Feature: The sad but inspiring story of The Miners Doncaster Volleyball Club

The Miners Doncaster Volleyball Clubs mens team play in Division Three North of the National League and are optimistic about winning promotion this season.
The Miners Doncaster Volleyball Clubs mens team play in Division Three North of the National League and are optimistic about winning promotion this season.

Shrouded in sadness, the story of one of Doncaster’s up and coming sports clubs is also one of hope, inspiration and ambition.

The Miners Doncaster Volleyball Club was formed in 2015 and wasted little time in securing National League status.

The Miners Doncaster Volleyball Clubs womens team will step up from the Yorkshire League to the National League this year.

The Miners Doncaster Volleyball Clubs womens team will step up from the Yorkshire League to the National League this year.

They have a dream of reaching the very top of the English game and, in the longer term, turning Doncaster into a hotbed of volleyball talent.

But, very sadly, the man that had that dream is no longer with us.

Zbigniew Bloch, a Polish national who had moved to Doncaster, was an ex-professional volleyball player who founded the club and dedicated his life to it.

But earlier this year he lost his short battle with cancer, leaving club members and officials devastated but also determined to live his dream.

Secretary Jozef Balazs accepts an award for winning the Yorkshire League.

Secretary Jozef Balazs accepts an award for winning the Yorkshire League.

“I used to play volleyball purely for a recreational purposes with a bunch of people and met Zbigniew there,” said club secretary Jozef Balazs.

“We didn’t really like it because it wasn’t professional, and then after some time he founded this club.

“He knew me so he asked me if I wanted to become the secretary, so I basically fulfilled my dream because I always wanted to be part of a proper team.

“We played in the Yorkshire League and we destroyed everybody. We only lost one game, and that was when all our best players were missing.

“So we won that league and by the end of that season we had more than 20 players so we started paying memberships.

“Before then Zbigniew would spend all his money hiring the hall and equipment. We didn’t pay anything, it was all free.

“Basically he had the dream to make this club like a home for all volleyball players in this area.

“There aren’t many volleyball teams around here and it’s not a very popular sport so he wanted to make it popular.

“He had this massive idea in his head.

“He wanted to attract sponsors and make this town famous through this. He wanted to make this a volleyball town. He also wanted the team to be promoted every year.

“Because of what happened, we weren’t able to do that this year. Our players were obviously upset and a bit all over the place.

“But now we have new players, very good players, so this year we are certain we are going to get promoted from Division Three.

“We want to reach the top.

“After winning the Yorkshire League Division One we were supposed to go in the [Yorkshire] Premier League but he said ‘no, we’ve got the money, we’re established, we’ll go into the National League. I don’t want to play in these lower leagues’.

“He wanted to go for it.

“It was his dream, and now it’s something I want to do because he fulfilled my dream by making me secretary and giving me this opportunity to play in the team.

“I want to carry this on and try and attract as many people as possible.

“The men play in the National League now and the women’s team played in the Yorkshire Premier League last season but this season they’ll also play in the National League.

“This season we are forming two more teams - another men’s team for the less experienced players who will play in the Yorkshire Premier League and a mixed team too.

“We’d also really like to get into schools and show the kids what volleyball is all about and attract more younger players to the club.

“It was also Zbigniew’s dream to create inter-schools leagues so they can compete against each other.

“He had a very big dream!”

Zbigniew, a factory worker, had lost his son in a car crash but had two daughters and was overjoyed at recently becoming a grandfather, according to Jozef.

“He was a private person who just loved volleyball,” said Balazs.

“He was a good man, he wanted to do things for people.

“I’d never played volleyball since primary school but I just wanted to give it a go because I like it, and he taught us how to play. He was a very good coach.

“We had a mixed team with girls and boys of different abilities, semi-professionals and complete beginners, and he managed to create training sessions which were interesting for everyone.

“He got ill in January and sadly the cancer beat him very quickly.

“He was around 60 years of age but he was still playing with us in October in the National League. He was a setter.

“So he was founder, chairman, setter and captain. He was a good player as well.

“Everyone had massive respect for him. Not just our team, but other teams as well.

“They knew what kind of man he was and how much he loved volleyball. He was very passionate.”

The club Zbigniew has left behind represents something of a league of nations, an organisation open to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

“We have people from everywhere: Poland, Slovakia, Latvia, Russia, Romania, Moldova and Iran. Everyone is welcome,” said Balazs.

“Our youngest member is 13 and our oldest member is 50-something. We have about 40 members now.

“We have people from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of shapes and sizes, but we all share a love of volleyball.

“For some people it also helps them learn a new language. We all speak English but everyone speaks different languages.

“It’s about bringing the community together.

“The Polish and Russians might not like each other, and somebody else might not like each other, but we are like one big family.

“We have a player from Moldova who posted on Facebook ‘my new team, my new family’.

“A lot of people come to England from different countries and have no family here but they find a family with us. We’re all trying to help each other.”

Doncaster’s men finished fifth in Division Three North last season, competing against the likes of York, Hull Thunder and teams from Nottingham and Manchester.

The club train at Rossington All Saints Academy on Sundays (noon-2pm for the women, 2-4pm for the men) and play matches at Campsmount Academy, and would welcome new players and sponsors.

For more information visit www.theminersdvc.com or the club’s Facebook page.

Anyone interested in joining the club, or sponsoring them, should contact Jozef by emailing secretary@theminersdvc.co.uk.