This year could have been it for Earl Schultz.
He was, as many qualifier players can get, discouraged by the lack of results. Here he was, putting in the work, putting in the work, putting in the work – only to bow out in qualifier after qualifier. Ten qualifiers he had played, 10 times he had fallen short.
“I thought about ceasing to compete at the end of this season if we didn’t qualify,” he said. “I’d focus on other aspects of my life.”
And then he and Jake Urrutia qualified in Hermosa Beach, the first main draw for both. Now he was a bona fide professional beach volleyball player. Now he was having kids ask him for autographs, one even requesting he and Urrutia sign his forehead with a red marker.
“Now,” he said, “I have a tangible reason to keep training hard and pursuing volleyball.”
And a monumental aspect of that training, all season long and continuing throughout the winter and into next season, has been the p1440 Developmental Program, which awarded $50,000 to the top 20 athletes in the program at season’s end, based on a point system that included performances at bi-monthly intrasquad tournaments, AVPs, CBVAs, and attendance at practices.
Schultz and Urrutia are but one example of developmental athletes making breakthroughs this season. No additional ink needs to be written on Zana Muno and Crissy Jones, the 47-seed in the Hermosa qualifier to make the semifinals, and then qualify for every tournament for the rest of the season. As good as they are – and indeed they deserve every syllable of hype mentioned about them – they were only one example, if an excellent one.
Adam Roberts and Andy Benesh, who finished the season ranked No. 1 overall among the developmental athletes, took seventh in Hermosa Beach, a career-high for Benesh. Cody Caldwell and Macy Jerger, who finished third, respectively, in the developmental program, for their genders, both enjoyed career seasons. Bre Moreland, fifth in the developmental rankings, made her first main draw in more than a year. Garrett Roberts, seventh on the men’s side, made his first career main, also in Hermosa Beach. As did Steve Irvin in Hawai’i, with fellow developmental athlete John Schwengel.
The list goes on: Chris Austin and Kris Johnson made it through in Manhattan Beach, Jessica McGuire made the final qualifying round, Bill Kolinske made a Sunday, Megan Nash made her first career FIVB main draw.
The common denominator is the developmental program, which not only provided practices overseen by an armada of coaches, but also offered financial incentives at the end of the season to the top-10 finishers on the men’s and women’s side.
“The p1440 Developmental Program is really a dream come true for someone like me,” said Alex Amylon, who recently moved from the East Coast and was able to settle into a regular training group with ease. “It has given me some invaluable opportunities in my beach volleyball journey. I’ve met some amazing coaches, players, and friends in just the short time that I have been a part of it. Being in the program has opened up doors much quicker for me as someone who is still pretty new to living in Southern California. Sometimes moving to a new place and not knowing anyone can be really daunting and downright difficult. The p1440 Dev Program has definitely helped me through some of that transition.”