The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are raging on and what has grabbed the headlines? Snow volleyball.
In collaboration with the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV), "Snow Volleyball Night" was held on February 14. The exhibition matches, played in a two-on-two format similar to that of beach volleyball, had some great starpower too, according to an article in Inside The Games.
Among those jumping into the snow were three-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion Giba of Brazil, two-time Olympic medalist Vladimir Grbi? of Serbia, Xue Chen of China and Brazil's Emanuel, a three-time Olympic medalist, as well as South Korea's Kim Yeon-Koung, and former European champions Stefanie Schwaiger and Nikolas Berger of Austria. Celebrities, including Prince Albert of Monaco, were among the spectators as well.
And the Winter Games, organizers hope, will be a jumping-off point for… more Winter Games. At least if the FIVB, volleyball’s international governing body, has its way.
"They want to push it ultimately to the Winter Olympics," Martin Kaswurm, whose company manages the Snow Volleyball European Tour, told USA TODAY. "It's not something we put into the mouths of the FIVB. It's something they had as a goal themselves."
While the IOC has announced that no new medal sports will be added to Beijing 2022, it hasn't really diminished the interest in the sport.
"It is not our first priority to add snow volleyball to the Olympic program," said Austrian Olympic Committee President, who along with IOC member Karl Stoss, was among those promoting the event. "It is more important to promote the sport for the young people so that next to skating, sliding, skiing, they have another opportunity to do something with their family and friends. It will certainly grow and if it grows, maybe one day it could feature on the Olympic program."
A total of 17 European federations are hosting a snow volleyball national championship this winter while the 2018 edition of the European Tour includes six stops in four countries.
Closer to home, USA Volleyball couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities.
“Snow volleyball is in its infancy in the U.S., but I believe it has huge potential,” Jamie Davis, CEO of USA Volleyball, told Sports Destination Management.
Davis says it’s simply a matter of helping the sport get up and running in this country. And since it has a format like that of beach volleyball – which relies on a fast, physical game on the court and a party atmosphere among spectators – it could, at least in theory, transfer easily to a resort setting. In fact, USA Volleyball is already on the case.
“You could start with exhibitions at the bases of ski resorts, down near the gondola,” Davis said. “We are in conversations with some major chains now.”
By placing courts at the base of the resort, Davis noted, where they would be visible to those enjoying après-ski drinks and food, the sport and its athletes would have excellent visibility. It would also be possible to leave courts set up for pickup games. Most people already know the rules (or at least the basics) and the equiupment is inexpensive to purchase and install.
Planners of winter sports events, including ski, snowboard, ice climbing, cross-country skiing and more, could similarly make efforts to publicize the game at their competitions, to generate spectator interest, as well as to attract participants. Winter sports festivals where other outdoor activities are held, including ice fishing, snowshoeing and snowga (yoga in the snow), would present a similar opportunity to showcase snow volleyball.
With colleges having led the charge for beach volleyball, Davis says, it’s not a huge leap to think the sport of snow volleyball could gain traction there as well, particularly at the intramural and club levels in areas where snowy winters can be counted on.
“It could start out as a social game and grow to be a competitive one,” he noted.
The buzz is already building, and articles laying out the elements of the sport are beginning to appear. (Wear soccer shoes. Dress in layers because you’ll be peeling them off. There’s a DJ and cheerleaders. Be prepared to use the hot tub. And so on.)
If the sport continues to build momentum, there is already a strong pool of players who not only already know how to play and have the necessary skill set, but who will be likely to want to replicate it closer to home.
“That could be a real game-changer,” says Davis.