I was born and raised at the beach and, while no one would confuse me for an athlete, I have a deep appreciation for beach sports. Thus it was with a heavy heart that I reported back in August on the demise of the AVP, the professional beach volleyball tour. Those of us who care for the sport feared we were entering a dark decade, but it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot closer than we had feared.
When the AVP collapsed the week before the iconic Manhattan Beach Open, the California Beach Volleyball Association stepped in, allowing the event to proceed – albeit in a much smaller version. That was a one-time deal, however, and the rest of the season was cancelled. That left the tour players – among them, the defending Olympic Men’s and Women’s champions – with no domestic options to ply their craft or hone their skills. Worse, the only Olympic-qualifing events would now be overseas as part of the FIVB tour, meaning the best American players would play in Europe, and the rest would be unemployed. By the time a new domestic tour could be organized and financed, the current generation of players would be long retired – and no one would be there to replace them.
I’m happy to report that the Doomsday scenario described above might just be avoided. USA Volleyball, the governing body for the sport in America, has partnered with event management giant IMG to form a new professional beach volleyball tour – and it starts next year!
The Beach Championship Series will consist of four to six events and include tournaments in Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Chicago and Belmar, NJ. In addition, the USAV will operate the Olympic trials for the first time since 1996.
“This represents USA Volleyball’s continuing commitment to and investment in beach volleyball,” said USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal in a statement released Monday. “This partnership will allow us to promote the beach game while giving U.S. beach volleyball teams the opportunity to compete at a high level as we move toward London in 2012.”
There’s more good news associated with the announcement. Dave Williams, formerly the VP of Operations for the AVP and they guy who produced over 150 of their tournaments, has been hired as the Managing Director for the new USA Beach Volleyball, meaning there’ll be an experienced hand at the controls.
Personally, I think this is great news. It’s nice to see USAV working on the beach side of things for a change, and bringing the right people into the mix to insure success. It’ll be interesting to see if they integrate Manhattan Beach into their series – key to long term success – but this is a big step in the right direction for fans of the sport.