Pro-Am Beach Soccer is an organization offering the sand version of the sport to all ages, from youth (starting with 9U) and running through adult play. The organization’s biggest event has traditionally been the Santa Cruz Open in Santa Cruz, California. The National Championship is held in August.
Sports Destination Management: How is your organization doing now that 2020 is behind us?
Tighe O’Sullivan: We’re glad to be back out of the pandemic, but I think we’ve definitely struggled a little more. Our primary audience is soccer players, obviously, but a lot of organizations that play the grass game are pushing their players hard to get back there and not looking at alternative tournaments. They’re encouraging kids to take the summer off and what they don’t realize is that playing the sand game makes players far better; it really is a very technical and strategic game. If teams come and play on the sand, they’ll come back a lot stronger on grass in the fall.
SDM: How have events been?
O’Sullivan: We ran our first event coming out of the pandemic last June. It was the first event put on in California, and it ran four days after the state reopened. It was by far the smallest we’d done since we started out. We have our Santa Cruz Open coming up now; that’s going to be small too by comparison.
SDM: California had a lot of restrictions.
O’Sullivan: Right now, our main focus is moving into other areas – South Padre Island, Tempe, that sort of thing. I have a list of 10-15 cities I’d like to expand into. We’re also looking for new local organizations to partner with, with a goal of growing the game in their city and having them take more responsibility for the event. Our website has a full list of our tournaments for this year.
SDM: What ages are you hosting in your events? Adults? Kids?
O’Sullivan: It’s both – we have micro level (those are the really young kids and they play in half-size fields in 4 v 4 with no goals). At U9, they start playing 6 v 6. At age 10, they start playing on a full-size field and 5 v 5. The adult field is what they start playing on at age 14. We have all the youth age groups up to U19, and then we have men’s and women’s open and co-ed.
SDM: Sand soccer is growing in popularity. How far back do your events go?
O’Sullivan: We started our events in 2005 during the same week FIFA established the World Cup. In the beginning we were one of three companies offering beach soccer. Prior to the pandemic, there were more than 60 events going on in the U.S. alone.
SDM: You talked about expanding into other cities; are you specifically looking at coastal areas?
O’Sullivan: Not all the time. Our name includes the words “Beach Soccer” but we’re also seeing it played on lakefronts, in parks and in desert areas. All you really need is the sand, and you need enough space. Any potential area has to be at least 1,000 feet long and 100 feet wide, which gives us space for eight fields. That allows us to host 100 teams over the course of two days.
SDM: Have you changed any other strategies with regard to your tournaments?
O’Sullivan: Not so much with our tournaments but we have definitely made some changes to what we’re offering our athletes and their families. We’ve started using augmented reality (AR). People can download our app and from there, they’ll be able get live updates on games, standing and other parts of the tournament – but they can also look at the AR Jumbotrons over each field. We’re also encouraging them to tag us, as well as to see selected sponsors, and to make posts on social media. Then, they can visit the sponsors’ booths and show them the post in order to receive a free gift. That also helps us get metadata, which anyone will tell you is what you’re looking for these days. SDM