Beach volleyballers set for bigtime

Bay beach volleyballers Sebastian Green and Scott Shipton in action at this year’s National Secondary Schools champs. Photo: Julie Maree Photography.

Scott Shipton and Sebastian Green have been mates since primary school, which may go some way towards explaining their highly-promising beach volleyball partnership.

It’s a sport the two Year 11 Tauranga Boys’ College students only took up a couple of years ago, after trying out the usual round of rugby, football, cricket, basketball and others. And it looks to be a decision that’s paying off for them handsomely.

They’re still celebrating after being named in the New Zealand Under-17 Beach Volleyball team for their development tour to Australia next month.

“We’re both pretty stoked,” says Scott. Sebastian – known to his mates as Baz – found out first. His dad then called Scott.

“The team got released and we forgot to check. And then his dad called me and said congratulations!”

“I called Baz and we talked about it. It was pretty sick.”

Part of the excitement for them is based on how popular the sport is becoming in the Bay and across the country - especially following on from the success of brothers Ben and Sam O’Dea at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier in the year.

“That helped everyone from the beach volleyball community,” says Baz. “It helped expand the game as well, because they got a lot of attention. They coached at a couple of camps we went to as well, so that was cool.”

Since the O’Dea brothers’ success, the sky is looking a lot more like the limit for Scott and Baz, who are now dreaming of going on from the age group teams to American and Asian tours, Commonwealth Games, and maybe even the Olympics themselves.

“That’s the goal,” says Scott. And like the O’Dea brothers, there’s an easy confidence and trust built on familiarity between the two that could well accelerate them along that track.

They made the team after finishing runners-up in the national secondary schools championships - an impressive result but one they weren’t entirely happy with.

“We were probably the best team there,” says Baz. “We really should have won that.”

“I’m not going to say anything,” adds Scott, “but there was a lot of reasons why we should have won that.”

Sports people need many attributes to achieve at the highest level, but the competitive streak coming out when they talk about that tournament is right up there.

It followed their bronze at the national under-17 age group championships in January - a result they were actually happier with as they felt they were competing against better teams, rather than pairings restricted to being selected from the same school.

It’s just a bonus for them, they say, that they’re able to compete together in the age group and secondary schools champs. That’s because of the understanding they’ve developed over the years as school mates.

“There’s a lot of communication,” says Scott.

“When you’re blocking, you’re signalling where you’re blocking. When you’re serving, you’re telling him where to serve, you’re telling him where you’re standing and where to drop. There’s a lot of communication, and it’s on both of you.

“We’ve practiced our calls a lot and we’re slowly getting the hang of them.”

Selection in the national under-17 team for the Australian tour, an opportunity ‘designed to help young athletes get ready for more intensive international volleyball opportunities (both indoor and beach) in the future’ says Volleyball New Zealand, has meant travelling to intensive training camps and Challenger tournaments around the North Island most weekends.

But not all. Money has to be earned to pay for the venture, so both have part-time jobs to fit into their hectic NCEA-dominated lives as well, which means having to sacrifice some of the training and playing opportunities.

Dedication is one word for it, and it’s clearly not in short supply around these lads, so don't be too surprised to see the names of Shipton and Green up there alongside the O’Dea brothers in the international spotlight before too long.