Growing boys volleyball in Tennessee has been a most rewarding challenge. In 2012 K2 Volleyball Coach Cory Felts started a boys team that included his son and his son’s friends, some other coaches’ sons, and little brothers of the K2 girls players. Even years later it was challenging to find tournaments to play in due to the lack of boys clubs and boys tournaments in the southeast region. Felts is a Tennessee native that grew up playing three major sports so he understands the challenge, but prying these boys and their dads away from other conventional or more mainstream sports is an uphill battle.
“I think if a few more southern states sanction boys volleyball at the high school level, that will help tremendously, but getting these athletic kids opportunities to play in front of more fans is really all it’ll take,” said Felts. “At every tournament it doesn’t matter whether they’re 12u or 18u, you can always tell where the boys are playing. The spectators are always ten deep around their courts.”
In 2021, K2 decided to expand to multiple teams, and in the second year at K2 Supafly Boys Volleyball there are 65 boys that compete on five teams in 12U-18U. Felts had been coaching K2 girls teams in the Mideast Power League for many years and was a big fan of the quality of coaches, the quality of the clubs participating in the league, as well as the level of competition. All of the clubs competing together on a regular basis creates a “cauldron-like effect,” which forces every team to up their game to remain competitive.
With boys volleyball opportunities growing so rapidly in the mid-south, southeast and east coast, with clubs now regularly traveling boys teams to tournaments, Felts thought it was time to form a similar power league to serve those clubs and athletes.
“I had been discussing the idea of the boys version of a power league casually with our directors at K2, J and Chris Hames, for about a year, and they were very supportive. I then proposed it to several directors and coaches at Carolina Union Volleyball Club’s Rock Hill event in January 2021,” said Felts.
One of the first directors Felts approached to discuss the league with was Ashley Monfort from Jacksonville Juniors. He was in with both feet from the very first discussion, and has agreed to send teams to several of the events, as well as spread the word around the Florida Region. John Brannon and Bill Ferguson from CUVC, and Corey Helle from Upward Stars agreed immediately to host events. 100 percent of boys coaches and directors that I mentioned it to that first weekend were in. We didn’t quite complete the discussions in time to start in fall of 2021, but Ashley and Felts continued discussions a couple times in the interim.
“In December of 2021, after another sit down with Ashley at his tournament, I decided to push forward. I again broached the topic with the same coaches, as well as with Justin Burgess, boys Director at Twin City Volleyball Academy, at the Rock Hill tournament in early May.”
Justin immediately liked the idea, and after a conference call between his club director Trevor Hewitt, and Felts, the ball started rolling. Trevor composed an email summation of our discussion with the basic details that we then forwarded to the core group of directors that Felts initially approached.
The directors collaborated together to form the Appalachian Power League, a series of four events for 14U, 16U and 18U. A logo was created and dialogue continued revolving the dates, locations and point system for the league.
The league is designed to entice teams to commit to playing in multiple, if not all, events, earning points for wins in pool play and playoffs, with the highest point-earning teams in each age division (14u/16u/18u) being crowned the season-champion. Although each stop of the power league is a free standing event open to all boys teams, the Cup Challenge model hopefully encourages consistent participation among the boys’ clubs, leading to high-level matches at each tournament stop.
Initially, the series was pitched as JVA insured due to Felts’ consistent positive experiences with the organization in the past, its growing strength on the boys side, and to encourage some of the other prominent southern area JVA girls clubs to expand into the boys game. JVA and AAU have joined together to expand the opportunities for boys competition and collaboration among club directors across the country.
Each tour stop will be an AAU-sanctioned Grand Prix or Super Regional event where the winner of each age division will earn an AAU Nationals entry fee. The Appalachian Power League is designed to attract teams/clubs whose seasons culminate in a trip to AAU Nationals, so having a chance to earn a paid entry into the tournament would be a great enticement to participation alongside high-level competition.
December 10-11, 2022 hosted by TCVA in Winston Salem, NC.
January 7-8, 2023 hosted by CUVC in Rock Hill, NC.
February 18-19, 2023 hosted by K2 Volleyball in Knoxville, TN.
March 18-19, 2023 hosted by Upward Sports in Spartanburg, SC.
The power league will be completed in time for the boys high school volleyball season. Event pricing is still in discussion but will probably about $375 per event or $1200 for all four stops/weekends. The points series winner will receive a wrestling style championship belt for their club.
“It’s the most beautifully violent men’s sport there is, we just need more people in our region to see it played at a high level. There’s a reason that my friend Mike Lingenfelter of Munciana Volleyball referred to it as the “last sport you’ll ever play” while he was coaching a boys clinic a couple years ago. Most of us start in other sports when younger, but once you begin to play volleyball, you don’t want to play anything else.”
K2 Volleyball is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association. For more information on the Appalachian Power League, contact Cory Felts at 865-300-2705 and firstname.lastname@example.org. A website for the league will be available soon and registration will be available for the 2023 season.