NCAA Goes to Beach with Sand Volleyball
Kate Clinger always has considered herself to be more of a beach volleyball player than an indoor player.
So with the outdoor version becoming a women's college sport in 2010-11, Clinger is right in her element.
"I'm a Florida girl who loves the beach," said the junior at Bishop Verot High.
"What's better than being on the beach and playing volleyball?"
The NCAA Division I Legislative Council approved of adding sand volleyball on April 21 after NCAA Division II approved it in January. In the next year, the organization will develop rules, financial aid, playing dates and recruiting. The sand season would run in the spring.
"I'm very excited," said Katie Mosher, a Bishop Verot High senior to be. She'll play volleyball at Florida State, starting in 2010. "It's something that's different. All these beach players have a big passion and it's a chance to play and get a scholarship for it. It's really cool."
"I think girls will be more interested in it now that it's a college sport."
Florida Gulf Coast volleyball coach Dave Nichols said president Wilson Bradshaw and former athletic director Carl McAloose were among a number of people in college athletics who wrote letters supporting the sport.
Nichols played the sport and his grandfather - also known as Alfred in the Batman TV series - played it from age 55 to 75.
"It's wonderful for your game," Nichols said. "I equate it to pick-up basketball. You can get creative as well as competitive. Sand also improves your jumping and quickness.
"This also will help the exposure."
While nothing is set, Nichols said early talk has schools being able to add two to four scholarships, which would be an additional cost of $40,000 to $80,000 at FGCU. He said building three sand courts would be about another $25,000. Other costs would be for travel, lodging and food on road trips.
The NCAA is calling the sport sand volleyball because schools don't have to be near a beach to have a program. Notre Dame has been among the schools pushing for the sport while the Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour even sponsored a "Hot Winter Nights" circuit in 2008 that played the outdoor game indoors in places such as La Crosse, Wis., Omaha, Neb., and Oklahoma City.
"The addition of sand volleyball to the list of collegiate options is significant for our sport," said Kathy DeBoer, executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. "With more than 400,000 girls playing high school volleyball, we welcome the addition of collegiate roster spots."
Over the past few years, AVCA and NCAA officials have recognized how popular the sport can be from watching tournaments in California and Florida.
At the Fiesta on Siesta Key, near Sarasota, 23 schools and 90 teams took part in the Southeastern Conference Coaches Beach Volleyball Championships and Collegiate Beach Volleyball Challenge on April 18.
In a postcard she wrote for the University of Tennessee Web site, Volunteers sophomore outside hitter Kayla Jeter wrote, "The Fiesta on Siesta Key was probably one of the most memorable moments I've had here at UT so far. ... After watching all the different teams, it confirms my beliefs that beach volleyball should become a collegiate sport."
Dave Carstenson, USA Volleyball Florida Region Outdoor Director, helped run the tournament at Siesta Key.
"The beach was packed," he said. "We had 22 courts and I counted and at times there were 700 to 800 people around a court.
"Just from the sheer popularity of the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) and the Olympics, I could easily see this being as popular as indoor. And a couple of Olympic players, Karch Kiraly and Pat Powers, told me that three months of (playing on the) beach is the same as two years indoor."
Mosher, who attended the event, loved the atmosphere. Her only complaint? "There were more Gators fans than Seminoles," she said.
Brooke Youngquist Sweat, a Canterbury School and Florida Gulf Coast graduate who's training to make the AVP Tour, added, "In beach volleyball, you can't specialize in one area of the game. You have to know every aspect and be skilled."
Carstenson said Siesta Key will continue to have tournaments. When the NCAA is looking for championship tourney sites, he said these areas absolutely will be interested.
"Without a doubt," said Carstenson who'll speak with coaches at the women's indoor volleyball Final Four in Tampa this December. "The room nights are there."
Lee County Sports Authority director Jeff Mielke said college sand volleyball is something he'll research as an event to bring to Southwest Florida that can have an economic impact. In June, there will be a tournament on Fort Myers Beach.
"After Easter is when we're interested in filling up hotel rooms," Mielke said. "There's a great beach area by Fort Myers Beach that would accommodate beach volleyball. We'll certainly look into it."