports are the easiest way to get active. Exercise improves your general mood and adds some structure to your day. Volleyball is an intense sport but is incredibly rewarding, I made more friends than ever because of volleyball and it became somewhere I could unwind and relax after long university days. It was hard for me to find a place where I fit in, volleyball gave me a place that I was comfortable and as a result it did wonders for my self-confidence, mental health and how I view myself.”

What encouraged you to become a HEVO?

“I was nominated by the previous HEVO for the role. It was fortunate that DMU already offered a similar programme in the form of DMU Activators. Both roles involved the promotion of volleyball at the university and increasing the number of people playing sport. Volleyball isn't very well known in the UK as students rarely play in school and don't have many opportunities to play. My aim was to convince people who normally wouldn't consider volleyball that it is a sport definitely worth pursuing.”

How did you run the sessions and what aspects of the sport did you focus on for recreational players?

“The first thing I found out from the recreational players was what they wanted from the sport. Many said that they just wanted some fun to unwind after a week of study and stress. I urged people to bring their friends so during the first few sessions when everyone was a stranger, no one would be uncomfortable coming to play. The sessions revolved around having as much play time in groups. We concentrated on the most satisfying aspects of the sport, such as spiking the ball, but still aimed to get the new players at a decent level to be able to play in games.”

How does it feel to have won the award?

“Honestly, I was surprised that I had won. But remembering all the people who had got into volleyball as a result of the sessions that I was able to run as well as the tournament that took place thanks to the help from the DMUsport office made it clear that DMU was a pretty exciting place for volleyball in 2018/2019. I'm proud to have won the award with the help of DMU Volleyball Club and the DMU Sport Office, with a special thanks to Emilie Fairnington for her help throughout the year.”

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into sport at university?

“The best thing I can say is to try everything. Every club runs free sessions every week for any student or staff member to attend. Even if you think you wouldn't really enjoy a sport, it's worth trying because it could become something you are incredibly passionate about.”



Posted on Thursday 1 August 2019

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