Pro-Am Beach Soccer
1 Sep, 2020By: Tighe O'Sullivan
An Interview with Tighe O’Sullivan, CEO and Tournament Director
Pro-Am Beach Soccer is an organization offering the sand version of the sport to all ages, from youth (starting with 8U) and running through adult play. The organization’s biggest event is the Santa Cruz Open in Santa Cruz, California. That event, typically held over two days in June, brings in more than 150 teams and 2,000 athletes (attendance is capped because it quickly reaches capacity). It also hosts international events in Bali and Singapore. The National Championship is held in November/December.
Sports Destination Management: Apart from COVID, has the interest in sand soccer been growing?
Tighe O’Sullivan: From the standpoint of the number of events, it has grown over the last decade. As more coaches realize the benefits of sand on development, it grows even faster.
SDM: Is there an increase in the popularity in beach sports in general?
O’Sullivan: Yes – we have seen growth in beach lacrosse, beach Ultimate, beach volleyball, as well as beach rugby – they’re all really popular.
SDM: Any idea whether beach soccer would be an NCAA sport, the way beach volleyball is?
O’Sullivan: I think so, but it will take time. The first step is doing it at the club level, the same way beach volleyball did, and then building from there. We’d need to have competitions and national championships at the college club level first. Many are interested and are in talks with us presently.
SDM: What can make beach soccer so successful at the college level?
O’Sullivan: It’s a really good training tool. College Club soccer is active only a few months a year and then the rest of the year, teams are raising money and looking for a new way to train and compete. Beach soccer gives them the ability to do all that. Not to mention those who take advantage of the opportunity will have more than a leg up on their competition come fall.
SDM: Long term, what do you see as beach soccer’s goals?
O’Sullivan: I would say getting it to be an Olympic sport. We’re partially there – at the ANOC Beach Games in Dubai, the USA sent a women’s beach soccer team in 2019. It was the first time and bodes well in the future for the sport both internationally and in the USA.
SDM: Under normal circumstances, when you’re looking for a city to host your events, what are you seeking? A beachfront location, for example?
O’Sullivan: It’s not always about having a beach – it’s more about having the sand. We can do this anywhere where there’s a large enough plot of sand. We’ve been aiming to hold events in landlocked cities like Kansas City, Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, Cedar Rapids, Iowa – there are some amazing places and they would do a great job at hosting. But we won’t go into a new project without a local partner club.
SDM: So you don’t need a purpose-built facility either?
O’Sullivan: We don’t feel like “build it and they will come” applies to us. We’re looking for a city where there is a soccer club which will take advantage of the benefits of training in sand. We will teach their coaches as part of the partnership if needed. There is empirical evidence to show that it makes you stronger and faster, and that it builds stability and strength...this is not to mention the extreme advancement in skills and addressing the flighted ball. It’s a complete win/win!
So first, we’re looking for a club that understands that. We like to get them involved in helping organize the event with the goal of handing it over to them. We have worked with convention and visitors bureaus and sports commissions to find places with soccer clubs that would be a great fit. We like to tell them, “Here is an opportunity to bring more money into your program and make your players a lot better.” That has been our mantra and we’ve had success with it. SDM