Reaction as AVP, dealing with coronavirus, cuts Austin, Seattle, adjusts 2020 slate

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AVP schedule change 3/17/2020-AVP Manhattan Beach
The gold series AVP Manhattan qualifier kicks off Thursday/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

It could have been worse.

That, in essence, has been the reaction of a number of AVP athletes after the Tour announced 2020 schedule changes as a result of the coronavirus.

On 11 a.m. Tuesday, the AVP released its amended schedule. The tournaments that were going to be in Austin May 15-17 and Seattle June 19-21 are canceled. The season opener, set for May 1-3 at Huntington Beach, will now be conducted October 2-4, and the tournament in New York will be a week later, June 19-21, originally the Seattle dates.

The tournaments in Hermosa Beach (July 24-26), Manhattan Beach (August 14-16), Chicago (September 4-6) and Hawai’i (September 18-20) stay the same.

The prize money from the two cancelled events will be reallocated “into a bonus pool for the 2020 season,” the AVP wrote in an email. “Exact details will be communicated in the coming weeks but we are committed to providing an opportunity for athletes to earn these prize pools.”

“If it goes this way I would be ecstatic at this point,” said Chaim Schalk, who won the first AVP of his career last year in Seattle. “I felt like with the way things are going, they could have just cancelled the season.”

The AVP’s course of action is slightly different than a number of major sporting organizations, some of which have either cancelled entirely (NCAA) or postponed indefinitely. While there is no return date for, say, the NBA, there is a specific June 19-21 start date for the AVP’s new season opener, the Gold Series NYC Open.

“I’m thankful the AVP is taking this situation seriously, and has made decisions early so we can all try to adjust,” said Kim Hildreth, who made the 2019 Austin final with Sarah Schermerhorn. “It’s really disappointing to not have as many events on the schedule, but it seems like the AVP is doing what they can with the situation we are all dealt with.

“I’m thankful to still have a shot at a season at all, after the difficult decisions the NCAA made that ended all collegiate spring seasons. It could be worse, and I’m hoping this situation is resolved by June so we can compete.”

“It’s not what we want,” tour owner and CEO Donald Sun told The Associated Press. “Beach volleyball is about the electricity. But it’s also the way the athletes earn a living. We talked about green screens. We talked about how we could just do a whole tour up and down Southern California beaches and not have fans, just for content, if that’s what we have to do in the end, and everyone wants to do it. But we’re not seriously considering it at this time.”

A start date seven weeks behind the original schedule is one of the best news any sporting league has announced of late. The trickiest issues beach volleyball athletes must navigate now are delayed paychecks, and how to prepare for a new start date after carefully regimenting their off- and pre-seasons to begin peaking in May.

All in all, though, “it could be worse,” Schalk said. “A lot of people have it a lot worse than we do right now.”

“Yes, it’s a bummer that our schedule has been changed, but I respect the AVP’s decision and understand that our health is a priority right now,” said Kelly Reeves, who finished third in the 2019 Manhattan Beach Open with Terese Cannon. “We are a family and it is our duty to do our part in times like these.”

For now, athletes must simply find a way to remain healthy and prepared for the new start date in late June. There is no telling what the status of the virus, and society as a whole, will be come June. But there is at least a date, a schedule, something tangible to hope for, which is more than not only just athletes, but those in the workforce in general.

“I don’t think anyone would have imagined this for 2020,” said Schermerhorn, who recently returned from the FIVB Guam one-star with a silver medal. “But I think when these things happen, it’s our reactions to these unforeseen and challenging circumstances that defines our character and the situation as a whole. I applaud the AVP for taking this matter seriously and adjusting the schedule as they see fit. As an athlete on the AVP, it’s definitely hard to see events cancelled and wonder what our future holds. But at the same time, I don’t see any point in fretting over what we can’t control.

“It’s up to us as a population to heed the warnings and suggestions about how to limit the spread of Covid-19. Then we just hope the situation improves so that we are able to resume our normal routines, and play this season out according to the new schedule.”

2020 AVP Pro Tour Schedule:
Gold Series New York City Open — June 19-21
Hermosa Beach Open — July 24-26
Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open — August 14-16
Gold Series Championship Chicago — September 4-6
Hawai’i Open — September 18-20
Huntington Beach Open — October 2-4

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