As the agent provocateur of beach volleyball, and on behalf of all you good caring fans out there, I have a few resolutions for the sport to get off my chest for 2023:
NORWEGIAN WOULD: Miles Partain and Andy Benesh please fly over to Norway for a month (at least) of hard core training and soak up (is it in the water?) some of that “secret sauce” that the Mol (Anders/Hendrik/Marcus) family and Christian Sorum have formulated.
ADD SANITY TO THE SCHEDULE: It makes no sense to have the World Volleyball Tour Championships, the biggest event of 2022 outside of the World Championships themselves, in Doha in January of 2023. The first month of the year is when beach players should be playing golf, getting some rest and kicking back with Pacifico or another beer of their choice.
I understand the NFL and college football have their postseason championships the next calendar year, but the difference is that they are FALL sports. Beach volleyball is a spring and summer endeavor. Meaningful tournaments should take place from March until Labor Day. After that not a lot of people pay attention. It’s all football or futbol all the time, be it the American kind or English Premier League. In 2022, there were 12 tournaments on the Volleyball World tour that took place after September 1.
And while we are on the topic, contesting the 2023 World Championships in Mexico, in October of all months, is crazy. Sports fans are not thinking beach volleyball in mid-fall. The Worlds should provide the culmination to a season with athletes building up to a late summer peak. Mid to late August is the sweet spot.
What’s more, there should be at least half the weekends in that March-August window specifically carved out for all of the national tours to hold their events, including the AVP and other national/regional tours. This allows each circuit to have their best players competing on both the domestic and international tours, without cannibalization. A synchronicity of the calendar if you will. It makes no sense to do otherwise. Whether it be an AVP in Manhattan Beach, or a Volleyball World event in Gstaad and Espinho, they all deserve to have the best players going head-to-head.
KISS: Back in the 1970’s, the great late discus thrower John Powell introduced me to the concept of Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Well, we have gotten away from that in beach volleyball in a big way.
How can the uninitiated differentiate between a Volleyball World Challenge, Futures or Elite 16 tournament? Or, in the case of the AVP, a Pro, Tour or Gold Series? In the interest of a resolution that considers simplicity and clarity, how about ONE TOUR for each: The Volleyball World Gold and the AVP Gold? Everyone understands what the word “gold” signifies. I won’t even get into the lack of meaningful stats our sport has due to all these different designations and tiers.
KISS, PART 2: What other sport has three set of points calculations?
One for Olympic qualifying, one for tournament seeding, and a “world ranking.”
Only one of these really needs to be in play, and that is the world ranking. It can be used for seeding and also for Olympic qualifying.
BRING BACK THE BEST: Where have all the good tourneys gone?
How as a sport could we let Klagenfurt ever, ever have been ixnayed from the calendar? I would go crawling on my hands and knees to Austria to bring that tourney back. And what about Stavanger? How fun would it be to see Anders Mol do his backflip in front of an adoring home crowd? Both of these tourneys hosted World Championships in their past. Both are unique to the international DNA of the sport. Come back please!
Talk about contrasts, instead, we fans and players are stuck with Doha, which has been the site of four events in the last two years, with a fifth coming up later this month. Aside from the fact it is hardly a BVB hot spot, that country’s huma-rights record, or lack thereof, is shameful. Also, tournaments in Dubai, Oman, and South Africa are not physically easy for the players to get to, and the expense to the players and coaches of traveling to those far-flung locales is exorbitant. Is there really a local “scene” for beach volleyball in Sohar, Oman?
For some reason, Volleyball World conducts tournaments in Morocco, the Maldives and the Philippines, but none in the USA or Canada? With the Olympics in Los Angeles in less than six years, I would hold the World Tour Finals in Manhattan Beach for the next five summers. Plus, I would throw in a tournament in New York’s Central Park (where there are already two courts up and running) and Miami’s South Beach as the lead-up to the Tour finale.
LEARN FROM THE LEGENDS: It should be a resolution for all of the “alphabet soup” organizations to take input from all people in the volleyball spectrum. Certain former players with vision have been ostracized because of their views. Specifically, Kerri Walsh Jennings who is a Stanford graduate who knows a thing or two about the sport. While he may not be ostracized per se, Sinjin Smith, has forgotten more about the beach than any of the decision makers will ever know.
SHOW APPRECIATION: Resolve to appreciate your local promoter: Whether it be the Volleyball World Tour, AVP, CBVA or Seaside, if the local promoter does not make money, the sport has no events, and withers on the vine.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: I hate what Russia has done to Ukraine. And Russians are always cheating when it comes to PEDs and judging (see Sochi Olympics, all sports 2014, figure skater Kamila Valieva-2022 and just about every Russian track and field athlete). But
I can’t remember the last volleyball player of any country to get outed for doping. So, I am torn when I write that I miss Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, the reigning Olympic silver medalists and the ’19 World Champions, who could not defend their title in Rome this past summer. Really fun team to watch. Their battles with Mol and Sorum were epic.
BREAKING AWAY: To REALLy grow the sport of beach volleyball, it needs desperately to break away from the yolk of the mothership, the FIVB. Beach Volleyball is an FIVB “accessory.” It’s all about indoor with them.
2023 WILL BE GREAT: I have no doubts. Even if ONE of these “resolutions” gets adopted I would be thrilled. I encourage you fans to get involved and let your voices be heard. Let’s all strive to make the best sport in the world even better beginning in 2023.
Great points there, especially the KISS ones. I started playing beach volleyball 5 years ago and am only just now getting into the FIVB and AVP and it has taken so long to understand what the hell is going on with the different levels of tournaments. The points system is particularly crazy. As you said, just have world ranking points and base everything off that.
Both the FIVB and AVP need to have blue ribbon events that are played every season, with good prize money to build some prestige around. Manhattan for the AVP for example and Gstaad for FIVB. FIVB should have 4 events/locations that are on the tour every single year with increased prize money (set up sort of like the 4 tennis grand slams).
I would love for beach volleyball to get more popularity and allow a decent amount of the athletes to make a good living.
This article is written from a highly US-centered and populistic/superficial perspective on the complicated situation of a global sport.
Most of the proposals for structural and personnel changes are not realistic and/or would not lead to any positive outcome (with some of them already tested – unsuccesfully in past or present).
Appreciate your insight… As someone who lived in New Zealand for 7 years, your perspective on scheduling is Northern Hemisphere based…. While the majority of the top teams are from the Northern Hemisphere, there are some great locations in the Southern Hemisphere for tournaments where your time window is winter.
I think in terms of scheduling there are two critical path issues:
1. Coordination with the domestic tours. It would be really helpful if we could harmonize the big World and Domestic events in a way where the best athletes are playing in the highest visibility events world wide… If you make an American team choose between an AVP Event and a World Tour Elite 16 or Challenger event it is problematic (same with Brazil, Germany, etc…)
2. Consistency of locations and timing… Creating traditional times and venues allows for fans to make plans to always be a part of it (this was something that Donald Sun did very well with the AVP). As an example, the Ostrava tournament in the Czech Republic always has large and terrific crowds… While there is no doubt the middle eastern countries pose some unique challenges related to human rights…. It is actually a very central point for people to travel to globally (yes it is a long way from the US/Brazil/Australia) but there are direct flights on multiple airlines and it is easy to get to from Europe…
Again, I really appreciate your perspective and we share a common desire to grow the game that we love professionally so our athletes will have a chance to earn an income that aligns with their immense talent…
It’s 2023 right?! We still haven’t figured this out. Like your points Tom. I’ll add one that I think is very important..need to mirror Tennis w 4 majors! USA-Brazil- Europe and 1 other
This might be the obvious add ever!
Doha and Dubai are trying hard to establish themselves on the world map. Video coverage makes the games accessible worldwide. They have tons of money (Saudis just paid $200 million for a has been football player). Why not have several elite tournaments there? Draw the players by paying them lots of all that money! I would gladly fly there on a comfy Emirates A380 – best airline in the world – to watch. Just not in the summer in 110F heat!