Players from both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at The University of East London are in mixed emotions following the surprise announcement that their Coach, Simon Loftus will leave the side at the end of term.
Speaking to Loftus about his motives behind the decision to leave the side, he said, “It was a career development choice. I’ve been doing volleyball since 2007, so nine years in full-time professional coaching, I decided for my career it was time to go in a different direction.”
Loftus spent two years at UEL coaching the Men’s and Women’s Teams, in what was a mostly successful spell at the east London side. He led the Women’s First Team to their pivotal title in the BUCS Premier South division, and helped the Men’s Team finish as runners-up in their respective division, in his first season with the teams in 2014/15.
The Scot is set to join Kingston University, which he announced after a 3-0 victory away at Oxford University, a decision which has left some of his players stunned, including Kelsey Blankerts.
“I was very shocked by the announcement, I don’t think anybody saw it coming. We’re all pretty upset about it just because he was such a great coach, but we’re going to come together as a team and move forward,” Blankerts said.
Many of the oversea scholars, including Blankerts, have invested time and money to have Loftus coach them, but Loftus suggested his departure will not have a negative effect on the side.
“Well, we have worked very hard and given players a turn and given the players ownership of their own performances so if they remain motivated then regardless of who’s here, they should still be able to get the results, it’s not about the coach,” he said.
However given the timing of the decision and the position that both sides are in, in the table, some players like, Kristyna Lindovska didn’t take too kindly to Loftus’ decision of leaving the club:
“Personally I’m not happy about it, in my personal opinion, I don’t approve of leaving right in the middle [of a season] with things being unfinished. I don’t agree with that, but still I believe he has to do it now there are things he has to do. I want to do well without him as well,” Lindovska said.
Having told Loftus about some of his players’ reactions since the announcement, he responded with, “There’s never a good time to make the decisions and you live by them.”
He did, however, say that both the Men’s team and Women’s teams are in contention of the league titles ahead, although the new coach, who is yet to be announced, must draft-in some new players for the Men’s side for the following season.
“Moving forward the Women’s team should be strong next year when most of the players return, they have got some very good players, some good talent, some good young talent, so I’m excited about them. The guys, whoever comes in, needs to do some recruitment, only two players returned for next year so somebody’s got a busy summer,” Loftus said.
Following Loftus’ decision to leave the side, American, Gary Slade decided to step down as Captain of the Men’s side with compatriot Chris Chappell’e set to be his successor. Despite stepping down from his role, Slade suggested that his leadership qualities were developed as a result of Loftus’ unique coaching technique.
“Since coming in, Simon’s had a huge impact, he knows each individual player’s personalities and how to coach them to the best of their abilities. He has that competitive spirit that the whole team has and it’s something that we need especially leadership, we need that competitiveness so that’s got the right impact,” Slade said.
The Women’s team are currently joint top of the league and are hoping to defend their title. Women’s First Team player Aubrie Cresswell said that Loftus has helped her develop as a player.
“Before I came here, I just started Junior College, played only one year of Junior College and I had never played defence and now I feel as though I am a decent defensive player so I think he has done that with a lot of people. He’s really good with fine-tuning and when it comes to teaching technique and also he recruited really heavily,” she said.
Loftus leaves the Men’s side, who are also currently joint top of the league, and new Captain Chappell’e indicated that their position in the table is a fantastic leaving gesture from the team to Loftus.
‘We Made A Promise’
“I believe it’s a great present for him, we made a promise to him that we would beat Bournemouth for him and at least I can say we got it done. We’re going to miss him greatly but we owe it to him and obviously UEL as a programme and we owe it to ourselves,” Chappell’e said.
The UEL Volleyball club must bounce back from the announcement as they play for the league titles in February against Essex University. Everyone wishes Simon Loftus the best of luck in his new role and career path at Kingston University. Hopefully, the teams will finish the season on a high heading into the BUCS Championships in mid-March.