Playing in the sandpit just got serious

June 9, 2006

Those who associate beach volleyball with the bikini-clad soap opera Baywatch should think again - the sport has gone academic, writes Anna Fazackerley.

The race is on to lure elite sports teams into UK universities to train for the London Olympics in 2012. Bath University confirmed this week that it would host the official camp for the UK women's beach volleyball team.

The university, which is already famous for its sports facilities, will create a tennis court-sized sandpit for the team - indoors, as the West Country cannot rely on Baywatch weather.

Ged Roddy, head of sport at Bath, said: "We appointed two volleyball players to the staff, so we have developed it as one of our focus sports.

For a sport such as beach volleyball, where not many people play, we will identify talent that might be playing in other sports." Bath will also be pitching to be the training ground of preference for more core sports, including track and field, swimming and judo.

Further north, Loughborough University is confident that it will mop up a lot of the UK Olympic activity.

Chris Earle, director of sports at the university, said: "It is essentially business as usual for us, because we already have the top athletes working out of absolutely fantastic facilities. We are already that Olympic camp.

Just look around you."

The game is tougher for universities such as Sheffield Hallam, which has a strong reputation for sports science but cannot boast world-class facilities.

Ian Maynard, a sports psychologist who heads the university's Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, said: "We are working very much with the city.

Sheffield has been designated the City of Sport. We hosted between 40 and 50 sporting events last year."

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