The Waupaca Boatride Volleyball Tournament, also known as the U.S. Open of Grass Volleyball, is held annually over the second weekend of July, and is the world’s largest outdoor volleyball tournament, with more than 1,000 teams traveling in for five days of volleyball, camping and live entertainment. The tournament, which began in 1984, includes both sand and grass play, for single-sex as well as co-ed teams, and offers divisions for juniors and adults in various skill levels. For the last several years, the event has been held at Brighton Acres, Wisconsin.
Sports Destination Management: How has the tournament changed over the years?
Tom Galecke: The tournament has gotten bigger, and it has also gotten better. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to make changes that people like. For example, we noticed that in many volleyball tournaments, there is a single- or double-elimination format, meaning people might get to play once or twice and if they didn’t win, they were done. Nobody, whether they’re kids or adults, likes to travel somewhere and have that experience, so we changed our format to pool play, meaning everyone gets at least eight games. People get a lot more value out of the tournament as a result, and they have a lot more fun. They keep coming back and they keep bringing more teams and more friends.
SDM: Is it difficult to find a site for an event like this?
Galecke: We’re very good at working with what is available; we are flexible. Finding a site for a grass volleyball tournament means finding a nice, flat, open, grassy area. When we started adding in sand volleyball, it got a little more challenging since not everyone has those. We have found other sand courts that are available in the area of the tournament.
SDM: Do you also like to partner with local volleyball clubs to put on the event?
Galecke: Yes – if you go to our website, under the tab that says “Tournament Info,” you can find a list of the organizations that work with us. Many of those are local or regional volleyball organizations, but there are others as well. You always want support from the community.
SDM: A few years ago, the tournament started sponsoring a special clinic for juniors, run by Misty May-Treanor.
Galecke: Yes, the Dream In Gold (DIG) Clinics are open to juniors, grades seven through 12. There are clinics on both sand and grass volleyball, and the kids get direct instruction from Misty and her assistant coaches. There is a very good student-to-teacher ratio, and the kids really learn a lot. At the end of the clinics, each kid has the opportunity to talk to Misty, get her autograph and have a photo taken with her. It is a very popular program, and since we started offering those in 2011, they’ve grown to the point where we now offer both half-day and full-day clinics.
SDM: People seem to really embrace this particular tournament. Why is that?
Galecke: Over the years, this has become much more than just your average Saturday volleyball tournament; people make a whole vacation out of it, and it has developed into what many players refer to as a ‘family reunion.’ In keeping with that theme, the tournament committee has attempted to make it a fun-filled weekend for players, spectators, friends and family by adding Friday and Saturday night entertainment as well as five days of camping. People want to play volleyball, but just as much, they love the experience of being able to see their friends, watch good play, hang out, talk a little smack and have fun. The tournament is something they look forward to year after year. That’s what we work for.