The Shetland volleyball team, fresh off the back of the island games in Jersey, will take a giant leap into the unknown this winter because for the first time they will compete in the Scottish National League.
The development will ensure that the team plays 16 competitive matches in the coming season. That will be 15 more than they have been used to over the recent past as the only competitive fixture has been the annual inter-county against Orkney.
Scottish Volleyball took steps over the summer to restructure the leagues to improve their development pathways to allow more teams to enter the national league.
The main change is to the third division which will see teams play in a “triangular” format, meaning that three teams will each compete twice every fixture. That allows for fewer fixtures, meaning less strain on travelling for those teams who are just entering the national set-up.
Spokeman Ben Laurenson said the Shetland association had had various talks with Scottish Volleyball regarding the team’s involvement nationally since the island games in 2005.
However, Scottish Volleyball had in the past been quite parochial. Until the recent past very little had happened outside of the central belt and they had simply been unable to offer a place to the Shetland team.
But with the appointment of new development officers and a full-time competition co-ordinator things are changing and Laurenson said the new league structure was great news for Shetland.
He said: “The new format also will not mean one-way traffic to the mainland. The fixtures have already been released and, it is hoped that, with plenty of lead-in time teams from the mainland will be organised enough to make it to Shetland for the home fixtures. This is of course dependant on reasonable travel costs from Shetland’s lifeline services.”
Shetland’s first fixture will be on 24th October in Edinburgh with games against NUVOC and the University of Edinburgh.
Most of the fixtures will be four to five weeks apart and it is hoped that this will take a lot of the strain off the squad’s travelling commitments. However, with each fixture requiring a whole weekend away Laurenson said it expected that more players would be brought in to the squad.
He said: “With a greater number of games every year the team should go from strength to strength. The aim of the team is to continue to compete nationally with a view to returning to the island games at Gotland in 2017.
“The development of the squad and its players has already helped young Edward Oldbury to selection for the Scotland team for the UK School Games in Manchester.
“The games started yesterday and will run till Sunday. This will see Oldbury compete internationally against teams from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”