The Florida volleyball community lost one its icons last week when Chris Colgan, a former beach volleyball promoter with Exclusive Sports Network, died in a boating accident in Miami.
Colgan, 56, and wife Elisaine, 39, were celebrating Elisaine’s birthday with Jennifer Cadavid, 28, and Troy Forte, 37, when the 32-foot boat in which they were riding crashed into a jetty, flipping the boat. Only Forte survived and he is serious but stable.
The Colgans, married 17 years, are survived by their 16-year-old son Chris Jr.
Chris Colgan, a former stockbroker, managed the Dig The Beach arm of Exclusive Sports Marketing from 2006 to 2011 after purchasing the company with partner Matt Lorraine. ESM runs marathons, triathlons, and beach volleyball in Florida. Last year Dig The Beach ran 15 events.
“It’s shocking and tragic,” said Lorraine, who was Colgan’s Wall Street assistant in 1996. “He was a human cartoon character. Very animated, very demonstrative, loud and boisterous, in his own good way.
“Chris did a great job in taking the lead role in volleyball, and growing it to what it became.
“He was a 5-foot-7 fire-hydrant of a guy. He probably had about six inches of vertical leap. He was drawn to the atmosphere, the lifestyle of beach volleyball, he was always a big beach guy and loved to fish as well.”
Colgan was one of the pioneers in junior beach volleyball along with Cindy Philips, who founded Club BeachDig. Colgan gave the juniors a place to compete, opening up tournament Sundays.
“He was one of a kind,” Philips said. “He was great to work with, he was so fiery, so passionate, cared so much about the players. He stayed in that business way longer than he should have.
“There wasn’t a lot of money to be made, but he couldn’t just walk away because he cared too much about the players. He worked his butt off, and he always made it fun. Everybody always loved being around him, he was high energy with a big personality and a big loud voice. Just an amazing person.
“His personality is larger than life. He was like a little kid, with his energy and excitement. I remember when we started working together, and he was so excited about having all these kids playing beach volleyball, because it hadn’t been happening up until this point.”
Colgan worked 80-hour weeks before events and ran as many as 15 events per year. He left his job as a stock broker in 2011, but eventually returned to his other passion, trading stocks after leaving Exclusive Sports Marketing. He also flipped homes with Elisaine, a real estate broker.
Another Floridian, volleyball promoter Al-B Hannemann, praised Colgan’s friendship and loyalty.
“Chris was one of my favorite people in the sport. He was loyal and really helped me in my first year of the NVL, with advice and helping me get established in Florida,” Hanneman said. “He was one of the good guys. Volleyball lost a really strong ambassador.”
Colgan was called “Mad Dog.”
“He was very excitable. Any kind of issue, he would get really, really excited. He lifted a lot of weights, he was like a little bulldog. When he got excited, he would shake, and they would call him Mad Dog,” pro player Steve VanZwieten said.
Diogo Sousa, who eventually took over Dig The Beach from Colgan, had the opportunity to see the “Mad Dog” side.
“When he got stressed out, he would need some time to think. When he first started doing this, he would just burst out,” Sousa said. “Whatever came to mind, he would say. But a few years into it, he would realize that he needed to take a few deep breaths and process instead of just lashing out.”
Philips noted Colgan’s fierce devotion.
“He would go to the ends of the earth to do something for somebody that he cared about, or something that meant a lot to people.”
VanZwieten recalled a Dig the Beach tournament at Siesta Beach in 2010. Siesta Beach is a low-lying beach prone to flooding.
“Chris went out on a Thursday and worked straight through Thursday night, Friday night, renting pumps from Home Depot, and dug big holes to pump it all out back into the ocean.
“The players would ask if the tournament would be cancelled, and he’d say, ‘There’s no way we’re cancelling the tournament. Everyone’s already here, I’m going to work through the night, and he worked through the night for two nights with no sleep, digging holes and pumping it out.’
“And he offered anybody refunds that didn’t want to play on the hard-packed surface. He was always putting other people first.”
Visitation is from 5:30 p.m. Thursday to 9:30 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Horizon Funeral Home, 4650 North Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, Florida 33064.
A memorial services is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Coleman Catholic Church, 1200 South Federal Highway, Pompano Beach, Florida 33062.
Also, plans are being developed for a memorial beach tournament to honor Colgan, tentatively in late May. Details will be announced on the front page of the Dig The Beach website or Diogo can be contacted at email@example.com.