The idea was to make a restaurant row, only there would be no restaurants, but a heck of a lot of volleyball tournaments.
For so long, tournament directors had been attracting teams and players to their local tournaments by virtue of their own marketing and websites. Teams and individuals had to find their specific website to register for the tournament.
Jon Alvarez, a coding wiz and lifelong volleyball player and enthusiast of all things beach volleyball, wanted to change that.
“Every city in America has a restaurant row,” Alvarez said. “That’s because when you go to one restaurant, you might see another and say ‘We’ll try that one next time.’ It’s for marketing purposes.”
So he created the makings of a beach volleyball restaurant row, so to speak: His website, VolleyballLife.com, would be a one-stop shop to find any tournament across the country, be it juniors, A, AA, or professional. No more hunting around the internet to find a stop in Texas or Tennessee with a decent payout.
Just hop onto VolleyballLife and scroll. You’ll find one.
“When everybody is on the same site, you get more exposure and you find more players,” Alvarez said. “People were way against that, way back when.”
Way, way back when, in 2006, was when Alvarez had the initial idea for the site. Bought the domain name and everything.
He was ahead of his time, in a way, when he began building a paperless system through which to run tournaments. No more printed brackets and pool sheets — just find it online, fill it out, and let the schedule populate. Parents who couldn’t make the tournament could follow their kids’ progress and scores.
Now, in an era of Covid and contactless everything, it seems especially prescient.
“It was ahead of its time. People just weren’t ready to go away from pen and paper,” he said.
It’s hardly a choice anymore, to get away from pen and paper, or anything with physical contact. Just as it’s hardly a choice for tournament directors to have their tournaments on one major site or other. While the AVP, and by extension AVP America, is loyal to BracketPal, several other organizations, including Vollis in Tennessee, Ed Ratledge’s VolleyOC, and the Texas Volleyball Tour, among others, have adopted VolleyballLife.
It was Ratledge, really, who provided the launching pad for VolleyballLife. For years, he had been partners with the CBVA, which has an excellent website, with a full schedule and points database. But he was exploring options to become independent, and when he asked Alvarez, a longtime friend, if he could build one, Alvarez had it up within a few days, as well as tournament registrations.
VolleyballLife had its first client.
You know the saying by now: “If you build it …”
Soon, organizations were coming. The AAU jumped on board. Some of the largest independent tournaments — Fuds in Florida, for example — joined as well.
“Ed really has been my beta tester all along,” Alvarez said. “He said ‘I just want a points database and a way to register.’ Then we went to work on the back end and doing full tournament management.”
Now, it’s easy to find virtually any beach volleyball tournament, on Alvarez’s restaurant row of beach volleyball. In two clicks, you can see where you or son or daughter or niece or nephew stands in their respective rankings. You can see their next tournament, previous finishes — and keep up, live, with their current one.
“When (Texas Volleyball Tour) joined, It took me two to three hours to move over all their members, all their previous tournaments, their entire points system, everything,” Alvarez said. “It’s just a matter of getting tournament directors to say ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ ”
Let’s join restaurant row.