Brighton volleyball trainer Kirsty Starmer is an ex Project Manager and Personal Trainer who is opening her own beach volleyball school in Worthing. Kirsty “got infected” with the beach volleyball bug just over six years ago, and has now combined her favourite hobby with work by opening Beach Volleyball School – Sussex. The school has received great interest within the beach volleyball community in Brighton. Bjournal contacted Kirsty with a few questions about her and her school.
Tell as little bit about yourself: I’m somewhere in my 30s, wife to Andy and mum to Eilidh (pronounced Aylee). I was born in Liverpool and arrived in Brighton via Shropshire, Swansea and London. I arrived in Brighton nearly 6 years ago, so certainly not a born and bred Brightonian- but it is definitely the place I call home.
What’s your background? My career has been a bit varied. I worked as a Fund Management Assistant in London, then a Project Manager, before taking time out of the corporate world to be a Personal Trainer, Nordic Walking Instructor and Specialist Copywriter before heading back to project management and finally making my leap into the world of beach volleyball coaching – unquestionably the best job ever! I get to spend time outside, in the sand, with amazing people, playing an amazing sport.
Why do you like beach volleyball so much? Now there’s a question… it’s just an amazing sport. You can be anyone from any background, with any physique and the sport will still have something for you. It’s sociable and fun and you don’t need much more than yourself and a ball to get started. It’s relatively easy to learn the basics and by the time you come to the more difficult bits, you’re already hooked. There’s a certain vibe to beach volleyball. You can’t quite put your finger on it, whether it’s the rhythm of the game, the people you play with, the beach environment… who knows? All I know is that it plays a huge part in my life and I find it strange to think that I only started playing 6 years ago.
Have you trained for a long time? I’ve played for just over 6 years. I had my first beginner’s lesson at Yellowave in Brighton, moved through the ranks of their training sessions and have just kept going, playing at Yellowave and Worthing and heading to Croyde in Devon and Tenerife for our annual training trips with Denise Austin (a well known beach volleyball trainer). Unusually, I hadn’t played any indoor volleyball while at school so I came to beach volleyball completely fresh. I learn something new with every game I play.
What inspired you to start your beach volleyball school? A few things. I had done my volleyball coaching qualifications to improve my playing, but having done a few practice sessions I discovered I really enjoy it. My experience of being coached by Denise Austin also changed everything. Denise was an international beach volleyball player and is now an international beach volleyball coach and we’re lucky enough to have her as our coach. She’s a passion-fuelled, force of nature – a whirlwind of excellence and that kind of influence rubs off.
And then, when I had my daughter, I started to think about the kind of life I wanted her to have and the only thing that made sense was beach volleyball. So I talked to Denise and she suggested I open a branch of her school in Sussex. I’m so fortunate that she believes in me, my abilities and my coaching philosophy and that I’m able to learn from her and the amazing people she has around her like Amanda Glover, who was part of the first British pairing to ever qualify for an Olympic volleyball event, achieving 9th in Atlanta in 1996. There are so many crossovers between life and beach volleyball and the school enables me to work with other people who value the same things.
Have you done any other sports? I’ve always been sporty. I played county level netball and tennis and was a county-level sprinter at school, but I lost my way with sports while I was at university. Other than gym-going and running, beach volleyball has been the first sport since school that I’ve really got into in any great way.
Would you say Brighton is a sporty town? I would say Brighton is a sporty town if that’s what you’re after. There are clubs and groups for almost anything you could possibly want and if sports are your thing then yes, it’s a sporty place.
What’s your favourite thing about Brighton? The fact that there’s something for anyone and everyone is what I love most about Brighton. And the fact that it brings together such a wild and wonderful variety of people into one bustling melting pot. Also that noone really cares too much about what the other people are doing.
What are your future hopes for the school? On the one hand I’m looking to work with other local coaches and venues to raise the profile of beach volleyball in Sussex – and create a real momentum behind young player development in the UK. On the other I want to extend the reach of the reputation and philosophy that Denise has already created with Beach Volleyball School in Devon. That means creating an environment of excellence, in coaching, playing and in attitude and effort. I’m so lucky to have found such a wonderful sport, and coaching is such an amazing vocation. If I can help inspire just a fraction of the number of people Denise has inspired over her career I will have succeeded.
Pictures from Kirsty’s private collection