Few names resonate as profoundly as Nicholas Coburn in beach paravolley. An Australian athlete with an impressive 24-year career, Coburn has shifted from standing volleyball to becoming a pioneer of beach paravolley.

His voyage is not just a tale of personal achievement but of dedication to promoting and developing the discipline, with a particular focus on its inclusion in the Brisbane 2032 Sports programme.

It’s all about passion for the game and leadership for Nick Coburn, playing for the second beach paravolley event in China.

Nick Coburn’s athletic journey began at a young age. He first represented Australia in standing volleyball at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics when he was just 17 years old. Over the years, he witnessed and adapted to its evolving landscape. When standing volleyball waned in popularity, Coburn embraced beach paravolley, a new discipline that allowed him to extend his career and continue his passion for the sport.

Coburn’s love for volleyball is evident in his words: “I’ve been playing for Australia for 24 years, but it’s only six tournaments. Every time I do it, it’s just an absolute honour. I feel so lucky to be here.”

His shift to beach paravolley was driven by his physical limitations in sitting volleyball and the opportunities the new discipline presented. “I can’t play sitting. I move only with my left hand. I have to hit with that hand. My shoulder is gone after that. And I’ve got legs that get in the way,” Coburn explained, highlighting the unique adaptability of beach paravolley for athletes with various disabilities.

His influence extends beyond his performance on the court. He is an advocate for beach paravolley, working tirelessly to promote the sport and encourage its growth. His commitment is particularly seen in his efforts to include beach paravolley in the Brisbane 2032 Paralympic Games.

“We want to get it in Brisbane 2032. The only way it’s going to happen is if we get more teams, and we get women playing,” he emphasised.

Coburn acknowledged the challenges that come with developing a new discipline. “We’re struggling honestly, at the moment. We need to have just a little bit more structure. And we need to have events,” he candidly admitted.

Despite these hurdles, his vision remains clear: creating more opportunities for teams to compete and grow, both locally and internationally. He has been instrumental in reaching out to countries like Japan, Korea, and those in Oceania, encouraging them to establish their own programmess and participate in more tournaments.

Australia finished fifth at the 2024 WPV Beach ParaVolley Men’s World Championship in Yunyang, Chongqing, China.

This year’s World Championships marked a significant milestone for beach paravolley, being the first of its kind. Coburn expressed his excitement about the competition returning after a five-year hiatus. “It’s just fantastic having a competition again. The tournament has been beautiful,” he shared.

Despite the logistical challenges of assembling his team, which included players living thousands of kilometres apart, Coburn remained optimistic about the future of beach paravolley. “This is only the beginning. We tried to start in 2019, then COVID-19 hit and things happened. But it’s great to see six teams here and we just need to build it further.”

He also spoke passionately about the camaraderie and the unique appeal of beach paravolley. “We’re outside in the sun. It’s beautiful. We’re playing on the beach a lot like on the Gold Coast or in Sydney, or in Bondi Beach. Where else would you want to be?”

His love for it is matched by his appreciation for the community it fosters. “It’s just a great, great party atmosphere in beach paravolley. We’re serious out there. We want to win.”

Team Australia and Team Poland at the 2024 WPV Beach ParaVolley Men’s World Championship in Yunyang, Chongqing, China.

He aims to see beach paravolley grow, both in terms of the number of teams and the inclusivity of women’s participation. For him, beach paravolley is not just a sport, but a community, a passion, and a lifelong commitment.

In his words, “This is only the beginning.” And with his advocacy, the future of beach paravolley looks promising indeed.


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