When beach volleyball, the fastest-growing sport in college history, exploded on the scene as an NCAA championship event in record time, people were impressed. But a new development – this one at the two-year college level – is perhaps even more inspiring.
At the 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Annual Meetings, the Board of Directors passed the adoption of beach volleyball to become a full-time varsity sport in 2019. Programs will be able to field teams beginning in the fall of 2018 with the official competitive season beginning in the spring of 2019. The first official national championship will be held in the spring of 2021, the 48th NJCAA national championship event.
And that means destinations and event owners need to be ready.
Plenty of people are excited about this development and one of those is Mary Young, head volleyball coach at Central (Nebraska), Vice President of the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association, and Region IX Women's Director, who served as the lead throughout the adoption process. And according to Young, it was the four-year colleges that set the most important example.
“The growth really stemmed from the interest at the NCAA level,” Young said. “It really has opened the door for it to grow at our level as well.”
To help beach succeed at the two-year level, NJCAA has partnered with the organization that served as the original launching pad for the sport several years ago – the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), which handled beach’s progression to NCAA championship. AVCA will work with NJCAA for the next four years as the sport transitions to the larger stage.
AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer has already voiced her optimism for the sport in its new forum. “Beach volleyball, played as a tennis-style, flighted team sport, is relatively new to the college scene,” she noted. “The growth has been remarkable with over 70 four-year colleges adding programs in just six years. This forward-looking vote by the NJCAA will open new opportunities to attract student-athletes to its campuses and give options to those wanting to move on."
“Kathy’s excitement for beach is contagious – just being around the table with her is great,” said Young.
Young made the trip down to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, for the AVCA board meeting, and was able to take in the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship.
“Once I saw the championship for the first time, I knew it was something we could – and should – do at the NJCAA level,” said Young.
At this point, she notes, the details of championship events have yet to be decided, including how many schools will field teams and how intercollegiate and regional competitions will be held. However, she noted, there will ultimately come a time when the organization solicits potential championship host sites.
“I think that will be a popular bid,” she said.
But the most important aspect of this development has little to do with economic impact and travel to championships. It doesn’t even have to do with the beach vibe or the fast-paced excitement of the sport – although those are the tools that will attract a new generation to play, a generation that might otherwise not have the chance or even the inclination.
“The real win is it provides an opportunity for young people who didn’t think about furthering their education or their career skills,” said Young, “There’s an opportunity for an athletic program but it really provides an opportunity for an education to occur. It’s a great way to engage young people, get them involved and help them grow. I have to say it has been one of the most satisfying projects I've been a part of in my career. I'm excited to see where the journey of beach volleyball will take the NJCAA and our student-athletes."