As outlined in the 2019 Impact Report, the average age of women on the USA domestic tour (AVP) has decreased significantly over the past seven years while the age of men has stayed stagnant. The obvious conclusion to draw is that the addition of beach volleyball as an NCAA sport for women has had an immediate and massive impact. Where it used to take a few years for indoor graduates to transition to the sand, now young women are graduating out of NCAA beach programs and immediately finishing high in the main draw. Heck, current and even FUTURE collegiate beach athletes are now qualifying and pushing the seasoned veterans in the main draw.
Internationally, products of NCAA beach are starting to emerge. Of the 12 women on the USA Beach National Team, six were NCAA beach athletes. The 2019 World Championships featured eight collegiate beach volleyball athletes.
“It was great preparation for the FIVB World Tour,” Kelly Claes, Team USA said. “I am thankful and grateful to have gone through the pipeline of college beach volleyball.”
So, what exactly is it about NCAA that prepares beach volleyball athletes to have an immediate impact?
Year-Round Training by Top USA Coaches
Perhaps the biggest perk of competing for an NCAA beach volleyball program is the access to dedicated year-round training by some of the top coaches in the United States. At this time, there are limited opportunities for full-time professional beach volleyball coaches. The NCAA has provided a new home for elite beach volleyball coaches and a new career path for aspiring coaches.
Competitions. Competitions. Competitions.
The average NCAA program plays over 30 duels a season. Besides those formal competitions, athletes are competing daily in training to earn and retain their position in the top five pairs. They are constantly pushing their teammates and very rarely is there a time when the pressure is off and competition isn’t at the forefront.
Tailored Strength and Conditioning Program
While at an NCAA program, athletes will be put through a strenuous strength and conditioning program that is tailored for beach volleyball and structured to have them peak in time for the competitive season. These young women graduate at or near their limit of fitness capabilities. They also learn what it takes, and what it feels like, to be in top physical condition. This education allows them to move forward with an understanding of strength and conditioning and what they can continue to do on their own post-graduation, should they not be able to afford their own strength coach.
Access to Athletic Training
Another perk that NCAA athletes gain access to is an experienced athletic trainer who ensures their bodies are healthy and prepared to compete. NCAA programs offer pre-hab, re-hab, preventative-hab, and everything in between. Athletes get an opportunity to learn about their bodies and how to best take care of them through the grueling season.
Additional resources: Nutritionist, Sports Psych, Academic Tutor
Not all, but some programs offer additional resources to their student-athletes. The scope of these resources put some of the top programs in the same realm as what USA Volleyball offers its top tier athletes!
Former athlete at the University of Hawaii and current pro, Katie Spieler, commented, “Four years of focused training on the beach with the highest caliber coaches and mentors was something of my dreams. Before then, I had never had formal training on the beach. I already had the drive and love for beach volleyball, but those four years gave me the tools that I needed to translate my dreams of playing professionally into a reality. I'm forever grateful for NCAA beach volleyball for providing that platform - because of it, every day is one out of my childhood dreams.”
The reason NCAA has had such an immediate and profound impact on professional tours is due to the fact that these young women are training AS professional athletes. The resources available to an NCAA athlete sometimes even EXCEED those available to a mid-level professional. For four years, they train under great coaches, have a full competition schedule, engage in a high-caliber strength and conditioning program, and have a dedicated athletic trainer to keep them healthy. NCAA beach athletes graduate with thousands of hours under their belts and are prepared to compete professionally.