When USA Volleyball relocated its High Performance Program to Colorado in 2018, Megan Burgdorf and Michelle Meyer still had unfinished business left to do. Ideas they didn’t get to pursue. Efforts they were excited to spearhead but would no longer get the chance to lead.
The two had met at USAV in 2015, working on developing the youth pipeline in the U.S. through the aforementioned High Performance Program. They were a good fit, Meyer a former assistant coach for Hawai’i’s beach team and Director of Operations at Pepperdine; Burgdorf a former representative for the FIVB DEV Small Countries Division while living in Dublin, Ireland.
When USA moved its High Performance Program to Colorado, Burgdorf stayed in Hermosa Beach. Meyer briefly went to work for Hudl and then hit the road, coaching in Italy, Spain, and Germany, before returning to San Diego.
In 2019, with both back in the United States, they returned to the issues they saw in the sport that had been left unresolved since 2018, forming their own business to take them on: Beach Volleyball Consulting.
The business focuses on the growth of the sport at all levels, from the grassroots to the professional, filling various holes in each. As beach volleyball clubs and participation in the sport have boomed in number across the country, Burgdorf and Meyer saw a hole: Not every junior had access to the professional athletes that those in the South Bay do. So they launched a Pro Athlete Mentorship Program, providing juniors access to Professional Athletes via — in non-Covid times — clinics and video calls. It’s a win-win: Juniors are given the opportunity to learn from and develop relationships with the best players in the country; those professional players have another avenue through which to build a fanbase, make an impact on the community, and develop a new income stream in a sport largely deprived of that.
“Every time a kid comes across a professional in beach they learn so much and it’s having a direct impact on the kids because we don’t have that apprenticeship or shadowing experience,” said Burgdorf, an Ohio native who played indoors for Cleveland State.
It is but one example of the many gaps they are attempting to bridge in beach volleyball — and doing so, it is important to mention, successfully. Early in the business’s launching, Burgdorf and Meyer partnered with the AVCA in an effort to grow men’s collegiate beach volleyball.
A detailed impact report published by Burgdorf and Meyer showed, among much more, the tremendous benefit the college game was having on the women’s side of the professional tour. It caught the attention of AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer.
“The Impact Report 2019, produced by Megan and Michelle, put into numbers the lack of opportunity for males in beach volleyball,” DeBoer wrote in a news release. “Our linkages in the college sector and our success with starting women’s beach made this an initiative we wanted to tackle.”
“Tri is the prime example of an athlete who grew up playing on the beach at Outrigger and if beach was an option in college, he would have done that,” Meyer said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “But you have to play indoor, then you want to play professionally and go make money then after that you come to the beach at 25. It’s something that – you miss those seven years of development on the beach because you have to because you’re not just going to go shelling out money for your education if you can get a scholarship indoor.”
They’re working to change that, beginning at the baseline level with the NAIA, where the barriers to entry are lower, there are fewer road blocks to navigate, and there was already a bit of momentum. A little, anyway.
Colleges in Maryland (Stevenson University), Virginia (Liberty University), California (Irvine Valley, Westcliff, and the University of St. Katherine), have already formed men’s beach programs. Burgdorf and Meyer have identified 25 or so others, in clusters across the country, that could do so with minimal effort.
“Maybe if we can find programs like Webber which already have a women’s program and could be starting a men’s program, hopefully that will grow,” Burgdorf said. “We have some started on the East Coast, some started on the West Coast, Arizona is starting to do some exploring too.”
They aren’t stopping there, either. As if supporting grassroots athletes and spearheading an audacious effort to get a male NCAA sport added wasn’t enough, Burgdorf and Meyer are also providing consulting of sorts to professional beach players, particularly the younger ones who have little in the way of navigating international travel, handling money, finding coaches — everything their college coaching staff handled for them.
“Our NCAA system holds the hands of so many young kids of 18-21 and says ‘OK, here’s your plane ticket,’ their ID is the only thing they’re responsible for,” Meyer said. “Other than that, the coach handles everything else: practice now, trainer now, strength and conditioning, everything is so structured that’s another issue Megan and I are running into with college girls coming out on the domestic tour: Wait, I have to hire a coach and figure out my strength and conditioning and figure out my budgeting. There’s no structure around that or education until you get in and you figure it out for yourself.”