After decades of prominence as the premier beach volleyball organization and tournament series in the US, and several years of financial struggles, the AVP has closed down operations. Up until August, 2010, the AVP had offered professional beach volleyball players a place to compete in its tour of events each summer. All of the United States’ stars that have won medals in the Olympics since beach volleyball was introduced as an event in 1996 have played domestically on the AVP. Recent stars like Todd Rogers, Phil Dalhausser, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh all were fixtures on the AVP tour. While the AVP had recently experienced financial troubles, it was not for lack of interest from the players. That leaves most professional and aspiring professional players asking the question: “Where do we go from here?”
Qualifying for the World Championships and the Olympics has been done through the FIVB, which hosts tournaments during the summer with a traveling schedule similar to the AVP, only on an international level. The elite players from the AVP have already all spent time playing on the FIVB tour as they competed for spots in the Olympics. It is likely that most players from the upper-echelon of the AVP will play internationally. However, in past years, different players attended different FIVB events, typically just as a means of procuring enough points to get an Olympic birth and do so with a decent seed. For instance, once the dominant pairing of Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh had secured their spot in the 2008 games, they returned to playing on the AVP tour, leaving opportunity for other US teams to go compete and contend for championships on the FIVB. With the folding of the AVP, expect the FIVB to be more saturated with talent. Winning will be tougher, and therefore, so will earning money. Travelling to compete internationally is far from cheap, so for many players, it simply will not be a viable option.
Last year, all-time great and beach legend Karch Kiraly ran a series of tournaments called the Corona Wide Open. To differentiate the series from the AVP, Karch ran his tournaments with a set of hybrid rules- a combination of the “old school rules” and the “new school rules,” most of which were implemented 9 years ago in 2001. Players have been left to guess whether the Wide Open Tour might consider shifting back to the new rules with the absence of the AVP as a major competitor. If they do not, expect some players to still play the tournaments, but speculation is, those who hope to compete internationally may stay away, as the FIVB and Olympic competitions are played under the new rules.
The EVP Tour has always operated in the shadow of the AVP. Lower prize money hindered the tour’s ability to attract top tier athletes, and contracted AVP players were specifically prohibited from playing EVP events. However, just as the absence of the AVP may leave the door open for the Corona Wide Open, the EVP may instead be able to seize the same opportunity. Whether or not players shift to playing the full tour, it is probably safe to say the EVP will see a higher level of competition as players previously prohibited from playing participate in at least occasional tournaments.
Scattered across the country there are several large “open” events that draw enough players and attention to offer pretty decent prize money. Of course, the beaches of southern California remain a mecca for such events, but there are a sprinkling of other major tournaments including The Motherlode in Aspen, Colorado, and large annual events at Lake Tahoe, Nevada and Seaside, Oregon. In the past these tournaments and others like them often happened on weekends when there was also an AVP event, so many of those players did not participate. Expect more former AVP and upper-echelon players to make appearances at these major tournaments.
In all, it is difficult to say what will fill the considerable void left by the AVP. Of course, there is always the possibility of a post-bankruptcy resurrection in some form, but only time will tell. All of these events and tours have been a part of the national volleyball landscape for at least the past several years, but what the scene will look like come next summer, is anyone’s guess.