Introducing Volleyball Coach koko!

This week we are excited to be bringing onboard Volleyball Coach Koko Volley.

Koko is an extraordinary volleyball coach who just LOVES volleyball. Her passion for the sport and her passion for teaching others how to play shine through her fantastic YouTube site called Koko Volley that is where “volleyball passions blossom”.

It’s one of the happiest tutorial sites you will come across that helps you learn the most about volleyball and most importantly, love the journey along the way! From beginners to adults playing in a league, you can’t help but want to take up a ball after watching her. The content she covers and the interaction with her community is what makes her the Coach she is. She also does online private lessons which during this lockdown period is crucial to those trying to stay on top of their game.

Check out our EXCLUSIVE interview with Koko below and make sure you follow her on Facebook here, Instagram here and YouTube here, plus you can check her out on Twitter here.

Coach Koko! Welcome to the Sportside family – we are all so pleased to be working with you! How are you getting on? It has truly been a great experience. I love being able to connect with different communities and spread the love of volleyball and sport. It’s so important to me to be able to make that impact and inspire those athletes and others around me.

Some of our followers may not be too familiar with your work so can you tell them a little bit more about yourself? Certainly! My name is KoKo and I founded the YouTube channel KoKo Volley in early 2017. I have always been athletic and participated in sport throughout my youth, high school and college. My favorite sport is volleyball and I am still very much involved in the community. My YouTube channel is mainly based on volleyball tutorials and skill-related videos for those who may be new to the sport.

You’re clearly incredibly passionate about volleyball, and also have a great deal of passion for teaching. How long have you been teaching? I have been coaching volleyball for about 5 years now and that all started when I coached a JV and Varisty High School team. It was truly transcendent to see the girls make that connection with skill but also see the confidence build up in them as they developed in the sport.

I imagine it’s a profession that must be really rewarding? To see people put in a lot of hard work and effort, and improving as a result must make you feel like you’re doing something really worthwhile? I do! I love seeing all of the comments from players all over the world about the changes that they have made and how confident that they’re becoming. Many of my subscribers are new players and may not have any experience with the sport and this is their first impression so that’s important to me! I want to make sure to give them that positive foundation so they can grow into positive and confident players.

Now, as you know, Sportside are currently running our Gender Play Gap campaign to increase participation in women’s sport, and you have kindly agreed to be one of our ambassadors. Being a young black woman, what does the campaign mean to you? In the United States, Volleyball is a very popular girls sport and is one of the most played female sports. However, when you think about the larger spectrum of volleyball overall as a sport it’s not as popular internationally for women. Women’s sports do not get as much ‘clout’ or appreciation as male sports. The pay is very different, the schedules are different, the audience who watches are different, and the careers for players are different. I started my channel for players to find that confidence in themselves. To chase their dreams no matter what, and participate in their sport with passion.

Being a young black woman my volleyball experiences were, and still are, different than those players who are non-POC. The space is primarily one that is not very diverse (in the United States), and I often didn’t see many players who both looked like me or came from my same background. This can be disheartening sometimes as we often look at role models who model ourselves. My hope is that I can inspire other POC players to both learn the game, navigate different spaces, and be confident within themselves.

Unfortunately, discrimination and prejudice are prevalent in our society and we really feel the need to play our part. What do you think needs to change if we are to see true equality, not only between men and women but for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity or gender? I think that it’s important that there’s proper funding for sports and athletics in low-income communities. We largely see where low-income communities do not have access to the same programs, facilities, equipment, or even qualified coaches. Volleyball is a sport in which those with access to higher-level facilities have better opportunities and career prospects. This needs to change! There are so many talented players who come from a variety of backgrounds who just want that chance to play and income should not be the determining factor between them and their volleyball goals.

Do you think that sport has a role to play in leading the way in this area? There is clearly inequality in sport, particularly when you look at the attitude towards men’s sport compared to women’s sport. Is that something that you personally have had to overcome during your own journey? Absolutely! I’ve found that I’ve been having these big conversation throughout my adult volleyball career. Being a higher level player, I usually play with men in order to really be challenged and grow in my game. This comes with its own conversation as I am often underestimated, looked over, or even feel like I have to prove my “worth,” to earn my spot on the court. I am primarily an attacker (outside hitter) my main job is to attack the ball so it can’t be returned. In different volleyball spaces, I cannot always play this position as I am deeply underestimated. To open up the conversation further, I think that women are often underestimated in sports in general. “You’re a great women’s volleyball player.” Whereas the statement should be, “You’re a great volleyball player.”

Gender Play Gap seeks to highlight the underlying issues that may impact on female participation in sport, not simply that women are paid less for doing the same sport as men. Do you think that there is more to be done to make sport more accessible to women? Particularly those who perhaps struggle to find time due to childcare or a lack of access to facilities. Yes! I think that there needs to be a safe space for women to participate in sport without the pressures of society and stereotypes of masculinity. Many women don’t participate in sports for a myriad of reasons (access, perceptions, societal cues) however showing them positive role models in their community opens them up to understanding how valuable the experiences are. I believe that facilities that open up for more adult play and leagues will be a great option for those who want to participate and find a community around a sport.

Koko, thank you so much for taking part in Gender Play Gap and for being part of the Sportside team! We can’t wait to see what exciting plans you have for the future, and we can’t wait to share them with you! You’re so welcome! It has been a pleasure! I am so excited to speak about this because I am so passionate about both volleyball and increasing the sports community.

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