Sand volleyball poised to return to college



The NCAA is considering bringing sand volleyball to the collegiate level as a sanctioned sport because of renewed interest in it. Photo Illustration: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Matt Gubbels

With the Olympics coming up, U.S. women Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor are looking to defend their gold medal in sand volleyball.

Walsh and May-Treanor’s performances on a national stage have brought attention to the sport of sand volleyball and the NCAA is looking to take advantage of this.

The NCAA voted this month to add sand volleyball to a list of sports being considered for competition and ISU volleyball coach Christy Johnson said this could grow the sport even more.

“It could help bring in more fans, more attention and more TV time,” Johnson said. “It could be really great for our sport.”

Colleges, like Texas and Nebraska, have sent their indoor athletes to beach-format events in the spring for more practice, but the events are just a way to fire up their spring practice schedules.

Johnson said some of the Cyclones play sand volleyball in the offseason but she has never taken the team out to train in the sand.

“That’s probably going to need to start happening if this ruling goes through,” Johnson said. “We have several players that really enjoy it – it’s just personal preference because it’s such a different sport from the indoor game.”

The change to sand volleyball would catch up the college game with professional and Olympic levels, where beach volleyball expands the sport from just the indoor version. It will be called “sand” in college, though, due to the fact that not just the schools on the coasts will be allowed to participate.

The indoor version has six players combining to score points but the sand version is much different. It has pairs that stay together like a doubles tennis team, but the NCAA is trying to find a way to get more players on the court.

Uncertainties like this, Johnson said, are things that will still need to be worked out.

“How would we handle having an indoor and an outdoor season? Would they allow athletes to play both?” Johnson said.

“Coaching-wise, would we add an additional coach”

“There are lots of things to be considered, both positive and negative – I think it’s going to happen in the next couple of years.”

Sand volleyball is looking to become like bowling and ice hockey, which started on the “emerging sports” list, and spread to the 40 schools necessary to stage a championship.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, USA volleyball and the AVP, along with college conferences and programs, have supported this proposal as well. The commissioner of the AVP tour, Leonard Armato, told this will help American beach volleyball players in international competitions because they don’t play competitively until after college.

Johnson said the skills differ quite a bit from the indoor game to the outdoor game – almost to the point where it is a different sport.

“One of my concerns is I never played sand growing up or in college, so I would have to learn quite a bit about how to train in sand,” Johnson said.

“It would be a big learning curve for me and my staff.

“If they decide to push for this, we will get educated.”