Ivo Dobra – a Libero’s lot

Interview with Ivo Dobra, Richmond Docklands libero

Ivo, how did you start to play volleyball?
I was first playing football. From four years old, all the way up to 15. When you’re from a small school, obviously you have to play multiple sports. And then I just gave volleyball a go. And then my teacher said, oh, you know, you’re good, you should go and try out. There’s only one men’s team in my city (Karditsa, Greece), my dad knew a lot of people, so he knew the coaches. I tried and then for one year, I played both football and volleyball competitively, which was hard. And then I just chose volleyball.

What’s the main difference between volleyball in Greece and England?
In Greece, it was always a lot of people who came to watch, people who maybe weren’t interested in volleyball. It’s just going to see sports for entertainment. I hope volleyball in the UK evolves because it’s a really big sport and hopefully we’re going to see England in the European Championships and hopefully something like that happening in the future.
Do you know that your family name, Dobra, means good.
Yes, in any Eastern European language, I know.

How do you become libero, did you play it from the beginning?
Oh, no. My first position initially was middle because I was the tallest one in my squad. And then I worked, I played a lot of beach, so then my passing improved and then I got moved to outside. After some time my coach said that he wanted to promote me to play with the men’s team. He told me you’re good, but if you want to play at the highest level, you will play as a libero. I remember that conversation. There would always be a taller guy, a stronger and physically bigger than you. So if you want to play high level, you have to go as libero. Then I tried it, I liked it and then I stuck with it.

What do you love about being a libero and playing volleyball?
I always loved and play football. Libero is the goalkeeper of the team, he’s in similar positions because you don’t always touch the ball, and you’re not always involved in the play. I would more or less compare it with being someone in the midfield doing the dirty work. You always have to look after someone’s mistakes. You always have to look after someone’s play, and actions, and try to correct anything. You’re sort of guiding and directing the play without actually being involved in the play and it’s just something intriguing.

So you’re trying to read the game and predict the future?
No, not to predict the future, but you will see small gaps that exist in the opponents and for that split second that you have between plays, you can tell the attackers, I saw this. If you want to go after it, you can give them some. It’s not advice because you’re not in their position. You can’t make the decision for them, but you can give them some heads up, some pointers or something that you see that they might not see. It’s not exactly predicting the future, but it’s more of, you know, seeing things from the outside. It’s the same as a coach, but it’s on the court. Men’s volleyball is such a hard sport at the highest level because within 10 seconds after the serve, it’s finished super quick. You can’t defend everything.

What is the hardest thing about being libero?
Staying concentrated. You’re not involved in the play always, you can’t cover the whole court. So staying concentrated and in 25 points, like if they serve at your team 25 times if you touch the ball more than five times as a libero, then that’s good. Otherwise, it’s a good allocation of service. So it’s staying concentrated and always being ready to go and always your touch, always having to be perfect every time you go.

Tell us about Richmond, how did you get here and what do you think about the team this season?
I joined last January mid-season just after Christmas. I only came to the UK four years ago. So I didn’t even know volleyball existed in the UK, to be honest. But slowly some digging here and there and then I found a few teams and then I joined a couple of lower national division teams. I played there in NBL, division Two and then while playing volleyball I met some people. And then last summer they did the Summer Games, a good way of sort of recruiting people, providing high-quality volleyball games around London. I went there and then I met the coach Marcel and I started training here. Richmond is a big club, one of the biggest in England I would say in terms of people involved in playing. And Richmond Docklands men’s Super League team is part of it. So being a part of it is just nice. It’s always good to play for a big and historic club like Richmond.

Can you say something special about the Richmond team? What’s different compared to other clubs?
I haven’t been to many clubs, it’s just something that sticks to me. With Marcel and then with Andy, and then all of the people involved in Richmond is just a lot of expertise, a lot of experience in volleyball. So it’s good to get advice from people that have been in my shoes for a long time and I have played for my position a long time. It’s just good guidance coming from the top to the bottom, like mentoring.

We hope our interview will be read by some players from our junior teams. Could you give them advice on how to be a good volleyball player? How to be a good libero?
I can’t say about how to be a good libero because I’m still personally evolving. I don’t think I’ve reached my maximum potential as a player. But keep your head down, just work hard. Don’t get down when things go wrong. Stay calm and stay concentrated. Trust your coaches and trust people that you know have been in the game for a long time.

Jared Uhlir – my volleyball life

Jared Uhlir is Richmond Docklands’ setter and vice-captain. He sat down with Stas Fatieiev to talk about his volleyball life.

How did you start playing volleyball?
I started playing volleyball when I was probably around 9 or 10. I kind of felt that it came 100% from my mother, she was a Division One NCAA volleyball player in the USA. I just wanted to be like my mom. I remember we started with a balloon, and then as it kept going, it just became something that came easily to me. I came from a very athletic family, like my uncles and my father, most of them all played for the University of Nebraska for American football. So that’s a Division One program. My grandfather was a basketball player. I just think that the older I get, I keep looking at my family and it all comes back to them. My grandfather actually became more of a father figure because he was the one that had to take care of me because my parents were young and working, and I was their first.

Tell us about your volleyball routine when you were a teenager
I just kept working and my mom on little skill sets that by the time I was in middle school, so around 12 to 13, I could play with our varsity girls. And at that time we were sending Division One recruits out of our very small high school in the middle of Nebraska.
But Nebraska has always been a staple for women’s volleyball. Jordan Larson is one of the best outsides in the world. She helped the women’s USA team win their first gold Olympic medal. And she came from a smaller town in Nebraska than I did. And so I’ve always been inspired by females, especially female athletes. I don’t know maybe it’s also being the gay part is that there was this men seem to always look down upon us, the girls and the gays. I kind of told myself I didn’t know for the longest time that men even play volleyball because it wasn’t a thing.

So when I look back from, like my childhood and my youth, I realise how lucky I was. I only really played four major tournaments in my whole teenage years but ended up at a Division One program. After my sophomores for my second year I became the starter

What’s the main difference between volleyball in the USA and in England?
The major difference is the culture behind it. I think at home, whether it’s sports or in life, there’s always someone there to take your spot. Like there’s never a certainty they will replace you because at the end of the day if you’re not putting in the work, they’re going to stop investing in you and there’s someone else that will want to do what you fail to want to do.
I think that if you look at American culture around any athlete it’s revered by people in the public eye especially if you succeed like the amount of advice Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps give. I always say that athletes are the modern gladiators. Yes, we’ve been watching great humans do marvellous things and we went from the ancient Romans and Greeks killing each other, to making it a game. So that’s really no different.

What do you think about Richmond Docklands team atmosphere?
The reason I chose Richmond was one I thought Marcel’s coaching was very parallel to coaches in the US, I think that is the style. I like the aggression, the intent, and all of that preparation. And then when I came to the summer trainings, I finally saw what I’ve been looking for everywhere in England, a group of guys that are willing to fight for it.
We don’t really know if we’re going to be successful. But if we don’t try, and we aren’t willing to go up against and go to battle, then what’s the point of doing it?

What do you think about our team?
I think that we’re growing together as a weird little family. I think volleyball is one of the hardest team sports out there because we rely at least on two people. But each person, like my mother, you always used to say, you’re only as good as your weakest person on the floor. So you could have an Olympian on your team and you can still lose because he can’t do everything. He has to have support. And so that’s where I think we have that fight.

And I think that deep down if you can conquer your fear of letting others down and support each other and create that family dynamic. But I always use the kind of mafia style at home is that, you know, they can pick on their family but the moment you step in and you try to mess with family, it’s now you have the whole family on you. And that’s the kind of mentality I use. I guess that’s how my family operates as well.

According to statistics, you and Vitor are two of the best servers in the team. And also from the Volleyball England stats you’re one of the top setters of the Super League. So tell us your secrets, how do you do your job on the ground?
My secrets? I do what I’m asked to do and what is needed. I think accolades and titles are overrated. I like to say that they’re for the fans, for the federations, for people. But as an athlete, you have a job to do and people are relying on you to do that job. And so my secret is that you remove your ego because your ego is the thing that tells you. And I’m not necessarily talking about egotistical as an ego. I’m talking about wanting to prove something to someone.
And at those moments your ego tells you that I need to beat them because they hit the ball harder at me. So I must hit the ball harder at him to prove a point. And in moments like those, that’s where you lose. And I say, I’ve been trying to come up with a good phrase for this that’s short and sweet. I say in times of stress, you don’t listen to your ego, you listen to your logic. And it’s very important to understand objectives and what you’re supposed to do, because in those moments that is what brings you to prosperity in my opinion.

What do you want to say to the young players who are just starting to play?
This might add another 5 minutes. Here we go. My biggest thing is the vision that you hold for yourself, whether it’s as an athlete or in life, is something that I find very sacred and divine, almost.
Because no matter how you try to explain what you see for yourself to someone else, they’ll never understand. You’ll never be able to explain it and they’ll never fully understand. And I think a lot of people in this world, and I, even for me, for a moment in time, gave up on that vision I saw for myself.
And so along this road, the quotes that are big right now is that your belief and expectations set your tone for your reality. So whatever you believe about yourself, whatever your expectations are for yourself, we’ll eventually make the world you live in. So if you always think that everything’s bad, the only thing that we’ll find you is bad, and but vice versa.

If you think I can do this, I’ll find a way to do this. Because at the end of the day, we all know that this world is very, very painful. There’s a lot of struggle and a lot of suffering. But at the end of it, if that’s the true case, then that means that you have to do something that is worth fighting for, that makes the pain all worth it.

And that’s the only thing that is that vision. And I believe that whatever God you believe in, whatever higher power gave you this image in your head, this thought, this is what I could be if I went down this path. And I think that’s part of our purpose is to discover what that is. And then as you go along this road, it’s very important to understand that whatever you give is what you get.

So once you start to find your purpose, it’s almost like self-actualization. When you start to self-actualize and that’s the psychology term for it. When you start to self actualize, then innately you become prone to help others do the same because at the end of the day then it becomes. So what you give is what you get.

And so and then my last big quote I guess I would say is that the key to success is force correction, the past. So every time you come up with an obstacle, you have to understand that hard things make you better. It’s not that your end goal is changing, it’s that you have to reassess. Because like I always say, if everything was fine, you would never change.

My grandfather said if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So in theory if we are never presented with challenges, we’ll never readjust and we’ll never grow. So if you can accept the dark sides of what you know, you know the anxiety, the fear. Like fears are just doorways to what you want to become. And the only way to overcome your fear is to go through it. And it’s a very hard concept to understand. First, because it’s scary and the unknown scares all humans. That’s why we have hundreds of different religions trying to tell us what happens after we die. But regardless, we don’t know. You know it’s an unknown.

OK, the last four quick fire questions.

Your favourite book?
The Wim Hof Method
Favourite movie?

Favourite place?
I don’t know, maybe a beach somewhere.

Who is your favourite athlete?
Kobe Bryant. Volleyball specific I still think Jordan Larson is, and will always be. Larson, just because of the small town in Nebraska. I always wanted to be the male counterpart to her.

A Historic Win for Richmond Volleyball Club

The weekend of April 23-24 saw Richmond Volleyball Club make history. The Club took home an unprecedented seven medals in the National Volleyball Championships at the National Volleyball Centre in Kettering. 

Richmond Volleyball Club qualified for seven national championship finals: Under 15s, Under 16s, Under 18s Girls and Boys and the Men’s Cup. They took home a clean sweep of gold medals in all categories entered.

ANDY HOPPER Club Chairman, says: 

“To qualify teams in all six age group finals was an amazing achievement but then to return from Kettering with an unprecedented six junior gold medals was simply epic. And after many years of success at junior level, securing the club’s first senior trophy in the men’s cup was another astounding victory. The support we had all weekend was extraordinary and played a massive part in our success. Thanks to all the parents and supporters who travelled to Kettering and made it feel like home. The first season after the pandemic has been incredibly hard for everyone and I’m so proud of all the players, coaches, team managers and volunteers who have made these incredible results possible”.

The Men’s National Cup Final is the prime knockout title in the Volleyball England competition calendar. More than 50 teams entered this season’s Men’s tournament, competing at local, regional, and national level. The Cup Final on April 23 saw two of the country’s top teams Richmond Docklands and Newcastle Staffs battle it out on court. With the first two sets under their belt, Richmond found themselves 19-11 down in the third.  But some tactical adjustments by coach Marcel Sivak and some determined play by his players saw Richmond secure a 27:25 third set victory and the title.

Men’s Cup Final Photo: Phil Gibbin

The Junior Grand Prix, which started in January, saw a record number of 309 teams split into two tiers competing in qualifying matches up and down the country. Richmond had entered five boys’ and 13 girls’ teams. From the start of the tournament, Richmond juniors topped each stage, consistently winning their pools in all age groups and securing their place in finals.

Under 15 Boys and Girls. National Champions Photo: Phili Gibbin
Under 16 Girls’ Champions Photo: Steve Smith/sandsphotos.co.uk
Under 16 Boys’ Champions Photo: Steve Smith/sandsphotos.co.uk

On Saturday, Richmond’s Under 16s girls and boys were on top form, they played consistently well and didn’t lose a single set. The U15s followed suit on Sunday morning. The Sunday afternoon championship finals proved a little tougher for Richmond’s Under 18 boys and girls. There was a lot of pressure on the Richmond players to keep up their string of successes and some strong rivals as Richmond boys faced IBB Polonia Academy whilst Richmond girls faced Urmston Grammar. The matches got off to a shaky start for Richmond with a loss for both the boys’ and girls’ teams in the first set. In the second set both Richmond teams got back on track, calmed their nerves, and started to show how well they could play, both teams sealed their victory in the fourth set.

PETER SOCZEWKA Men’s Junior Coach says:

“It has been hugely satisfying seeing Richmond Volleyball junior teams competing and playing their best volleyball this season at the national finals. Our rivals Polonia Academy and Urmston Grammar showed great volleyball on the day, but it was not enough to beat our teams. Now most of our juniors will move to the beach training to improve technical skills and agility which would hopefully allow them to be successful in the next indoor season”.

This year’s tournament was the first time in two years that clubs could take to the national stage and compete in the National Championships, as the 2019/20 season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

MIKE KEEFE Women’s/Juniors Girls Division Manager says:

“This has been an unprecedented year for Richmond Volleyball with post-Covid demand leading to a 40% rise in the number of volleyball players we have had training this season. Volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and getting as many players on court as possible post various lockdowns was our number one priority along with continuing to develop the talent already present within the club. After making it to the National Finals in 2020, only for these to be cancelled due to the first lockdown, we were hungry to get back to the top of all three Junior competitions two years on. The coaches and teams did not disappoint winning Gold in the U18, U16 and U15 categories which is a first for the club and hasn’t been done by any other club for several decades. We are very proud of the players, coaches and team managers and would like to thank all the parents, volunteers, and venues for their unwavering support in our return to the highest levels of the sport.”

Under 18 Girls Photo: Phil Gibbin
Under 18 Boys Photo: Steve Smith/sandsphotos.co.uk

Richmond Volleyball Club celebrates its 30th year this summer 

Founded in 1992, Richmond Volleyball Club provides indoor and beach volleyball for players of all ages and abilities across West London and Surrey. It has several senior men’s and women’s teams competing in the national, regional, county, and local leagues. 

This season’s wins make Richmond Volleyball Club the most successful Volleyball Club at junior level in England. Its thriving junior division offers training for 10-year-olds and above and over the past five years the club has developed a track record of producing quality athletes for Volleyball England’s talent pathway. Later this Summer four Richmond players will be vying for the number one spot to represent their country in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.  Look out for Richmond players: Javier Bello, Joachin Bello, Enrique Bello and Katie Keefe.

MARCEL SIVAK Club Secretary concludes:

I am very proud of what the club has managed to achieve this season. I am immensely grateful to all the players and coaches for their hard work and enormous dedication. Without their endless dedication, none of this would happen. This season is proving to be a successful and a historical one on the court, but it is important to highlight that it has been an excellent example of teamwork also off the court and behind the scenes, as it was the teamwork and sacrifice that carried this team through some challenging times to the successful finish. It is a great place to be but equally the success offers new opportunities for the club that we should look to explore with similar dedication and hard work in the coming months.

Scores from the Volleyball England National Cup Finals:

Men’s National Cup Final | Newcastle Staffs vs Richmond Docklands | 0-3 (23-25; 19-25; 25-27)

U18s Boys National Championships Final | Richmond vs IBB Polonia Pro Volley | 3-1 (22-25; 25-11; 25-15; 25-21)

U18s Girls National Championships Final | Richmond vs Urmston Grammar | 3-1 (20-25; 25-12; 25-18; 25-17)

U16s Boys National Championships Final | Richmond vs Urmston Grammar | 3-0 (25-17; 25-16; 25-22)

U16s Girls National Championships Final | Richmond vs Urmston Grammar | 3-0 (25-10; 25-23; 25-10)

U15s Boys National Championships Final | Richmond vs Urmston Grammar | 3-0 (25-17; 25-13; 25-22)

U15s Girls National Championships Final | Richmond vs Volleyball Development Camps | 3-0 (25-21; 25-14; 25-14)

Docklands and Bucks on top

Richmond’s Men’s Division top both the National Super League and Division 1 after two Sunday victories for Docklands and Bucks.

Richmond Bucks sealed a 3-0 win (24, 18, 18) against Weymouth Beach VC to return to the top of the table.

On the other side of Kingston College Arena, Richmond Docklands were having a fiercely contested battle with Newcastle Staffs.  The visitors took the first set 25-21 but Marcel Sivak’s fought back to take a 2-1 lead.  Docklands led 15-8 in the fourth set but Staffs did not give up.  They tied the scores at 20-20 and then the crowd were treated to a ding-dong battle to the conclusion.  In the end Docklands took the set 25-23 at the first opportunity with captain David Novotny sealing the final point.

Richmond Bucks complete their 2021 fixtures with two matches next weekend.  The take on Cambridge ARU at Teddington on Saturday and then travel to City of Bristol on Sunday.




Docklands go top as Bucks win another five setter

Richmond’s Men’s Division enjoyed another winning weekend with three away victories.

Richmond Bucks defeated table toppers Team Essex Blaze SR in another thrilling five setter. Peter Soczewka’s side took a 2-0 lead but with Mihail Stoev dominating the play he dragged his team level. But Bucks had too much in the end and took a deserved 15-12 fifth set win. That leaves them second in the league behind Essex who have played two games more than Bucks.

Docklands faced another long road trip north against Leeds Gorse and Team Sunderland. The 600 mile round trip was a fruitful one with two 3-0 victories to take Marcel Sivak’s team top of the Super League. Saimir Hysa picked up both Black Knight awards after two eye catching displays.

Both Richmond teams are back in action on Sunday 12th December at Kingston College Arena. Docklands take old rivals Newcastle Staffs whilst Bucks play Weymouth Beach VC for the second time this season. Both matches start at 13:30.

Bucks celebrate



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