Pupils at a Teeside School were challenged to a game of sitting volleyball by a gold medallist from the 2014 Invictus Games, to experience the challenges faced by those with a disability.

Veteran solider Seveci Navelinikoro, known as Nav, was injured in Afghanistan. He taught pupils at Red House School in Norton how to warm up using sitting volleyball techniques, carried out some drills, and then challenged the children to a game.

Pupils playing sitting volleyball with Nav

Set up by representatives from Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire, the event was part of the School’s Citizenship Programme.

During his visit, Nav also answered some tough questions from the pupils such as ‘what is war like?’

The 36-year-old suffered severe injuries when the vehicle he was travelling in drove over an IED, three months into his operational tour in Afghanistan with 1st Battalion Mercian regiment, during Operation Herrick 17 in 2012.

Nav in Afghanistan

Nav suffered a mild brain trauma injury, lower back pain and nerve damage, damage to his left hip, loss of hearing in his right ear as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The father-of-two said he would be at „rock bottom“ if it wasn’t for the support he has received from Help for Heroes. After his injury, Nav thought he wouldn’t be able to do sport again but through Phoenix House, he has been able to try a whole range of new activities.

Nav won a gold medal with the sitting volleyball team at the Invictus Games in 2014 and hopes to be on next year’s winning team in Orlando, Florida.

Nav playing sitting volleyball

He said: „Taking part in sport makes me realise that life is not going to stop and you need to adapt and keep on moving. I used to play standing volleyball but sitting volleyball is very challenging. You have to move in a different way.“

Having joined the Army in 2003, Nav has served around the world, including Northern Ireland, Kenya, Belize and the Falklands. He said sitting volleyball also helps his memory loss, as he has to train his mind to think about the next step.

„My brain injury has affected my memory and I have to put everything on my phone and I check my notebooks to make sure I know what I’m doing. I think playing the game really helps my mind as it helps me overcome some of the hurdles with having a brain injury. I have to try to remember a lot and it really helps.“

Nav, a lance corporal who grew up in Fiji but now lives in Catterick with his wife Kara and daughter, Akeneta, six, and son Adrea, four, said he had a great time teaching the children about Help for Heroes and sitting volleyball.

He said: „I did some warm up exercises with them and taught them basic sitting volleyball and they played a game between themselves which was awesome.

„I told them about myself, injuries and what happened to me. I told them war is not a good place to be and we need to keep our world a safer place but the good thing about it is that you have got each other’s back out there  during times of war.“

Nav and Phoenix House Supported Activities Coodinator Hilary Conway talking to pupils at Red House School

Alex Taylor, Headmaster at Red House School, said he was delighted to welcome Help for Heroes to talk to the students about the charity’s work.

He said: „The children listened intently as they heard first-hand from Nav about his experiences. They discovered how Help for Heroes support soldiers and how the work is crucial in assisting their recovery.

„Red House pupils were then able to experience some of the challenges faced by those who have a disability by taking part in a sitting volleyball session. They soon discovered the physical and mental challenges that this entailed! The children were extremely inspired by the visit s and we hope to raise further funds to support this very worthwhile charity.“

A group shot of the pupils with Help for Heroes staff and Nav (middle back)

Anyone who served in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force who needs the support of Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick can self-refer by calling 01748 834148. 

Kompletna vest