April 8, 2009

NCAA Sand Volleyball - No, No and again No.

I have written a few posts about the potential adoption of Sand Volleyball as an NCAA sport (I believe they are all listed under the Bad Call label on the right side of the page) and feel compelled to once more express my opinion.

The latest addition of Coaching Volleyball (an AVCA publication) has two editorials about the merits of supporting Sand Volleyball as an NCAA sport for women. I absolutely believe that this is a bad idea and will significantly detract from the support, exposure and respect of NCAA Women's Volleyball.

Please allow me to qualify (and quantify) my opinion:

  • For a number of years I played professional beach volleyball for a living; I was not top 10, but I was good enough to call it my job. Beach volleyball is a great sport and one in which I still play at any opportunity. I very much support the benefits of playing beach volleyball as it relates to increasing indoor volleyball abilities. I am not anti-sand volleyball, I am against any entity which detracts from the professional improvement of being a college volleyball coach.
  • The AVCA leadership is concerned with increasing participatory numbers, both in terms of coaches and players. Unfortunately, they have clearly demonstrated that increasing the professional satisfaction (salary, support, lifestyle, etc.) of being a volleyball coach is not the focus.
  • To this end, if the AVCA wanted to increase the number of females playing college volleyball, then it should have done everything possible to ensure the passing of the legislation to award a 13th scholarship to women's volleyball. Unless I missed something, the AVCA was MIA when the the NCAA convention killed the proposal, after it had already passed round one of protocol. Could have effectively been over 300 more players in NCAA Division I volleyball.
  • The current financial state of NCAA athletics is not good. When Stanford, known to have the largest endowment in higher education and Division I athletics, is cutting staff and possibly athletic programs, things are not good. The AVCA should be screaming in protest that college volleyball programs are being cut and acting as an advocate to ensure no more are eliminated.
  • Athletic Department budgets are all being reduced; some are huge cuts while others are small adjustments. These reductions are not going to be felt by football or the basketballs - these sports have successfully sold to the schools and the public that their sport is a money making entity (or potential) or central the promotion of the school - these reductions will be felt by the remaining sports. Of these remaining sports, softball, volleyball and baseball enjoy the largest per player support. The AVCA should be very active in promoting the value of college volleyball and what a great return on investment our sport achieves.
  • With Athletic Department budget cuts, volleyball coaches are all facing either salary freezes or reductions (either outright, furloughs or costs (health, parking, etc.) increasing with no corresponding salary increase). Again, the AVCA should be an active participant in the effort to ensure that the economic crises is minimally felt by those coaches it represents. I am talking about all coaches in education, not just college coaches - the junior high school coach in Titusville, Florida is probably going to see a cut in their coaching stipend because the economy is bad, yet I really doubt the junior high football coach will also take a cut to their stipend.
  • With all the challenges that college volleyball is facing in the next 2 to 4 years, the AVCA should be doing everything it possibly can to ensure the continued professional progress of the college volleyball, NOT going off on some chase to help the NCAA justify its hypocrisy in gargantuan support of football and basketball - that is all the interest the NCAA has in sand volleyball.
  • College volleyball coaches are literally in the position of not being rewarded for professional achievement while the athletic departments hide behind the curtain of economic crises. Each time a football or basketball coach achieves something significant (winning season, regular season or conference tournament championship, post season appearance, etc), they will be financially rewarded. This will not be the case for all volleyball coaches; instead of a raise when a volleyball coach lifts a team to their first winning season in 20 years, the coach will get a "good job" from the AD's - The AVCA should be more concerned with supporting those that are in the fold now instead of that which is not.
  • The NCAA is not concerned or invested in female emerging sports. What the NCAA is concerned about is balancing the equity equation to try and satisfy federal law. 85 scholarships, 15 +/- coaches for football and annual (non-salary) operating costs into the tens of millions. How does the NCAA justify this hypocrisy? By developing women's bowling, and fencing, and rifle, and now sand volleyball. The AVCA is a willing partner in supporting this tremendous inequity.
  • College Volleyball is a house that is weathering a storm; programs are being cut, assistant coaching position hires are being delayed or not renewed, budgets are being significantly cut, new head coach positions are being salaried at a lower level upon new hire; we are weathering a storm. The AVCA should be the loudest and most demonstrative national advocate of making sure our house survives this storm undamaged. Instead, the AVCA is more concerned with building a shed out in the back yard in the middle of the storm. In challenging times, we must focus on what is important and fundamental and that is college volleyball.
  • In supporting sand volleyball, college coaches will unwittingly add months to their work schedule, be paid proportionately less and increase the time demands and injury potential to their current student athletes.
  • The hardest working coaches in NCAA athletics are the track and field coaches. They all start with cross country in the fall (while training all the outdoor track and field kids when the weather is good), then move into indoor track and field in the winter, then to outdoor track and field for the late spring. If any of the outdoor track and field athletes achieve national times or marks, the NCAA championships are in early summer - the track and field coaches will literally have just a month off before having to get ready for the fall's incoming kids - they have no off season. This will be the path that sand volleyball lays upon college volleyball coaches.
  • The AVCA is supporting a huge increase in the work load of current college volleyball coaches by its support of sand volleyball. Because of the weather differences in north and south states, sand volleyball cannot get ramped up until late spring. Also, college coaches will not support a dual season of indoor non-traditional season being done at the same time as sand volleyball, which pushes the sand volleyball season well into late April. If it is to truly be a sport, not just some tournaments, then this sport, like softball and baseball will run into the summer months. I really don't like the idea of a 10 month working schedule. One of the reason's I enjoy coaching college volleyball and accept the lower pay scale is because I have plenty of off time for family, friends and kung fu competitions (not really).
  • Speaking of pay, anyone who believes that college volleyball coaches will be paid anything other than a couple of thousand extra dollars to coach sand volleyball truly has their heads buried in the sand. This is a cheap, easy way for the NCAA and Athletic Departments to achieve their equity objectives. Current college volleyball coaches will be adding hundreds of hours of work and more overnight travel days for a couple of thousand dollars.
  • In one of the Editorials, it asks the question why we would not support sand volleyball? My answer is simple, because it is not indoor college volleyball. We need to quit being distracted by things which do not clearly improve the standing of indoor volleyball. Women's basketball, Men's basketball and football do not get involved with things that are not clearly and directly beneficial to their sport. Do you see Men's basketball supporting any of these recreational 3 on 3 tournaments? Or football getting behind flag football or rugby? My gosh, if there was ever a close sport to football it is rugby - Are the football coaches promoting a spring time sport of rugby? No, even though it would allow for 20 hours per week of coaching and conditioning for a couple of months, they are smart enough to know it does not directly benefit their sport. When football coaches are smarter than volleyball coaches, it is a sad day (apologies to my uncle).
  • There is already any number of outlets for players to play sand volleyball; the sport is in no need of the assistance of volleyball coaches or the NCAA. We are not talking about cricket or team handball. Sand volleyball courts are everywhere - almost all college campuses have courts, larger cities have multi-court business operations, any city with a beach has courts and on all of these courts are tournaments, leagues and pick-up games. The opportunity is there to play for college players who want to play sand volleyball; it is not demanded or handed to them on a silver platter like indoor, but to find a tournament or league or get together with friends to play some games is so very easy. Just look at the AVP and their entry tournaments and grass roots efforts in the sport; this is where players can go to get games and develop - not the NCAA.
I guess I am just screaming at the ocean on this topic, but I am really stunned that sand volleyball is receiving the support of the AVCA. It is not like the AVCA has a great track record as of late - the change to rally score has not come within mile of achieving what was promoted, the recent changes in ball handling rules were not supported by the mass of coaches yet the AVCA looked the other way while the NCAA passed the changes, and now with the economy in shambles and college volleyball programs being eliminated, the AVCA wants to empower college sand volleyball.

I do not doubt the popularity of sand volleyball, but popularity should not be the primary argument in this matter. Should sand volleyball become an NCAA sport, it will reduce the effective operating budgets of indoor volleyball (the pie is getting smaller folks, not bigger and it will be this way for the next 2 to 4 years), it will increase the work load of college coaches and it will take away from the media coverage of indoor volleyball.

I know I am right.