Popularity of Beach Volleyball Continues to Grow at Lions’ Beach

Funds from a summer volleyball clinic were donated to the Westport Lions Club. Front row: Alex Wood, Chris Harley, Westport Lion Gary Warriner and Nolan Khan-Grundy. Second row: Naomi Hartley, Sophie Hartley, Elsa Coste, Claire Ferguson, Keegan Lynn and Annabelle Hartley. Back row: Rebecca Don, Cameron Cumpson, Marley Sampson, Cara Tedford, Conleigh Brown, Theo Pedherney, Grace Ferguson and Sara Standen.

If you’ve been down to the beach lately, you might have noticed there is a lot of volleyball going on.

Beach volleyball has been steadily growing in popularity over the last decade in Westport, ever since the Lions created the first court in 2013. This has been due to two factors: the Lions Club and Chris Hartley, a teacher and coach from Rideau District High School.

Hartley has been the driving force of this movement in terms of encouraging young people to come out and play. His philosophy throughout the years has never wavered: he believes strongly in “a positive community of athletes who work hard, play hard, and consistently help others to improve.”

This philosophy is clearly seen in Hartley’s behaviour on the court: constantly high-fiving, joking, and encouraging players to keep working hard. This enthusiasm and positive nature is evident in all the players at the beach. Having a positive community that can help the next generation grow to love the sport and maintain a high level of skill is a goal which Hartley is consistently working towards.

Sarah Brown, a former player at Rideau District High School, says that volleyball at the beach “makes her happy, keeps me active, and really helps me stay in touch with friends…Hartley and the Lions make this possible and I am forever grateful.”

Emily Don, whose daughters have participated regularly at the beach, has said “the skills they’re developing on those summer beach evenings have had a huge impact on their performance on the team during the school year.”

People are often surprised at the quality of volleyball they find at the beach. From most perspectives, Westport is a hockey town. However, there are current and former volleyball players from Trent University, Guelph University Durham College, Loyalist College, Nipissing University, and Canadore College playing at the beach regularly. Due to the competitive nature of this volleyball, Hartley was able to start a competitive league in 2021, the proceeds of which have gone directly back to the Lions Club.

This year, Hartley started a specific volleyball clinic for students entering grades 7 to 10, to help students prepare for volleyball at the high school level. Twenty-one players participated in this clinic. (Consequently, his own daughters also participated in this clinic, following in their parents’ footsteps, as they have been at the beach watching their parents play since the courts were first created.)

Of course, Hartley is quick to point out that “none of this would be possible if the Lions Club weren’t willing to take on the expense and effort to keep the courts going.” Hopefully, between Mr. Hartley’s enthusiasm and the whole hearted support of the Westport Lions Club, volleyball will continue to grow in popularity so the next generation of players can continue to build skills, friendships, and memories down at the beach.

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