Last year we launched our Hoops Heroes competition, as we look to recognise the amazing work that people around the country are putting in to ensure others can enjoy sport. We crowned our first two inspirational winners, Eric Douglin and Chris Arthey. And we’ve now selected our third.
Massive congratulations to the founder of exciting new sport Paul Hildreth! We spoke with his son Tom to find out Paul’s story…
When crowning our Hoops Heroes we look for people who have made a significant impact on their community through sport.
In the case of Paul Hildreth, he has created a whole community from scratch, and driven a new sport from concept to played throughout the world.
We’ve been working with Paul ever since we came across his sport, VX, at GoFest South in May 2017 – so we’ve seen first hand why he is such a deserving Hoops Hero.
"He does it full-time, he doesn’t take any money from the sport, any money that he makes he just ploughs right back in,” his son, Tom, who also works in the sport and is a former world number one and World Cup winner.
"He gives all his time to it, just because he believes in it. He wants to see it worldwide, he wants to see it go and stand on its own two feet.
"He’s very loyal, and he would do anything for anyone. He has a massive workload, he’s busy all day every day, but if people ask anything of him or need help he’ll give up his time without a thought. He’s running clubs and sessions or he’s working in the office, but he’ll never say no to anybody.
"I couldn’t have done it, I don’t know how he has done it! It’s so impressive what he’s built, an entire sport from scratch really.
"The dedication and the drive that he’s got to work all day everyday and take nothing for himself is amazing. He’s just done it for the sport, with this vision for it that he has because he sees how it affects people.
"He just wants to carry on pushing it further.”
What is VX?
Built from "a little lacrosse, a pinch of pelota, a dash of dodgeball and a hint of hockey”, it’s not like anything you’ll have seen before.
Using a VX stick which is roughly comparable to a double-ended lacrosse stick, players propel low-pressure tennis balls at each other’s bodies, with one point gained for a hit and three if you catch an opposition shot in your stick.
Played in an enclosed area – in which players roam anywhere, rather than either side of a boundary as in dodgeball – the sport is fast-paced and fuelled by adrenaline.
But where does VX come from?
"VX doesn’t stand for anything – it’s symbolic,” Paul told our blog in 2017, just after we first met.
"It’s a team game, two teams of five, so V represents five players on each side, and the X represents the total number of players on a court.
"We also have a singles game, played on a squash court, so we call that V2 – two players. And then we have a doubles game, four players on court, that’s V4.
"Now in algebra X can represent any number, so that indicates we have all these different versions, so then V stands for versatility. It’s all symbolic.”
What does the future hold for VX?
The sport is growing, and not just in England either.
Already the sport has spread from Ripon, Yorkshire, to the US, Australia, Uganda and Hong Kong.
Last year’s World Cup was hosted in Italy, and this year sees the competition travel even further afield to India.
So what is it that’s attracting VX such global attention?
"It’s got an impact like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Paul.
"When people hear it described they’re interested but when they see it, when they play, oh wow. They’re hooked.
"It’s accessible to anybody, people who aren’t sporty, it’s mixed at every level between genders, it’s accessible to people with physical or cognitive impediments.
"And its four cornerstones are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and respect. It is a game of honour, and we’re very, very keen on the element of honesty.
"And after all that, the most important thing is it’s fun too.”
Hoops Connect are delighted to welcome Paul to our hall of Hoops Heroes, and look forward to working with him more in the future. Paul decided to donate his prize money to animal welfare causes.