The history of the development of youth volleyball in Ukraine was divided into "before" and "after" the war against Russia. At least, the history of youth volleyball is associated with the "Prometey" Academy, which worked successfully in the Dnipropetrovsk region. And if "before" were wonderful prospects, talented young volleyball players, and many ambitious plans, then after the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the enemy into Ukraine, great hope and faith in our victory was added to all this. After all, promising young people continue to achieve results.
Today, Volodymyr Dubinsky is having high hopes for sports youth. There are promising young athletes in Ukraine but need proper conditions and opportunities to develop. The old volleyball school no longer fully meets the needs of today's volleyball, especially when it comes to international tournaments. Realities dictate new trends, and today it is fast European volleyball that sets the tone. Accordingly, Ukrainian youth must be taught this and taught in conditions of constant practice. Experience shows that this is the right path because recently created youth teams are showing high results, and not only on domestic courts.
These plans and their gradual implementation are even more important given the situation in the country. February 2022 burst into the peaceful life of the Prometey Sports Academy, which began working in Kamianske in 2020, at a time when its pupils had just begun to achieve serious sports results.
The girls successfully played in the Higher League, during the entire 1st stage they demonstrated a stable and high-quality game - 15 victories in 15 matches. So, when the executive committee of the UVF decided to end the volleyball competitions of the 2021/22 season early due to the state of war in Ukraine, the players of the "Prometey" Academy, albeit prematurely, but deservedly received the title of winners of the Higher League.
The last days of February and the beginning of March 2022 were difficult for the entire Academy family. Like all Ukrainians, our academicians were faced with a test of strength and psychological stability - teenagers had to grow up instantly and experience the horror that no child should feel: human losses, fear of occupation, sounds of sirens and explosions, and threats to their own lives. Do promising young athletes who have decided to devote their lives to sports deserve this?
How to rearrange the work? How to save the girls? What will happen next? What words to choose in the end to help the children overcome fear and stress? We had to find a solution quickly, even though adults at that time didn't know the answers - you don't come across such news every day, so you don't know the algorithm of behavior. Volodymyr Dubinsky approached the situation with full responsibility. His decision was unwavering: anything to save the Academy and the teams, so that the girls would later return to volleyball, and now - to secure them, allow them to live, study and train in safe conditions, away from the war. The algorithm of actions was approved - and the work began.
Anastasiia Kotliarenko, the head coach of the junior team of the "red and whites", recalls: "I will never forget the morning of February 24. I found out about the beginning of a full-scale invasion from the parents of foster girls from the Chernihiv region, who called in search of answers: what to do and what will happen to their daughters? I quickly dressed and ran to the Academy. I am grateful to Volodymyr Mykhailovych Dubinsky, that he decided like a real father - he took care of the pupils of the Academy."
Some parents immediately took the girls, and the head coach of the senior group, Andrii Romanovych, personally sent part of the team to the west of Ukraine. Some even had to find refuge with a coach for a certain time. Of course, in the first days and weeks of the war, there were difficulties with logistics, no one understood what would happen next. Halyna Bespalchuk, Director of the NGO "DYUSHOR" Prometey Sports Academy, recalls: "It was very difficult - both morally and physically. We had to get the girls out of the Academy premises because we didn't know if it would be safe to stay there in the future. They literally evacuated to the sounds of sirens and explosions. A lot of effort was made to calm the girls down so that they felt protected. I am very grateful to all the staff of the Academy for this."
And within the walls of the Academy, work went on. By a joint decision of the administration and the girls who remained in the institution, they forbade fear and panic and began to resist the enemy on their small front. They sealed the windows, prepared the basement in case of an air raid, and joined the volunteer movement. Athletes retrained as needlewomen – they actively took up weaving camouflage nets and other work that is possible for teenagers. The player Tetiana Rotar admitted: "There was no time to be afraid during this work. We were distracted from anxious thoughts and felt useful. That way I wanted to put in my work for our victory."
It was difficult for the staff, it was difficult for the girls. After all, despite their physical development, these are very young girls. Ms. Anastasiia recalls how she had to comfort some girls who sometimes could not contact their parents. She was very worried about the family of Katia Zhilinska from Kyiv, girls from Chernihiv region - Zhenia Panichenko and Dasha Onyshchenko: "I felt a huge responsibility for my children. It was necessary not only to protect the girls but also to ease their worries and fears as much as possible. We were all so happy when dad literally took Sasha Shkarupa out of the occupation. There, in the Mykolayiv region, enemy tanks were already driving on the streets. We had to hide our own fears deep in our souls, because the girls trusted us, the adults, and their parents trusted us - we could not give in."
A little later, thanks to Volodymyr Dubinsky and the management of UVF, they decided to go to Latvia. Of course, they did not want to leave Ukraine, but they understood that it would be safer that way. The federations of Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Latvia not only provided housing but also fully covered all expenses, including training and preparation for the competition. Moreover, they helped transport children from the Polish border.
First, the academicians of the younger group were accommodated in a sports boarding school, and then in a school in a picturesque location, not without the support of the head coach of the men's national team of Ukraine, Uģis Krastiņš. Thanks to the hospitality of Baltic colleagues, 12 girls from the younger group (and Anastasiia Horbachenko joined them later) lived, studied, and trained in beautiful conditions for almost 4 months. They did not violate the sports regime, attended school, and managed to lead an active social life - they were so-called ambassadors for Europeans.
They took part in Baltic tournaments and competitions - Maria Hoshylyk and Oleksandra Shkarupa even became silver medalists in the Latvian beach volleyball championship. "We watched the news every day, discussed the situation in Ukraine together, shared stories from relatives who heard on the phone, cried over the news about shelling and casualties, rejoiced at the success of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and had no doubts about our victory," recalls Maria Hoshylyk.
And Anastasiia Kotliarenko assures that she tried to adjust the regime of the girls in such a way that they would be busy all the time so that they would not even have time to think about bad things. And of course, as a mentor, she was very concerned about the image and behavior of young athletes, because they represented Ukraine in Europe. So, when it was time to return home, the volleyball players arranged a real Ukrainian day for their Baltic friends - they fed them Ukrainian borscht, sang, and talked about the cities where they come from.
After the strong-willed decision of the president of PVLU Volodymyr Dubinsky to resume the work of the national championship and the Prometey club, the girls returned to Ukraine. It was difficult to gather all the girls in the country where the war is going on, but the titanic work was efficient - two youth teams were formed from the players of the Academy - "National Team of Ukraine U-15" and "National Team of Ukraine U-17", which applied to participate in the championship of Ukraine under the auspices of PVLU.
Today, the academicians are reaping the fruits of their labor - they represented the Academy in the Super League, and the National Team of Ukraine U-17 took fourth place in the tournament table among professional teams. This is an amazing result. It is worth noting that in December 2022, the EEVZA-2022 championship among girls' volleyball teams in the age category under 17 was held in Daugavpils, Latvia. Representatives of two national teams of Ukraine - U-15 and U-17, who played in the Super League-Dmart, went to Latvia as part of the "blue-yellow" team. Our girls became silver medalists.
"We have even more ambitious dreams for the future," Halyna Bespalchuk recalls the past season and shares her plans. - The Academy is alive and will continue to develop because its students are the future of Ukrainian volleyball. For the next season, we will declare ourselves as representatives of the Academy and show even better results. After all, thanks to Volodymyr Dubinsky, who raised the level of Ukrainian volleyball to the European level, we are confident in our capabilities and believe in the high results of our young athletes."
Before the start of the full-scale invasion, the Academy was at the height of its popularity in Ukraine. Some families came for the second time for selection in 2021. Kateryna Zharkova, the mother of a pupil of the Academy, said: "Last year, we brought our eldest daughter Kima here. We see how satisfied she is with her studies, and we see clear progress. So, without hesitation, we put our middle daughter, Vera, in the hands of the coaches and teachers of the Academy."
The debut in the Higher League in the first year of study for the first students of the Academy was not very successful - 9th place. But the Open Cup of the "Prometey" Academy brought the "red and whites" the main trophy and medals. Wasn't that what the girls dreamed of when, on July 6, 2020, among the 14 most promising athletes who applied for training, they became the first students of the Academy? Daria Kaplanska was very happy then: "It was so interesting to go through the selection. My sister and I were very worried and are infinitely happy that we will both now be at the Academy."
The representatives of the Academy's administration were no less happy when the institution opened its doors to its pupils on August 16, 2020. Before that, the volleyball hall of the "Prometey" Academy, which is located on the basis of DDTU, was reconstructed. And the premises of the Academy of SC "Prometey" generally have no analogs in Ukraine. Its opening became a real event in the history of Ukrainian sports. "Future champions and prize-winners of many Ukrainian and international tournaments will grow before our eyes. I am stunned by what I saw! - Mariia Aleksandrova, then the general manager of SC "Prometey", was impressed after the presentation of the newly opened Academy. - I am jealous of the girls who will study here. In such a short period of time, they did something that will bring dividends to Ukrainian volleyball for many years."
And indeed, the premises of the Academy are a modern space for the training, education, and recreation of young sportswomen. Everything is arranged as much as possible so that the girls not only train physically but also grow up to be real ladies. There is everything here to work on comprehensive development. And what to say about classrooms, household premises, and personal rooms of pupils! "It's so cool in here! It cannot be compared with anything," the girls did not hide their admiration. Marharyta Heiko admitted that she had never seen anything like this and was very pleased that she had the honor of becoming one of the first students of the Academy. As noted by the first director of the Academy, Maksym Bespalchuk: "It's better here than even at home. Everything is thought out to the smallest details. Cozy, warm, modern, and atmospheric. Only champions should live and study here! And we are already taking care of their safety, good quality education, and interesting leisure time."
At that time, Volodymyr Dubinsky was building a perspective. "The creation of the Academy became a powerful impetus for the development of the volleyball team of SC Prometey, as its composition will be constantly replenished with talented students who will form a certain harmony between youth and experience in the club. And this is an excellent foundation for the development of volleyball in Ukraine, he said. - These are future Ukrainian champions who will prove to the whole world that Ukraine has a lot of talent in sports as well."
And what about talented young sportsmen? After all, our country is rich in youth teams where promising young volleyball players play. With the help of the management of "Prometey", under the auspices of PVLU in 2022, the youth team "Barkom-National Team of Ukraine U-18" was born, which gathered promising boys from all over the country under the guidance of experienced coach Volodymyr Romantsov. The newly formed team started its career immediately from the elite division, taking part in the national championship. And it must be said that the debut of the young men was worthy - the young teams took sixth place in the Super League standings. During the competition, the boys were also surprising the public: they beat the bronze medalist of the season - Kharkiv's "Law Academy", and VC "Zhytichi-Polissia", which was the winner of the 2021 Super Cup. And this despite the fact that the youngest player of the team, libero Mykhailo Boiko, was only 15 years old.
The head coach of "Barkom-National Team of Ukraine U-18" recalls how he was afraid to accept the team's invitation to participate in the championship, how quickly the boys were gathered for training, and how difficult it was, given the circumstances. "There were doubts, there was even fear because I was worried about the safety of the young men. But we did make the right decision, - Mr. Volodymyr recalls now. - Quickly adapted as a team and joined the competition. We are not the first, but we are not the last either. I am glad that we are now in the same row with experienced teams and we also gave them a fight."
And indeed, the boys have grown significantly during the season. This was facilitated by well-organized training in safe Kolomyia and psychological work with young men. Collectors even conquered Hoverla collectively. So, literally, in a year, a competitive, cohesive team appeared, that can fight back against experienced players. By the way, in January 2023, the team accepted the invitation of neighboring Romania to the Eduard Gazda Memorial International volleyball tournament. Despite the small difficulties due to the trip, the Ukrainians defeated their opponent - the Suceava team - with a total score of 3:2. Even now, the coaches of adult clubs are looking closely at young national teams, and there are all prerequisites that in the next season some young men will join the ranks of professional teams. Currently, it is known about several volleyball players from U-18, who became part of the senior "youth" national team - U-22.