November 17, 2007

Our Own Worst Enemy

Like all volleyball folks, I wish our sport had more - funding, fans, marketing, scholarships, salaries, exposure on television - just more. Yet, when I look at our sport at the high school, college and Olympic levels, I honestly believe we are our own worst enemy.

Today, I was at the High School Volleyball All-State matches and saw a clear example of why our sport continues to come up short - and it is our own fault. During the awarding of the all-state plaques, there was an honorary award given to an older lady who was a retired teacher and coach. During the reading of all her accomplishments, the announcer spoke multiple times of this honoree being in the National and State High School Hall of Fame for Softball and Gymnastics! There was only one mention of her being a former Volleyball coach, yet there was not a doubt she was very accomplished in other sports.

Amazing! Over 50 deserving high school volleyball players and all their friends and families are in attendance, yet the event honors someone who is known for softball and gymnastics. Volleyball is the sole purpose of this day, it is being run by volleyball focused individuals and even then, we cannot manage our own sport!!

I am rather sure that at the High School Softball All-State game, they are not giving away an honorary award to a tennis coach! Yet, we are happy to honor another sport at our event.

Unfortunately, examples of this kind of volleyball negligence abound:

- When the NCAA altered the women's volleyball playing season rules, the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) was abandoned. Yet there was no outcry from the college coaches or student-athletes about post-season playing opportunities being denied to female athletes. I guarantee you that if the NCAA had removed the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) from Women's Basketball, there would have been a huge out cry of protest!

- Our USA Women's Olympic Volleyball team has been coached by non-USA citizens the last two Olympics. For some reason the volleyball community is fine with this situation - when I asked a couple of my international athletes what would happen if a non-citizen coached their Olympic team, they laughed and said it would never happen.

- The NCAA tentatively passed legislation adding a 13th scholarship to women's volleyball. When the proposal was tabled, to allow for a re vote, which then reversed the scholarship, there was no reaction or protest about opportunities being removed for women athletes.

Unfortunately, these are just a couple of examples of volleyball, at all levels, not demanding better treatment and conducting ourselves like a big time sport. I cannot stand to watch women's basketball or softball, I think they pale in comparison to volleyball, but they have bettered us in every opportunity to elevate the standing of their sports.

Consider the level of support volleyball could be enjoying if we just demanded respect, focused on maximizing the opportunities presented to us, and did not put energy into frivolous, small minded issues.

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