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27/11/2015 09:47
From courtside assistant at London 2012 to professional player in Belgium – The fairy tale of middle blocker Sonny Chaney
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Antwerp, Belgium, November 27, 2015. A few weeks ago Sonny Chaney made his debut in the European Cups playing for Belgium’s Topvolley Callant ANTWERP in the first round of the 2016 CEV Volleyball Cup – Men. The Belgians recorded a 3:1 home win in their first matchup with Greece’s Foinikas SYROS but ended up losing the re-match and the golden set that followed two weeks later. Sonny’s story is one of a kind since only three years ago – as a 17-year old young boy – he was one of the courtside assistants helping out with the delivery of the matches at Earls Court, the venue of the Volleyball competition at London 2012.  

“Volleyball is a popular sport within my old secondary school, Tendring Technology College, and the school has a strong working relationship with Tendring Volleyball club. However, I didn’t start playing Volleyball outside of my physical education lessons until year 9 due to the persistence of my teachers Neil Masters and Liam Chinnery,” Sonny recounts. “They both wanted me to play because of my height (he is now 197 cm tall) and they got me involved in as much Volleyball as possible.”

“After I became a member of Tendring Volleyball club I was introduced to Alex Porter who, alongside Liam and Neil, coached me until I was 18,” Sonny continues. “Thanks to their coaching I was able to become a starting player In Tendring’s men’s team and to represent England at youth and junior level.”  

It is interesting to know how Sonny ended up watching the world’s best Volleyball players at London 2012 working as a courtside assistant. “During the summer after I finished my A level studies, myself and 17 other students from Tendring Technology College were chosen as a team to be Young Games Makers at the London 2012 Olympics, specifically courtside assistants at Earls Court for the men’s and women’s indoor Volleyball competitions. This was an amazing experience for me because I was no more than five meters away from the best players in the world. We were also given the honour of working for the men’s final which was a truly amazing game to witness and one of the standout memories from the Olympics. Another standout moment for me was meeting Brazilian legend Giba. At this point I already had a dream of playing professional Volleyball abroad but witnessing the Olympic Games and the men’s indoor final first hand truly inspired me to reach this goal.”

Finally, before the start of the 2015-2016 season, Sonny moved abroad to become one of a very few players from the so-called ‘home countries’ to perform in a foreign league as well as in the European Cups. “Since I’ve been in Belgium, I’ve learnt that there is much focus on the tactical side of the game. We have video sessions at least three times per week and sometimes our sessions are adapted to match what we will play against in our games. The information being given regarding tactics is endless and the expectation to execute them is very high. The expectations are also higher because of the fans. Unfortunately, in England, playing in front of a crowd is very rare for most teams whereas here it would feel strange to play a home game with less than 700 people watching and also for away games there are always travelling supporters.”

Which are the goals Sonny has set for this first season playing professional in Belgium and are there any long-time objectives he wants to pursue in Volleyball? “As a team we are all setting our goals high and we want to finish in the top 3 of the league and make the semi-finals of the cup, which we have now achieved. Unfortunately we fell out of the CEV Cup after our defeat to Foinikas SYROS. Now we are competing in the Challenge Cup and we will take each game as it comes. We know how hard this will be but we are all very determined to do the very best we can. With regards to the future, I cannot say because I want to take each season as it comes.”  

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