Strength in Partnerships Beyond Your Club

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Volleyball is unique in the world of sports. Participation in our sport has continued to grow despite a lack of major corporate sponsorships, mainstream TV coverage or huge financial incentives for professional athletes. Regardless of the source you site, volleyball ranks among the highest participation sports in the United States, behind only baseball, basketball and soccer. Conduct a search yourself and you will find sources listing anywhere between 10-16 million participants nationwide. As it relates to high school specifically, volleyball is the top team sport for girls in 28 of 50 states according to NFHS data. That is HUGE and higher than basketball or soccer.

Now can you imagine the explosion in volleyball if our athletes, coaches and clubs had access to the financial resources and capabilities similar to other top-tier sports like baseball, basketball or football? You can picture how much your club, athletes and organizations could benefit.

We know this would benefit all of us so why hasn't it happened? When you look around the volleyball landscape, one thing is clear. As a sport, we are fragmented from the highest levels down to local levels. We lack cohesion and trust. Yes, there are examples of how two clubs 'partner' to send teams to each other's events or have play dates. But fundamentally, we haven't created a system of organizations that complement each other like other sports.

This dynamic is playing out in new sports complexes that are popping up across the United States. I'm sure you have heard of a few. There is New England Sports Village, Spooky Nook in Pennsylvania, and Liberty Park Sports in Alabama to name just a few. For many of the new developments, volleyball is an after-thought if it is even considered at all in planning.

Partnership Example
Rally Volleyball was formed to help grow volleyball into a top media and entertainment sport in the country and provide access to resources and capabilities. So what exactly does that mean and why do you care?

A couple items as background:

  • Rally Volleyball was formed in 2013. It is NOT a club. The goal is to create a business model that helps all clubs rather than compete with them. It was formed to support clubs, coaches and players by providing unique opportunities and exposure that otherwise would not be available.

  • LakePoint Sporting Community, located just north of Atlanta, GA, is slated to be the world's largest sports complex when complete. It will occupy over 1,300 acres, have 20+ hotels on-site and accommodate 40+ sports.

Rally Volleyball chose to build a partnership with LakePoint. LakePoint opened its doors in 2014 with 8 baseball fields, 3 soccer/lacrosse fields, North America's largest cable wakepark and 10 beach volleyball courts. When RallyVB started discussions with LakePoint, beach volleyball was an afterthought with only 2 courts in the plans. RallyVB worked together to create courts designed to FIVB standards, with the world's first LED sports lights and a 2-story pavilion, creating what is now a hub on the East Coast Beach scene. By combining knowledge and resources, an asset has been created for all clubs to leverage. All clubs have access to the venue, college coaching camps and national level exposure through RallyVB's relationships.

To build an East Coast Hub, and potentially National hub, for indoor is another story. There are many great clubs, tournaments, qualifiers and events. How can RallyVB partner to create unique services for clubs and athletes at reasonable prices?

The idea is simple. Bring together resources in one location that no organization could do or afford independently. Treat the whole athlete across the full-spectrum. Leverage resources and best practices from other sports like baseball and basketball for the benefit of teams from the national level to local level. That means access to leading research in injury prevention, pediatric orthopedics, biometrics, speed and agility as well as traditional areas such as leadership and nutrition.

This effort is in three phases. First, the indoor gym of 170,000 square feet. RallyVB worked with LakePoint to design an indoor facility that houses 24 state of the art indoor courts which also convert to basketball, cheer, wrestling, and gymnastics, among others. The facility boasts the largest continuous hardwood floor install in the world.

The indoor facility opened its doors four months ago and will feature its inaugural club volleyball events this spring in support of all governing bodies and clubs. There are 4 tournaments,  the first one being the Rally Challenge January 28/29 for Girls 11U-18U and Boys 14U and 18U. Following that event are 3 additional two day events Feb 18/19, March 4/5 and June 3/4. 

Second, create an Alliance Program to begin supporting the organizations that support the RallyVB mission.  Initially this Alliance Program provides financial support and will be expanded as services outside of tournaments are added. Rally Volleyball identified with the JVA's mission to give back to it's member clubs. The JVA took a fresh look at volleyball and formed partnerships, had dialog, and took risks to grow the sport. Through the JVA Sponsorship Program, JVA events, and the JVA's focus on giving back to it's member clubs, the organization has put an emphasis on building cohesiveness among the junior volleyball community. RallyVB is striving to do the same, finding it's niche and filling a gap rather than going for a 'land grab.'

The third phase is the ASPIRE Institute, being developed next to the gym. Slated to open in 2018, ASPIRE will be comparable in size to the indoor complex and be a focused on creating a cutting edge sports research center. RallyVB is working on offerings such as eye-movement tracking. Can you imagine if you could see the eye movement sequence and timing for your blockers at the net? Arm speed measurements so you know how many hits until your athletes swing starts to fade?

Moving Forward
We are all fortunate to be involved in a sport with tremendous passion and participation. How do we leverage each other's strength? When we can figure that out, we have the potential to be a top-tier sport in the United Sates, with the major sponsorship support and resources that would benefit us all. What are you doing to create your partnerships and a cohesive sport?

RallyVB is a member organization of the JVA. If you are looking to grow junior volleyball in your area, click here to learn how the JVA can be a resource for you.

About the Author
Colleen Craig is CEO of Rally Volleyball and business partners with legendary professional beach volleyball player Sinjin Smith. Colleen is a former D1 Volleyball player who went on to Harvard Business School. Turning her competitive nature to business, she has since led successful start-up companies, including growth for a $450M health care organization, and transitioned to key roles at multi-billion dollar organizations. Prior to co-founding Rally Volleyball, Colleen was most recently the Head of Strategy for a $25 Billion Hedge Fund in NYC.


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