Wednesday May 22, 2013
ESPN.com published an interesting article about beach volleyball yesterday. Entitled "Beach Volleyball Tour Back" the author quotes new FIVB President Ary Graça saying a couple of things that surprised me. Since his election, we've been waiting to find out what his plans are for volleyball in the U.S. But his first quote in the article is perplexing as he asks (hopefully rhetorically) "What happened in the United States? You're much bigger than the other countries."
Excuse me? I think Ary Graça knows exactly "what happened" here. The FIVB happened.
The fact that this summer is the first since 2003 in which the U.S. has held an international beach volleyball event is not an accident. It wasn't an oversight. It was an intentional exclusion by an organization bent on controlling the sport.
Not that they didn't have reason to clench so tightly to the reins. The fight over who would be the leader in beach was a contentious one in which both sides were at fault. The AVP wanted to make the rules and be the boss. After all, Americans invented the sport and we were arguably the best at it. In order to maintain their stranglehold, the AVP became completely unreasonable and uncompromising.
The FIVB felt it was the natural leader considering beach volleyball was now an Olympic sport and it was the international governing body. Fights ensued about what rules to change and which official volleyballs to use. What followed was a pissing contest of epic proportions that ended with the FIVB victorious and the U.S. suffering the punishment of irrelevance on the international scene, not to mention the collapse of our domestic tour.
It appears that Graça wants to change all this and if that's true, I'm all for it. It's a travesty that we haven't had international events in this country for ten years. If our banishment has ended and we're about to be back in the good graces of the international governing body, that is tremendous news.
Graça went on to say in the ESPN article that he intends to be much more aggressive in the U.S., telling ESPN "I am a businessman. I have a vision of business. For me, it's impossible to get good sponsors, good TV, without being in the U.S., the land of the money, the land of the TVs. For me, it's obvious that we must invest a lot of money in these markets, for the good of the sport, and also because we need sponsors."
Fabulous. And nothing says Kumbaya more than the use of former AVP CEO Leonard Armato as the tournament organizer. Armato was a big part of the contention between the AVP and the FIVB in those early years. Though our sport hasn't been the best at letting bygones be bygones, it appears that we may have moved past the animosity and that we could be heading toward a new era.
I really hope that's true. I think Graça is correct, we have a huge untapped market for international beach volleyball in this country and I believe bringing the FIVB Tour here to America could have an enormous impact on the re-building of the sport and the domestic tours in this country.
But do me one favor, Mr. Graça. Don't pretend we don't know how we got here.
Wednesday May 22, 2013
How often in our sport do we say that verbal communication is key? Call that you'll take the ball, call out the hitters, call the ball in or out, call out the open spots on the other side of the court. Our sport works best when there is constant chatter. What if none of that was possible? What would volleyball be like? How would it even work?
I have to admit, before this week I had never heard of the Deaflympics. But I came across this article by beach volleyball player Charity Sanders and I was fascinated by the concept of playing our sport in particular without the use of hearing.
In her article, Charity explains that playing volleyball at a high level is still possible, but that accidents do happen. She talks about collisions with teammates that require stitches and other difficulties conveying information. But she also points out that even hearing players make mistakes by calling balls in that are out, calling that they have the ball when they don't. She's right. Hearing players struggle to communicate in a sport that develops as quickly as ours.
The Summer Deaflympics (there is also a Winter version) has been held for over 20 years. This year's event will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria July 26th-August 5th and deaf athletes will compete in 20 sports including indoor and beach volleyball. On the indoor side, the organizing body recently expanded the number of women's teams because there were so many quality programs across the world. Now the number of women's volleyball teams matches the number of men's volleyball teams.
Best of luck to Charity and the rest of Team USA!
Wednesday May 15, 2013
Sad news out of USA Volleyball this week. Dave Williams, the managing director for USAV Beach passed away yesterday at the age of 55 from cancer. Williams was the first and only person to hold the position and brought a wealth of knowledge of beach volleyball events from his many years of work with the AVP where he produced over 150 events. Williams brought energy and passion to the position which was created back in 2010 to promote the growth of beach volleyball in the U.S.
I spoke with him in 2011 about his controversial decision to allow a Brazilian to play in the Hermosa Beach Open. Williams was forthcoming about wanting Pedro Salgado in the tournament as a wake up call for American beach players. He felt that U.S. development had fallen behind Brazil and he wanted our players to get a glimpse of just how good their young stars were. Pedro competed with American Casey Jennings and the two ended up winning the tournament.
Since then, American beach volleyball has made many strides including the addition of NCAA sand volleyball as an emerging sport for women and many more high school and developmental beach volleyball programs for young people. It's only a matter of time before these enhancements begin to pay dividends at the international level.
Williams passed away in a Southern California hospital surrounded by his family. For more information, see the USA Volleyball website.
Tuesday May 14, 2013
USA Volleyball announced several opportunities to watch the women's team play in Southern California in the coming months. In an effort to strengthen ties with the community in which the USA teams train, there will be several intrasquad scrimmages and matches against international competition in the surrounding cities.
The women will begin with three intrasquad scrimmages in Los Angeles and Orange County each Friday beginning this week and running through May 31st. Later this summer, they'll host the first annual USA Volleyball Cup Series. The World No. 1 Americans will take on World No. 3 Japan in three July matches in Long Beach, Orange County and San Diego.
The intrasquad scrimmages are free to the public while tickets for the matches against Japan can be purchased online at usavolleyballcup.com - $20 for adults and $5 for those under 18. Children under three will be admitted free. There will also be a VIP option for $150 per person which includes courtside seats, parking, hospitality before and after the match and an opportunity to meet the players and new head coach Karch Kiraly.
Don't worry, men's team fans, USAV says they'll be offering some men's matches as well. Check back for dates and details. In the meantime, you can get more information on the women's matches against Japan via the dedicated Facebook page and below are the dates and places where you can find the team this summer.
USA Women's Team Southern California Competitions
All matches begin at 7 PM
May 17th - Santa Monica High School, North Gym
May 24th - Windward School, Los Angeles
May 31st - Irvine Valley College
USA Volleyball Cup Matches vs. Japan
All matches begin at 7 PM
July 10th - UC San Diego
July 12th - Long Beach State University
July 13th - JSerra High School, San Juan Capistrano, CA