JVA, as a professional association of Club Directors and their staff, is committed to supporting our member clubs outside of networking, education and resources. We are often called upon to advocate for our members, and we received an important call this past Summer.
Advocacy seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:
- Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them.
- Defend and safeguard their rights.
- Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives and livelihood
There are many governing bodies whose decisions can affect a junior volleyball club.
At the Regional Level: Regions of USA Volleyball, Districts of AAU
At the National Level: United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), The National Olympic Committee and the National Paralympic Committee for the United States, USA Volleyball (the National Governing Body for the sport of Volleyball), Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
At the International Level: Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB, the international governing body for all forms of volleyball), The North Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA, represents the countries in their zone and oversees volleyball under the FIVB), International Olympic Committee (IOC is an independent organization dedicated to building a better world through sport and responsible for the Olympic Games).
One of the advantages of being a member of JVA is that you have a larger voice. As a representative of nearly 1,300 clubs, we use our influence for the benefit of all.
JVA recently advocated an issue, with help from AAU and VB Canada that involved USA Volleyball, the FIVB, and NORCECA.
For years, teams from Canada have been traveling to the US to play in tournaments to provide exposure to college coaches for their athletes and to supplement their tournament schedules. The Canadian teams only need to get a “Letter of Good Standing” from their regional association to participate in the tournament outside of their Federation.
We do not know how or why, but in July of 2019, the past CEO of British Columbia Volleyball in Canada requested VB Canada to inquire the FIVB about a ruling on what competitions they could issue the Letters of Good Standing.
The response that came back was Article 24.2 of the FIVB Disciplinary Regulations:
“Participation of non-eligible teams or players subject to the provisions of Article 23 (regarding transfers of players, participation even in friendly matches of teams or players of non-FIVB recognized organizations or one of more non-eligible players under FIVB Regulations shall be sanctioned with disqualification of the player(s) from the Competition, forfeiture of the match(es) where they player(s) participated, a fine on the NF/club involved of CHF 30,000 for each ineligible player and suspension of the NF, leagues, clubs, teams, players and officials involved for a period of up to two (2) years.”
BC Canada then issued this notice to their member clubs:
“At recent VB Canada meetings, it was brought to Volleyball BC’s attention that clubs, teams and Members of our organization are not permitted to attend events outside of Canada that are not sanctioned or approved by that country’s National Federation (i.e. For US events, they must be sanctioned or approved by USA Volleyball). “
JVA has 27 Canadian member clubs, most of whom have all enjoyed playing in JVA and AAU events over the last 10-12 years. There are a large number of teams that participate in our JVA hosted tournaments. We also have a large number of US member clubs who host tournaments that would be financially impacted by the loss of the Canadian teams in their events. Based on the negative impact that the new restriction could have on both sides of the border, we went to work on their behalf.
First, an email was sent to Mark Eckert, President of Volleyball Canada to get a clarification and further interpretation of Article 24.2 b. Mr. Eckert responded quickly. He explained that he was very aware that their Canadian teams have been crossing the border and playing tournaments in the US for many years. Until this ruling was brought to light, he was not aware it could be a problem. Mr. Eckert asked us not to interpret this as Volleyball Canada having a negative view on JVA or trying to limit participation. It is Volleyball Canada needing to stay a member in good standing with the FIVB as they could levee sanctions against Volleyball Canada and risk National Team suspension in international competitions. However, he felt the easiest way to solve the problem was to ask Jamie Davis, CEO of USAV to issue a letter to Volleyball Canada giving them permission to issue “Letters of Understanding” to Canadian teams to play in JVA events.
In response to our request of USAV to issue the above-mentioned permission, Jamie Davis, CEO of USAV and Cecile Reynaud, USAV Board President agreed to a conference call with Jenny Hahn, JVA Executive Director and Dave Weitl, JVA Board President. On the call, Jamie Davis explained that he would not be able to issue such a letter as he did not feel he could ensure the safety of the athletes. He was not sure that our safety standards were as high as USAV’s. Even after explanation of what we were requiring of our member clubs and that they meet the same standards, he was not willing to issue such a letter. Mr. Davis did volunteer to introduce us to the people at Safe Sport to access their program(s).
It was now mid-November. I informed Mr. Eckert that we were unable to secure a letter of permission from USAV. Fortunately, FIVB was holding meetings on November 21st and 22nd. Mr. Eckert arranged a meeting with Jamie Davis and Stephen Bock, FIVB Legal. He requested FIVB, on behalf of Volleyball Canada to endorse non-USAV Sanctioned competition for Canadian “underage club team competition”. Included in the request as a rationale for review of the decision. He cited the number of teams affected; the frequency of cross-border competition; and the benefits provided to their members by the competition provided by all the associations.
In the meantime, Dr. Roger Goudy, National AAU President and National Volleyball Chair, also reached out to Cristobal Hoffiz, NORCECA President, and shared with him a summary of the request.
The final outcome is a true testament to what can happen when people involved in our sport find a way to reach across the table to work together in the true Olympic Spirit, “to build a better world through sport”. FIVB legal supported NORCECA in endorsing and encouraging competition in volleyball events within the NORCECA zone (including the United States) that are not sanctioned by USA Volleyball.
The letter from Cristobal to Mark Eckert, dated November 27, 2019 states:
“In response to your request for Norceca Volleyball Confederation to endorse the participation of Canadian youth and junior club teams in tournaments to be held in the United States of America or within the Norceca continental jurisdiction zone, please be informed that Norceca approves the endorsement application received, in order to encourage and support the development of national underage club teams categories in Canada. The endorsement is granted following the FIVB Sport Regulations Article 39.3.3 (allowing approval of the Confederation and the FIVB).”
With this response from NORCECA, Mark Eckert, President of Volleyball Canada issued a Memo, “Re: Letters of Good Standing for Non-Sanctioned Events in North America” to their provinces informing them of the decision to allow Letters of Understanding to be issues for non-USAV sanctioned competition.
Problem solved! It was a process that took nearly four months to reach a conclusion, but was solved by a spirit of cooperation among the highest levels governing our sport. A special “Thank You” to Mark Eckert is well deserved. This experience has gone a long way to strengthen our belief that we are better working together with all the entities of our sport. It is hard for a lone voice to make change, but when banded together we are strong. #beJVAunited
If you are facing an issue regarding your club and need your voice heard, please reach out to us.
About the Author
Jenny has served as the JVA Executive Director since 2010. She co-founded Milwaukee Sting VBC in 1989 serving as director, head coach and board member through today. She served as Operations Director and then Executive Director of Badger Region Volleyball Association from 1998-2010. Jenny is passionate about junior volleyball and sees the JVA as a vehicle to improve the junior club experience for club directors, coaches and the club member families.