“Realising how fun and sociable volleyball was kept me coming back to training each week”

Active US Volleyball Activator and BSMS student Francisca Darko will be leading our Development Volleyball sessions in the autumn term, aimed at students who are new to the sport or want to improve their game.

Fran going for the ball at an Active US social volleyball session at the campus Sport Centre.

I hadn’t heard of volleyball until year 10 of secondary school. A couple of girls in my class played for the local Willesden Volleyball Club’s youth team and they led a session for our PE class.

It was really fun and I aspired to be as good them. Maybe it was fate or perhaps it was just plain competitiveness, but I joined the same local club the week after!

My coach was really encouraging and my new team mates were so friendly. Realising how fun and sociable volleyball was kept me coming back to training each week.

The more teams I’ve been lucky to be a part of, the better my educational experience has been. I’ve learned so much, met incredible people and travelled to so many places thanks to this game; I can’t imagine how my university or college years would have been without it.

I always think if you’re going to do something, then do it well. Knowing I still have so much to learn and so many new skills to develop keeps me playing.

My sporting career hasn’t taken me to professional territory yet, but it’s given me plenty of opportunities to learn new skills and get a few qualifications under my belt. As I improved, I briefly became Captain of the Willesden Volleyball youth team and we placed 2nd at the London youth games that year, the first big sporting competition I had ever been a part of.

During my undergraduate degree at Leeds, I made the Women’s 1st team. We conquered three varsities, a conference cup, topped the BUCS league and impressed at the Student Cup. I think I’m most proud of becoming the Volleyball Club President in my final year. Looking after four teams and an additional 100 beginners and intermediates wasn’t easy, but some creativity and hard work won us most improved club of the year.

I’m now the current Chair of my home club, Willesden Volleyball, where it all began! I’m also a qualified volleyball referee. My time spent as a Volleyball England Higher Education Volleyball Officer (HEVO) last year has taught me how to create teams and organise big events.

Fran (left) taking part in an US Girls Can female fitness session at the Sport Centre.

I currently play for the Sussex Women’s Volleyball team, still reaching for the stars as a middle blocker! I’d like to become a qualified volleyball coach and give back to the sport that has given me so much.

I’ve now played volleyball for five years, and I have five years of my medical degree to complete at BSMS. I’m hoping to continue to add some more successes to my volleyball journey so watch this space!

This year, I’ll be leading Sussexsport’s Active US Volleyball Development sessions, which are open to all Sussex students who may be new to the sport or want to improve their game. Development sessions will run every Monday during term time at 4pm-5pm at the Sport Centre.

And I’m excited to be coaching students in our friendly Active US league Volleyball on a Wednesday lunchtime too. The leagues are less competitive than playing for the University’s Volleyball Club, but they still allow for that bit of friendly competition!

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