What were my exact words? I’m trying to recall. Was it…
“There is a serious disconnect between the beach game and the indoor game and I’m not sure where it stems from or how to fix it? At all levels, especially at USA Volleyball and the FIVB. Beach is the only game people care to watch, yet it receives zero respect and, therefore, limited funding. Not to mention, pointless bickering exists on 50 different levels between all governing bodies.”
Yeah, that’s it. (Point #3) in my email response to the “Kinda Good” team; regarding what needs to change in the sport of beach volleyball for the tide to officially turn. Fortunately it was easy to find. And I believe I followed it up with…
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t comment further on point #3 at a later date.”
Well, it’s time.
Before I properly suit up in preparation for battle, I need to clarify a couple of things. A little over a year and a half ago, I wrote an entire blog that landed me in the Principles’ office looking for a new school to attend. It included such dialog as, “The AVP has been horribly mismanaged for years. If you prefer grossly mismanaged, I’m open to suggestions.” And, “Beach Volleyball is our sport and it’s in dire straits. I’m not sure how many people are currently aware of exactly what kind of situation the AVP is really in.”
It was a light, summer read.
Well, that was then, and this is now. The AVP is what we’ve got; and by no means am I implying that that’s a negative thing. Management has improved one billion percent (I’d write that out numerically as to add more dramatic oomph, but I figured I could take up just as much space with a parenthetical explanation), new ownership displays a genuine interest in success previously unseen in our sport’s history, and the root of all the tour’s problems is gone. I won’t name names.
So, for crying out-loud, pack your bags and get on board. And when I say this, I actually mean it. I don’t care if you’ve never played the game and just enjoy reading my blog because your job is terribly monotonous and you’re bored out of your mind; oh, and you find the base colors of hansstolfus.com to be both soothing and peaceful; we need you too. And not in the “I just posted a comment, I did my job” kind of way. Yes, I just said “we.” Despite my mad attempts to move on and gainfully acquire employment, I still claim the sport as my own. Why, because it will always be. WE are the sport of beach volleyball. Kerri, Misty, Todd and Phil carry the AVP, yes, but they don’t necessarily embody the true essence of the sport. They just happen to be the select few that are able to earn a legitimate living doing it. And yes, WE are all jealous. But right now, the only people fighting for our sport, standing up for our sport, trying to push our sport forward, are Kerri, Misty, Todd and Phil. Actually, I believe super agent Ryan Morgan, who represents three-of-the-four, does most of the fighting (verbally, of course), but even he needs more support than a bunch of medals made of Gold. He needs all of us too…
Now, what could I possibly be referring to that requires the assistance of every beach volleyball loving fanatic out there? Especially in the month of October, when essentially nothing is taking place? — You know, besides those last couple of FIVB’s in China and Thailand that no one seems to really care about. — Well, I think you have an idea since I began this piece with “Point #3,” but you’re probably not fully aware of the urgency regarding the matter.
On October 30th, a meeting is being held in Holyoke, Massachusetts to debate a proposal that has been set forth to establish two-sides of the USA Volleyball coin: The almighty, incredibly well-funded and staffed, indoor discipline, and, the beach discipline, which has two-total employees on staff catering, theoretically at least, to the sand and its athletes, and almost zero funding to support anything besides these bureaucrats themselves.
What is the proposal asking for? Simple: “A Beach Oversight Committee within USA Volleyball that would be made up of beach athletes and executives and exercise complete autonomy over the discipline.” Or, what I like to call, “USA Beach.” I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem like we’re asking for anything we don’t rightfully deserve. And quite frankly, I’m not sure how we don’t have control over the governing body behind our side of the sport anyway. But either way, this is how USA Volleyball’s good ol’ boy, super CEO, Doug Beal, responded in regards to the idea that beach volleyball hasn’t been treated fairly…
“They essentially have exactly the same representation that the indoor sport has. So I’m not sure exactly what could be done that could be more specific.”
Now, I know he’s speaking solely of the number of athletes representing each discipline on the board, but is he honestly asking, “What else could be done?” How about acknowledging the United States even has beach volleyball at all, Doug? Let alone the fact that our nation has won five gold medals on the beach, to only three in the gym. Or, the fact the only professional progression in the sport takes place outdoors. Does anyone see a professional indoor volleyball league here in the U.S.? No you don’t, because it doesn’t exist.
If you were to grow up in today’s era playing the sport of volleyball, and loved it as much as we do, but happen to possess freakish height and unyielding power, what would be your options? Honestly? Well, you’d begin with a club team that could win Junior Olympics, follow it up with an NCAA Division-1 team that most likely plays in the Pac-Ten or College Station, Pennsylvania, try-out for the World University Games during your Junior or Senior season, agree to a short stint with Team USA (for Pan American representation to pad the resume), and finally, sign a contract in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East; that is, if your swings for the national team are impressive enough on tape to land an agent that can “guarantee” 62% of your monies. OR, you can find a local sand court, perfect your cut shot, slow down your hands, and pursue the only professional avenue of the sport offered in the United States, The AVP. And if this meeting goes well on Oct. 30th, perhaps you can even earn a spot in the next Olympiad by competing right here on American soil in a designated “USA Beach” Olympic Qualification Series – while also accounting for an important international component of qualifying (after all the Olympics is an international event).
Lofty goals? I don’t think so. But maybe I’m being optimistic. Especially considering how little USA Volleyball has cared about the beach in the past. This is a quote from the minutes of a board meeting that took place prior to the Olympics in 2004 regarding the Organization of Beach Volleyball moving forward: “Mr. Monaco requested Mr. Sharpless to draft a document for a conceptual model of organization for beach volleyball that would meet NGB (National Governing Body) responsibilities. The document was well done; however, the Executive Committee determined that no change should be made at this time as the AVP and other Member Organizations (e.g., Amateur Athletic Union [AAU]) are covering all these areas.” Point blank, USA Volleyball has never cared enough to even set in place an appropriate model of organization to “meet NGB responsibilities.” It has always fallen to the players and the AVP to carry the sport – with USA Volleyball issuing some “me too” press releases and adding a little employee headcount as window dressing. Thank you USAV.
Beal’s response to allegations that USA Volleyball isn’t adequately meeting the needs of both sides of the sport? Wait for it. Wait… for… it…
“That’s sort of like saying in track and field there should be a subcommittee that is responsible for every single event. That, generally, the national governing body can’t focus on any single event.”
Wow. I almost have no response to that. Almost. The stupidity being generated by the front office at USA Volleyball is mind-numbing. Unless he’s stating that the 100-meter dash be governed by the majority of the board of directors (practically speaking of course), a staff of thirty-five employees, and receive 95% of the overall funding; while the Long Jump be overseen by a staff of two, and receive 5%, leaving the rest of the events out? Because those are the types of numbers we’re talking about. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I haven’t been able to receive one positive quote from an athlete that played under Beal during his tenure as head coach of the Olympic team. It’s mystifying.
Back to the Oct. 30th meeting, creation of the “Beach Oversight Committee,” and how a partnership between a newly formed “USA Beach” and the parent professional beach volleyball organization (AVP) is imperative for the progress of the sport leading into the 2012 Olympics in London.
Below are a few of the notable benefits for USA Volleyball if it actually acknowledges and then passes the proposal set forth to be discussed on Oct. 30th in Holyoke, Massachusetts:
• The proposal, by reforming the structure of USAV to empower individuals who are knowledgeable in beach volleyball, would establish a framework and starting point for meaningful participation, rather than bureaucratic ineptitude, at the NGB. We can end the acrimony with the players and their tour and work on positive initiatives for growth of the sport at every level.
• The proposal will escalate any issues regarding recommendations by the Olympic Qualification committee to a group who is expert in beach issues and capable of making decisions which benefit, rather than harm, the sport.
• The proposal will pave the way for USA Volleyball to participate with the players and AVP on a number of strategic growth initiatives that are being planned and developed for execution between the players and the AVP – I can’t say for sure, but I would venture to guess that USA Volleyball makes about, ahem, zero percent of its revenue from beach volleyball. If it becomes an effective NGB on the beach side — and actually elects to partner with the players and the pro tour — revenue and a meaningful role in fostering both growth and success in the sport would result. These initiatives should be done in conjunction with the AVP and its infrastructure that is already in place. Again, it’s the ONLY Professional volleyball organization in the United States. Why work at cross purposes with the pro tour or work secretly with other unfunded, ‘wannabe’ tours? The least they could do is not take action actively antagonistic to the success and growth of the sport.
• It provides a framework focused on beach, where a group with knowledge of the landscape of the sport could work in a smooth, coordinated manner between USA Beach, the exclusive U.S. pro beach tour (AVP), its players and their player representatives.
• The partnership framework – based on instituting meaningful reform at USAV as set forth in the draft bylaws – provides a clear road map to avoid the negative fallout that would follow from any other selection (or lack of a timely decision) in this regard. Based on past history there is a high level of likelihood that such fallout will include: (a) continued discord between beach players and USA Volleyball; (b) public criticisms from players such as those leveled last year in the L.A. Times and recently in the Jimmy Golen/AP article (I hear Mr. Golen is planning to attend the October 30th board meeting with Kerri, Todd, Ryan and others – and any player willing to pony up, hop on a plane to Mass., grab a megaphone and confront the board of directors is welcome to join the group); and (c) adversarial activity such as another Article VIII filing or mass public resignations/withdrawals from USA Volleyball.
If you’re wondering, Article VIII of the revised USA Volleyball Bylaws primarily focuses on none other than the proposed “Beach Oversight Committee.” If you would like to read more about the “BOC,” or would like to just strum through 52 pages of legal volleyball jargon, email me, I’ll send ‘em to you.
Quite simply, beach volleyball has never received the respect from USA Volleyball that it deserves. We know it; everyone knows it. Every other volleyball nation in the world takes care of their athletes on the beach; gorgeous facilities for sand training, including strength and conditioning, designated coaches to initiate new techniques and govern improvement, medical supervision and health maintenance, and real, life-size, salaries. Not living stipends to cover flight costs and food bills. What’s most amazing is how well we have been able to perform on the FIVB with limited to no real support from our current National Governing Body. It speaks wonders of the talent level, commitment level, and competition skills being displayed each summer weekend on the AVP Tour.
And that is why “USA Beach” needs to be autonomous within USA Volleyball, or to break off and work “on its own” in November – with only the support and sub-structure of the original professional beach volleyball tour that already exists in the United States, the AVP. Oh, and possibly a new “USA Beach” President or CEO to work directly with Jason Hodell and the team at the AVP?
I ask you this… Do you want to see the commercial portion of Olympic qualifying events taking place right here on American soil, being run by the tour that you know and now trust, live on NBC, with all the marbles at stake, and a chance for your favorite players to represent on the largest athletic stage the world has to offer? I’ll answer for you. Yes, yes you do. And on October 30th, the meeting to discuss the proposal that could set these wheels in motion will commence. Please, understand what is at stake. And please, do what it takes to voice your opinion on the matter. This is our sport. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. We have the ability to take control of our own Olympic destiny for the first time since 1996, and since an issue of this magnitude is in play, the reform has become extremely urgent; we can’t afford to only fume and gnash our teeth in private any longer. In order to do so, in order to reform and progress, we need the support of not only Kerri, Misty, Todd and Phil; we need the support of every living soul that has ever picked up a volleyball and spiked it; on the beach, or not. This is the email address that tracks support for the reform and restructuring of the National Governing Body: email@example.com.
But hey, don’t just send an anonymous note to some gmail account. Email Doug Beal at Doug.Beal@usav.org and tell him that you don’t like him acquiescing to a bonus pool that does nothing but screw over “his own” American Players. Tell him you don’t like him as USAV CEO competing directly with the AVP. But you know, he just might not listen to you, so email David Schreff at firstname.lastname@example.org as well, he’s the new chairman of the board over at USA [Indoor] Volleyball. Tell him that that proposal comes from every player and is meant for the benefit of every player and potential player, not just a select few. And tell him you don’t like being shunted aside, ignored and given the run around in bureaucrat-speak. Tell him that this proposal comes from all of us – and ask if they have even bothered to confirm if the proposal is on the agenda. Flood their inboxes and tell him if they don’t do something, and do it fast, we’re going to march on Colorado Springs. I’d tell you we should march on the Beach Office, but they only have two employees. And it’s better than even money they’re not in the offices, well, ever.
Take a minute and send USA Volleyball a message. Speak up and be heard. I know how hard it is to stand up for something that does not directly apply to you, we all do. I’m not going to the Olympics. Hell, if I can’t figure out how to replace that disc between C5-C6 in my neck, I may never play the sport again, let alone attempt to qualify for something as grand as the games of the XXX Olympiad, but I will never stop supporting the sport I love, and that means voicing my opinion now.
International Beach Volleyball Autonomy = Independence from USA Volleyball and the ability to control our own destiny on the sand, with the help of the only organization that has ever given a damn about us. Well, since Jason Hodell took over and RJSM decided to show the same level of enthusiasm about beach volleyball as the players show week in and week out. Send a message. Vote for reform. Initiate change. Establish “USA Beach” and the Beach Oversight Committee – an effective group that eats, sleeps, breathes and, most importantly, understands and aggressively advocates for the sport of beach volleyball and can generate a positive vision for the growth of the sport. Support the players and sport you love. YES WE CAN!