Beach volleyball, which has grown into a popular Olympic sport, is being rebranded as “sand volleyball” at the collegiate and high school levels. The move has been approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and American Volleyball Coaches Association.

According to SGMA Research, beach/sand volleyball is a growing sport which is gaining popularity at all levels. Since 2007, sand/beach volleyball has added more than one million annual participants, a 28 percent increase in four years.

At last Thursday’s (December 15th) SGMA Volleyball Council meeting in San Antonio, Kathy DeBoer, president of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), discussed the prospects of sand volleyball and its future.

“Adding sand volleyball to the emerging sports list for women was a great move by the NCAA,” said AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer. “This is a very popular sport, and quite distinct from court volleyball.  In the last two years, per SGMA reports, participation has increased almost 20 percent to more than five million players, and we are just at the beginning of the curve.”

“The AVCA will be hosting the first Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship on April 27-29 in Gulf Shores, Alabama — with four schools vying to become the first national champion of the new sport.

In 2012, 15 colleges/universities will compete at the Division I level, with 11 of the 15 being located in the Southeast. For at least the first year of sand volleyball competition, no NCAA Champion will be crowned since the minimum number of teams needed for NCAA consideration is 40. With the emergence of sand volleyball as a recognized collegiate sport, the NCAA has announced that six scholarships will be available at the Division I level and five scholarships at the Division II level. David Clendenin from the NCAA announced that the NCAA has added its 89th Championship with the creation of the Division III Men’s Volleyball National Championship which will also be held in spring of 2012. The SGMA Volleyball Council Meeting was held in conjunction with the AVCA Convention last week in San Antonio, with the purpose of uniting the industry to discuss common issues. Twenty-five individuals from 17 organizations (which included Molten USA, Porter Athletic, Park & Sun Sports, Sports Imports, Wilson Sporting Goods Company, Mizuno USA, Nfinity Athletic, NCAA, NFHS, Mikasa Sports USA, Tachikara, Bison Inc., Under Armour, USA Volleyball and AVCA) were in attendance for the first SGMA Volleyball Council meeting in years after the urging of several industry leaders to reorganize the group.  With volleyball expected to have major exposure during the 2012 Olympics, industry leaders felt the time was right to reorganize to capitalize on the momentum in the industry.

“Volleyball is in a great position moving into 2012,” Neil Schwartz, director of business development for SGMA Research. “The ability for the industry to take the exposure from the Olympics and translate it into participation growth will influence the future of the game for years to come.”