Meet The Team: Sam Dunbavin & Haydn Lawson

commonwealth games May 23, 2022

In the run up to the Commonwealth Games this year, we want to shine a spotlight on the teams hoping to qualify.

We caught up with Sam Dunbavin and Haydn Lawson. These talented blokes have been setting the courts alight since 2020.

Sam Dunbavin


Position & Side: Left side, Blocker

Height: 6'3"

Date of Birth: 6th December 1995

Hometown: Bratton Fleming, North Devon

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I grew up in North Devon. After finishing my languages degree in 2018 I decided to commit to playing beach volleyball professionally and set about making that happen. I spent two winters training in Australia and started playing on the World Tour, and I started my own beach volleyball business: Fireball Beach Volleyball. I am thrilled with how it’s grown over the last couple of years, as it’s allowed me to pursue my dreams of playing internationally! I’m hoping that BeachEd, which I founded this year with James, grows too.

When and how did you get into beach volleyball?

I started playing beach volleyball aged around 10 after ex-professional player Denise Austin started running sessions for local schools in North Devon, with local club the Academy of Beach Sports. Haydn and I have grown up playing with (and against) each other but it wasn’t until 2020 that we teamed up and have been training hard as a team every since. What used to be a fierce rivalry is now a firm friendship!

Do you have any pre-game habits/rituals?

I like to get to the venue in enough time and make sure I’ve got everything. Haydn and I have a lot of tactical knowledge and we’ll have gone through our game plan the night before. Making sure I’m warmed up and have everything I need is the main thing.

Of all the events you’ve played, is there a match or tournament that stands out in your mind? Why?

One game that sticks in my mind is getting out first world tour win together as a team last year in Poland. We were both nervous for the game as it was our first World Tour together, but we delivered to beat a decent Serbian team in the qualifier.

Outside of beach volleyball, what do you do in your free time?

Working on my businesses Fireball Beach Volleyball and BeachEd takes up a lot of my time outside playing. I am so grateful to have been able to welcome some great people onto my team this year to help with running tournaments and keeping everything ticking over so I can focus on playing at key times.

Is there a coach or athlete that you look up to and why?

There are so many people who have influenced me and taught me over the years, but a few notable mentions would have to be Denise Austin, Mo Glover and James Annells. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, so much from all of them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Still playing and loving beach volleyball and watching the BeachEd family continue to grow.

Is there any advice you would give to young players?

Don’t over specialise too young. If you love playing other sports, keep playing them. I played cricket and rugby alongside volleyball up to age 20, and am really pleased I did. You’ll be happier and healthier and the transferable skills will only help your volleyball in the long run.

Haydn Lawson


Position & Side: Right side, Defender

Height: 183cm

Date of Birth: 27/10/1995

Hometown: Barnstaple


When and how did you get into beach volleyball?

Very similar to Sam I got into volleyball when Denise Austin introduced it to all the schools in North Devon through PE lessons in primary school and secondary school. I then picked it up in the summer and have played it ever since.

Do you have any pre-game habits/rituals?

Not really, I don’t really believe in anything superstitious, as long as I’ve had a good breakfast and a coffee, I believe we have done all the right prep beforehand so I’m good to go at tournament.

Of all the events you’ve played, is there a match or tournament that stands out in your mind? Why?

I think one match in particular was getting our first win on the World Tour as a team in Poland last year. It was a tough year with Covid holding us back from getting abroad. so it felt great to finally go abroad a win a game to prove our hard effort through the previous winter and summer were worth it.

Outside of beach volleyball, what do you do in your free time?

I like to stay quite active, I have recently found myself quite addicted to golf. I will also swim, surf (if I’m back in North Devon) and mountain bike.  I also quite like a bit of online gaming.

Is there a coach or athlete that you look up to and why?

I think Denise Austin for introducing the sport to me and being a great coach all through my teenage years into early adulthood.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Probably a bit more settled down in terms of having a job. I am currently a student again training to become a teacher.

Hopefully still playing volleyball to the highest level I can.

Is there any advice you would give to young players?

Join a club, get involved in the sport and the social side as much as possible. If you have a goal, go and strive to make it a reality.

Team Questions

Team factfile:

Coach: James Annells (however he has just moved to Australia permanently) Jack Birch (S&C)

Sponsors: Dryrobe, BLOC, Slunks, Delfina 

Social media handles:




Describe your team in three words.

 Fun, competitive, driven.

What would you say is your team’s super strength?

I think our team cohesion and tactical planning of games.

How long have you been playing together?

2 full years properly but have known each other and played in teams and against each other from the age of 11

What would it mean for you both to reach the Commonwealth Games?

It would be a great achievement to win the CWGST, proving we are the best English team on the day and to be able represent England at a major multisport game

The Commonwealth Games Qualifier Tournament will commence on the 26th of May, and we can't wait to see these fierce blokes own the court.

Check out our learning plans now for all you need to master beach volleyball.

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