Spiking Interest and Opportunities in Sand Volleyball
The original article can be found here: http://athleticbusiness.com/editors/blog/default.aspx?id=759&t=Blog-Spiking-Interest-and-Opportunities
A lot of people know the story, or at least part of the story, of the rise and fall of pro beach volleyball in the United States. I say part of the story because the term "rise and fall" does not refer to the popularity of the sport; it's just as popular as ever, remaining one of the hottest tickets at the summer Olympics, thanks to the star power of past players like Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
In this case, "rise and fall" refers to the industry side of the sport. The Association of Volleyball Professionals, or AVP, the pro tour that generally runs spring through fall, closed its doors in August 2010 because of financial hardship. (As of October 2011, AVP is back, ostensibly under a new operational model, so we'll have to see what 2012 and 2013 bring; at the moment, the website doesn't give many clues, and at the time of this writing, hadn't been updated since the end of 2011.)
Fortunately, competition on the high school and college levels seems to be on a definite upward trajectory. In fact, you absolutely can expect to see its presence grow in the coming years, thanks to a rebranding effort. The name of the game is now "sand volleyball," and students will be expected to wear actual uniforms - shorts and longer tops - in their school colors (as opposed to bikinis).
Oh, stop grumbling, guys.
According to SGMA research released in late December, "beach/sand volleyball is a growing sport that is gaining popularity at all levels. Since 2007, it has added more than 1 million participants, a 28% increase in four years."
The NCAA added sand volleyball to its list of emerging sports for women, something reps of the American Volleyball Coaches Association are heralding as a great move. In fact, the AVCA will be hosting the first Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship in Alabama in late April. Four schools are expected to compete. It's probably safe to say that as the sport expands, we can expect to see a lot more schools competing, as well as a lot more action on the local and regional scene. According to SGMA's website:
In 2012, 15 colleges/universities will compete at the Division I level, with 11 of the 15 being located in the Southeast. For at least the first year of sand volleyball competition, no NCAA champion will be crowned, since the minimum number of teams needed for NCAA consideration is 40. With the emergence of sand volleyball as a recognized collegiate sport, the NCAA has announced that six scholarships will be available at the Division I level and five scholarships at the Division II level.
It's not just college, either. At the high school level, we've seen volleyball stubbornly remain in the top 10 sports for girls year after year. Even the Amateur Athletic Union is expanding juniors play in sand events; it has even created a special website specifically for those events.
Perhaps in the years to come, the pro tour can build itself back up. In the meantime, though, let's concentrate on helping young athletes get involved with a popular, growing sport.