Beach Volleyball Olympian inspiring next generation at Queensland School

Beach Volleyball Olympian inspiring next generation at Queensland School

The second-last day of the Australian Beach Volleyball Schools Cup saw teams from around Australia battle it out for a place in tomorrow’s finals, with more than 580 students in 150 teams taking to the sand as part of VolleySlam.

A large contingent of Queensland teams are in attendance at the three-day event, including 27 from The Gap State High School accompanied by their new Program Officer and Rio Olympian, Nikki Laird.

Having represented Australia on the world stage for over a decade, Laird has recently taken up a position overseeing the development of The Gap State High School’s elite volleyball program, and is thrilled to be contributing to the sport at a grassroots level.

“The head coach of The Gap program reached out to me a few months ago about a Project Officer job that was being advertised for the volleyball program at the school,” said Laird.

“In the past the program has been managed by teachers, but we’ve got 120 kids in the program across all age groups, so I’m on board now as an extra resource to help manage it and oversee its growth.

“I only started recently, but I already think it’s such a cool space to be working in and I’m excited to see how far we can take it,” she said.

An excellence program aimed at fostering the development of talented students, Laird states that the goals of the program are not just about sport, but also equipping students with important life skills.

“The intention of the project is to build it up into this really elite filter for our young Queensland athletes,” she said. “Our short-term and long-term goals very much marry up when it comes to the program.

“We want to make sure we’re building a program that creates really elite little humans, and our priority is to ensure that whatever the kids end up doing when they leave school, regardless of if it’s volleyball, sport or something different, that they have the skills to excel.

“We’re focusing on resilience, growth mindsets, kindness, compassion and so many more things that will help set these kids up for life.

“We have high standards in regards to the elite behaviours and we know that good volleyball will come with that.”

For Laird, the opportunity to be involved in the sport at a grassroots level is one she couldn’t pass up.

“This level of volleyball is still something that I really love. School-aged kids are really excited to be out there playing, and we hope that instilling a love for the game at such a young age will really keep them involved and engaged with the sport as they grow,” she said.

“There’s a lot of really fantastic coaches in the Queensland State School system, and I think that it means really good things for the future of sport in Queensland.

“It feels really good to be able to give back in this space. Volleyball is a sport that I love, so to see young people fall in love with it too is really special,” she finished.

For Year 12 athlete Caitlin Clarke, the opportunity to be coached by Laird is not something she’s taking for granted.

“I was so excited when she came on board, I think it’s so cool that she’s at our school,” said Clarke.

“It’s so exciting to have her coaching us because she brings such a great perspective and she’s obviously got so much experience.

“To have her here with us at the Australian Beach Volleyball Schools Cup is really special, she is really helping to get the best out of us on the court. 

“It’s great to have her here and to be here with so many other teams from The Gap, it really makes you feel like you’re a part of a bigger community,” she finished.

The 2024 Australian Beach Volleyball Schools Cup continues through to Sunday when the champions will be crowned.

Click here for draws and results.

Volleyslam 2024 is supported by Experience Gold Coast and the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland.

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