As Division I deliberates whether to add sand volleyball as an emerging sport, United States Olympic Committee Executive Director Stephanie Streeter says the sand game belongs on the intercollegiate landscape.
On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, I wish to express my enthusiastic and unequivocal support of the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics’ recommendation to include sand volleyball in the list of emerging sports.
Because of my participation in basketball as an undergraduate student-athlete at Stanford, I have a strong personal commitment to promoting increased opportunities for women to participate in intercollegiate athletics. Simultaneously, I recognize that NCAA athletics programs play a significant role in the Olympic development process for talented athletes who may represent the United States in various international competitions, including the Olympic Games.
Since the inception of the NCAA emerging-sports program through the efforts of the NCAA Gender-Equity Task Force in 1994, three Olympic sports (rowing, water polo and ice hockey) and one Pan American Games sport (bowling) have attracted sufficient institutional support to conduct NCAA championships. Not coincidentally, each of these sports has enjoyed considerable success in Olympic and Pan Am competition, and the USOC gratefully acknowledges and recognizes the support of the NCAA in providing substantial financial support to these sports and the dedicated young women who participate in them.
Sand volleyball (known as “beach volleyball” in Olympic sport contexts) is a rapidly developing sport that includes more than 360,000 female participants nationwide, including more than 46,000 young women under the age of 18 who are frequent participants, according to a 2008 study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association.
It has also achieved widespread participation in competitions sanctioned by the USOC and USA Volleyball, and the United States won gold medals in both men’s and women’s beach volleyball competition at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
USA Volleyball operates a comprehensive development program for athletes interested in sand volleyball, beginning at age 12 and progressing through post-collegiate participation. USAV has made a strong commitment to sand volleyball through an extensive system of development and high-performance camps for participants 12 to 18 years of age, and there is a growing pipeline of young athletes who are choosing to specialize in sand volleyball.
The International Federation (FIVB) sponsors tournaments for junior athletes on a continental and global basis, and the popularity of the sport is also increasing rapidly worldwide. Tournaments in Mexico and Turkey will provide high-level global competitive opportunities for junior athletes.
Sand volleyball also gives college graduates the chance to participate professionally. The Association of Volleyball Professionals was formed in 1983 and currently has 150 touring professional athletes. The AVP Crocs Tour has 18 events and has attracted NBC and Fox Sports Net television contracts. Few Olympic sports have been able to develop such outstanding professional opportunities for women.
I recognize that adding a new intercollegiate sport in the current economic climate presents challenges for NCAA institutions. Likewise, I understand that there are legitimate concerns about implementation, including its potential impact on indoor volleyball, a sport that enjoys a high level of support and participation. However, I hope that the fundamental principle – expansion of competitive opportunities for female student-athletes – will be the most important consideration in this decision-making process.
I firmly believe that supporting sand volleyball as an NCAA emerging sport gives institutions additional options for the significant pool of high school and club athletes to have appropriate opportunities to reach their full potential, while giving institutions additional ways to achieve important gender-equity goals.
I appreciate the opportunity to convey the position of the United States Olympic Committee, and I hope that sand volleyball will become a highly popular sport within the NCAA so that women will have additional outlets for participation and personal development.
Stephanie Streeter is the executive director of the United States Olympic Committee.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association