The idea began, fittingly enough, sometime around Christmas, the giving season. The podcast that Tri Bourne and I host, SANDCAST, was doing well in its first month, far better than we expected it to be doing at the time.
Before we had even hit our 10th episode, we had featured the two best players in the world in their respective genders in April Ross and Phil Dalhausser, as well as the best player from his native country in Chaim Schalk. The feedback we received was great.
We wondered if we could do more.
I forget what podcast I listened to on Christmas morning –- I, alongside my dog, am an early riser, so I had about three hours to kill before anybody else was up –- but I do remember the premise: that the best thing a human being can do is give to another without expecting anything in return.
On SANDCAST, we had a platform, though in its nascent stages, we lacked funding to give athletes anything more than a microphone in which to talk and the freedom to discuss whatever they wanted. But still, over the month of January, we discussed starting a SANDCAST Scholarship for college players, and the ideas were well and good, and all of us –- Tri, VolleyballMag.com editor Lee Feinswog, and I –- agreed that we wanted to do something along those lines.
We just needed to figure out a way to do it.
Last Sunday, I went to church with a group of volleyball players. Maybe we prayed super hard that night. I don’t know.
But when I got home I had an email waiting for me from –- and here I’m honoring the wish of anonymity –- the Beach Volleyball Community.
They loved the podcast, it read. How could they help it grow? Any projects need funding?
Well, now that you mention it … we did have this scholarship idea awhile back … and we haven’t done much with it since … but we’d like to figure out a way to make this thing happen.
With a few tweaks.
The Beach Volleyball Community wanted to help the pro game grow, to help the young and up-and-coming players break through the ranks.
All right. Up-and-coming professionals –- we’re not messing with NCAA eligibility, so we have decided we will not sponsor college teams –- it is.
So here’s how the SANDCAST Wildcard is going to work.
SANDCAST is going to sponsor two teams per tournament –- one male, one female –- covering entry fee and travel cost –- planes, trains, automobiles, hotels –- and hook them up with three pieces of SANDCAST apparel each.
How do we pick the teams?
They earn it. And we have our recipients for AVP Huntington Beach May 2-6.
The male and female teams that made it out of the qualifier and had the highest finish in the main draw will be funded for their next professional event, which could be an AVP, FIVB, NORCECA, p1440, whatever. Which means that in selecting the teams we had to take it back to Chicago, where Katie Spieler and Karissa Cook took a ninth out of the qualifier, and Jeff Samuels and Raffe Paulis claimed 13th.
Spieler and Cook actually tied for ninth with another qualifying team, Aurora Davis and Bree Scarbrough, so we developed a tie-break system –- first going to sets played, then to point differential –- which gave the edge to Spieler and Cook.
(Listen, it’s not a perfect system, we know. But it’s what we got for now).
Paulis and Samuels were the outright winners for the men.
This is the beauty of the Beach Volleyball Community. Players do not do this for the money. It would take no small amount of willful ignorance to do so.
They play because they love the game.
Sometimes that love causes players to go broke.
This is the Beach Volleyball Community doing its part to ease the immense financial burden volleyball players take on, which can be the difference between an up-and-comer realizing their potential and quitting before they even get close.
In exchange for the travel funding, players will be providing little snapshots of their lives behind the scenes, as well as their preparation for the tournament, which we will compile into a video series for each tournament. That’s the idea, at least, and ideas are always privy to change, especially the new, untested ones.
If you, reader among the Beach Volleyball Community, would like to support professional beach players via SANDCAST, we do have a crowd-funding mechanism here: https://patron.podbean.com/sandcast
We will be transparent with where every single dollar of the crowd funding will go.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep going to church.