They were thrown in at the deep end – but Portsmouth duly delivered on their Premier League 4 Sport Beach Volleyball debut.
Despite being introduced to the sport only weeks before the competition, Portsmouth gained a respectable finish in the London & south west tournament.
And their undoubted highlight came when the first team notched the biggest shock of the event with an emphatic win over eventual champions West Ham United.
The four-a-side boys and girls tournament, which attracted a number of under-16 teams associated with football clubs, was organised by Arsenal Premier League 4 Sport (PL4S) co-ordinator Ross McKinley at the Leyton Orient Community Sports Trust Beach courts.
The presence of top teams from West Ham, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and hosts Leyton Orient, among others, sent shivers down the spines of the Portsmouth players who were newcomers to the game.
They entered two boys’ teams, comprising of students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties from Prospect School in Havant.
And the first team defied all odds to get the better of West Ham.
‘That win will live long in the memories of these boys,’ said Portsmouth FC’s PL4S Volleyball coach Nasser Ssemuwemba.
‘Despite the fact they were all newcomers to the sport, they put up a spirited fight against a team of players with a lot more volleyball experience.
‘The boys were all chuffed to be the only team in the event to have managed a win against West Ham and it has certainly heightened their enthusiasm for the sport.’
Portsmouth won two games during the one-day tournament and gained a wealth of experience and confidence, with one team narrowly missing out on third spot.
In conjunction with Pompey Sports & Education Foundation, the Prospect School youngsters involved were awarded with certificates and a goodie bag each as a token of appreciation for their impressive representation.
The boys, who include Harry Ward (captain), Jack Loveridge, Jordan Jennions, Curtis White, Ace Nichols, Decland Field, Joseph Kierstenson and Jake Livingstone, are eagerly waiting for their next PL4S competition, as well as the satellite training in September.
Ssemuwemba, who is also the head coach of Horndean Volleyball Club, which is supporting this programme, added: ‘This event has been a massive learning curve for our boys.
‘Not only has it helped them realise they are talented but also indicated they have got real potential to compete with the best in their age group.
‘We are going to step it up during training to ensure that we appear in better technical condition next time.
‘The boys might not have won the event but, as their coach, I am extremely proud of what they have achieved in such a short period of time.’
Louise Kessell, Portsmouth PL4S co-ordinator said: ‘Most of the boys had not been to London before this trip and could not contain their excitement as they set off from Prospect School on the journey up to Leyton Orient.
‘The boys got great pride in being able to represent Portsmouth FC and pull on their famous blue and white strip to play against other London clubs. To me, that truly sums up what the Premier League 4 Sport programme is about.’