After a serious conflict earlier this month that put many NCAA Division I volleyball programs at odds with the beach game, the governing body of volleyball in the USA took steps to placate unrest from professional beach volleyball players.
A unanimous vote on Monday added a managing beach director who will be in charge of the sand game in the USA. With high profile Olympic wins and more and more charismatic players emerging in the beach game in recent years, many beach players felt their side of the game was not being adequately represented at the USAV.
A 2006 lawsuit from 50 beach players led to the additional of seats on the USAV board dedicated to beach volleyball, but unrest continued.
During the previous board meeting in the fall of 2009, international volleyball stars Kerry Walsh-Jennings and Todd Rogers lobbied for more beach representation and threatened to resign from the USAV unless changes were made. About a dozen professional beach players, including ’08 Olympians Misty May-Traenor, Nicole Branagh and Jake Gibb, attended Monday’s meeting as well.
As the NCAA prepares to embrace sand volleyball (the official moniker that they hope will encourage non-beach-adjacent schools to adopt the sport), it seems clear that the indoor and outdoor versions of volleyball will have to learn to coexist and cooperate in order to thrive.
Indoor volleyball is a team-driven sport with six players on the court at a time and multiple substitutions, while beach/sand volleyball features only partners. Olympic gold medals, skimpy uniforms and a general party attitude have propelled the outdoor game into prominence in recent years. At the same time record-setting indoor college teams like Penn State and improved Olympic performances from the indoor teams have increased the profile for the more team-centered indoor game.
The two formats have traditionally jockeyed for spectators, players and money, but coordination seems to be on the horizon.