Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Ohio club finds success in growing beach volleyball opportunities

USA Volleyball recently had a conversation with Rob Long, the Director and Head Coach of Ohio Valley Beach Volleyball Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio. Long’s club, Next Level Beach Volleyball, operates out of a sand facility in Loveland, Ohio, and he shared with USAV the mission of his program and how they are achieving ongoing success.

Background of the Club

In 2011, when the NCAA announced that beach volleyball would become an emerging sport, Long recognized the need to build a strong foundation for junior players in the Midwest in order to create more opportunities at the college level. Starting with just 20 kids in 2012 and practicing a couple of times a week, Next Level Beach Volleyball aimed to generate interest in the sport.

The Ohio Valley Region, with its 20,000 members, is the second largest region in USA Volleyball for total full-memberships. While volleyball is popular in the Ohio Valley Region, beach volleyball had yet to gain traction. Next Level Beach Volleyball began marketing the sport more aggressively, and the addition of their five-court indoor sand facility allowed them to train year-round. As a result, their number of participants grew from 80-plus kids in the second year to over 300 kids participating throughout the year.

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Factors Contributing to Success

Next Level Beach Volleyball attributed its recent success to offering year-round training opportunities. The indoor sand facility, established four years ago, provided the kids with the chance to practice throughout the year. In contrast, the limited summer months in the Midwest make it challenging to grow beach volleyball. Additionally, the club expanded its reach beyond the Ohio Valley Region and became Next Level Beach Volleyball Club, attracting kids from nine different states who want to travel and compete at a national level.

Funding and Traveling

To make travel more affordable, Next Level Beach Volleyball organizes fundraisers and runs tournaments and activities where the kids can raise money. They travel together in team vans and stay in team accommodations, usually a house, to keep costs down. By cooking their own meals, they manage to keep the cost per kid low, allowing more kids to participate. Traveling to areas with stronger competition, such as Florida and California, is essential for their players’ development and exposure to collegiate-level opportunities.

College-Bound Athletes and Training Methods

Next Level Beach Volleyball has had close to 15 girls in the last three years who have gone on to play in college. They attribute their success to intense training, with three practices a week lasting for 2.5 hours each. The best players in the club set the pace, inspiring others to give their best effort. Additionally, Next Level Beach Volleyball offers a program for players who aspire to play in college, providing personalized coaching and guidance to help them reach their goals.

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Boys Programming and Expansion Plans

Next Level Beach Volleyball also offers boys programs in the summer. However, due to the lack of a collegiate level for boys, these programs are not as popular. In terms of facilities, Next Level Beach Volleyball is currently at its capacity with court space. They are planning to build two more courts at their current facility and are exploring opportunities to expand their presence in cities like Indianapolis, Louisville, and Columbus.

Conclusion

Next Level Beach Volleyball’s success can be attributed to its year-round training programs, fundraising efforts, and strategic travel plans. The club’s commitment to providing affordable opportunities for its players has contributed to its growth and the development of college-bound athletes. With plans for expansion and the continued support of their community, Next Level Beach Volleyball aims to strengthen the sport in the Midwest region.