By Anakin Curtis
Dylan Cooper, a third-year BA (Language and Culture) student, has brought competitive volleyball back to campus. After the end of his high-school hockey career, Cooper wanted to change things up when he came to Stellenbosch University. Inspired by a volleyball-themed anime called Haikyuu!!, Cooper decided to pursue the sport on campus.
When Cooper reached out to the organisers on campus, he failed to get a response; however, this did not deter him, as he decided to take matters into his own hands. “I just started messaging my friends and sending out WhatsApp statuses saying ‘I’m keen on playing volleyball, come meet us here [next to the Astro at Coetzenburg]’.”
At that point, Cooper had managed to field around 10 consistent players. But just as things were gaining momentum, the university started renovations in the area, making it impossible to play. “They locked us out of those grass fields and said we must figure it out ourselves.”
And so, they did. Following their removal from the field next to the astro turf, they moved to the field in the middle of the athletics track. This came with its own struggles, as they were often chased away by campus security.
“Once, we were practising there and there was a netball tournament going on, so they had everything locked to show people where to go, so there was only one gate to get into the field. People were practising athletics at the same time and, as they were about to leave, we asked them to keep the gate open. They didn’t wait and locked us in, so we had to hike up the mountain and come down behind the rugby fields,” said Cooper.
Finally, Cooper and his team found a home in the Spelesaal inside the Sport Science building for Friday and Sunday practices as well as on the grass behind Heemstede Women’s Residence for more informal outdoor sessions.
From there, Cooper set up his stand at the Societies Fair at the beginning of the year in order to attract new talent to his expanding roster. “Over 100 people showed interest, and it resulted in a massive influx of players. There [are] now consistently 25–35 people at every practice.”
This allowed Cooper to select the 12 best players to form a men’s and a women’s team. These teams competed at the University of Cape Town on Thursday 21 April. “[The women] played against their first team and beat them quite decisively, and the men’s games were quite close ending in sets 25 – 17 loss and 25 – 23 loss,” he said.
To join them for Friday and Sunday practices from 17:00 to 19:00, contact the Recreation and Lifestyle Unit (RALU) on campus for more information. Cooper and his team will be playing against the University of Western Cape on 4 May.