Valley Sand Volleyball Academy is in it’s third season as a beach only club. The academy is the brain child of local passionate sand/beach volleyball players wanting to bring the sport into a saturated indoor volleyball market where many of them coach. A small group of coaches and college athletes gathered at a coffee shop upon the upcoming opening of a three court complex on campus at CSU-Bakersfield in February 2014. With the network and contact lists established, email blasts were sent, and social media accounts were started to get the word out. Beach volleyball lessons began to feel out community interest. After a huge turnout, Valley Sand Volleyball Academy was formed. Since then the club has seen consistent growth each season and attributes much of that growth to its “walk-up” option.
The walk-up option allows our members who pay for a season (or month’s) worth of training to bring friends from their school or club team to experience sand for the first time. Because of this VSVA may only have 35 season members and 12 monthly members, but the club has already had over 80 kids come through the program via tournaments, camp, and practices in the first month of the season. Indoor club players love the walk-up option because they aren’t able to make enough practices or tournaments to make a membership worthwhile.
Here’s how the walk-up option works:
- First, the player must sign and pay a small fee ($14) with our national affiliate club insurance program, which covers them, and us, for a season; this gives them the option to pay a “walk-up” rate to practice with our club on a given day.
- Next, the director or coach must maintain a current updated roster with the various membership levels, insurance id, and emergency contact information so that walk-ups are not uninsured.
Below is a sample of VSVA’s price chart and “walk-up” policy. Rates should be adjusted for your academy/club overhead cost and court rental, however revenue from “Walk-Ups” has been higher than VSVA’s monthly average membership revenue until this season.
Walk-ups are always encouraged and invited to try out our program! It is encouraged to not only save money but to assist our coaches/director in preparation that ‘regular attendees’ should purchase monthly or season memberships. Walk-ups will be admitted based on space available or during specific ‘Walk-up’ times as posted on schedule.
- $650 to $1000 (based on level and time of purchase)
- includes all training, gear + volleyball, and fees for hosted home tournaments
- Runs late January through mid-August
- Includes all scheduled trainings in the given month
- VSVA generally offers 9-12 per month
- $25 per practice
- All tournaments not hosted by VSVA are on the athlete/families themselves, however VSVA often has coaches attend to assist between games or view film after.
Members always have first right to the courts during the reserved times. Most kids start out as walk-ups and gradually fall in love with the sport and become monthly or season members based on their schedules and commitment desired.
VSVA also has an “elite” membership option. “Elite” athletes will get specific training prior to big tournaments or additional conditioning opportunities with the coaches . The ‘elite’ group also has some additional showcase opportunities if college coaches are interested in coming to watch the players.
In reality, the “walk-up option” is both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for VSVA. On weeknights the CSU-Bakersfield sand complex only allows the club two of the three courts to ensure one is available for campus/student use. Therefore, the practice schedule is W/Th 6-9pm: 6:00-8:00pm is for season/monthly and 7:30-9:00pm is for walk-ups. Saturdays the club has all three courts from 8:00am-noon so the time is split by age 8:00am-10:00am for 12U and 14U and 10:00am-noon for 16U and 18U. During these practices, the 3 courts are split by Elite, Beginner and everyone else.
The word “academy” was selected over “club” as Club Director Kyle Smith wanted this to be an all-inclusive affordable experience focused on teaching and training. Since the club’s inception in 2014 over 150 youth and 80 adults have come through one of VSVA’s camps, tournaments, or practices.
The biggest challenge, as well as biggest success has been growing exponentially fast and trying to make sure the players receive maximum reps with quality coaching. It is a constant adaptation on the part of the coaching staff and club leadership, but it’s a great challenge to have. As the only beach club in town, Valley Sand Volleyball Academy has established a great service to its local community, and is enthused about continuing to shape the juniors beach landscape in Southern California.
About the Author
Kyle Smith is the Club Director of Valley Sand Volleyball Academy in Bakersfield, California and has played, officiated, and coached volleyball for over 20 years. He is a member of the JVA.
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