After focusing on its indoor program for more than 13 years, Grand Strand Juniors is making new investments in a beach program.
Club Director Alex Sing notes “It’s funny how things go full circle. GSJ was started by a bunch of beach players. Only a few of our coaches had indoor coaching experience. We were learning on the job. Now we are very excited to get our kids in the sand, and more specifically in the club duel beach tournaments.”
GSJ recently invested in six sand courts outside of the indoor training facility. This spring will be the first full season for a program that focuses on beach training.
GSJ recognized the fact that the beach game is significantly growing in popularity and demand. Many of the club’s indoor athletes were already playing beach, mostly in individual pairs competition. However, the concept of the club vs club events is still new to them.
“Our plan is to develop beach squads within the group of players, train them like college programs train, and compete in the club duel format. We attended a club vs club tournament last season and the kids really had a great time,” adds Sing.
GSJ plans to network with other clubs in the southeast to create a tournament schedule for their beach squads that allows them to do indoor and beach, or strictly beach if they prefer. The club is no stranger to collaboration. In 2014 the SAVL (Southeast Alliance Volleyball League) formed with the help of the JVA. Participating clubs include Upward Stars, Grand Strand Juniors, Magnum Volleyball Club, Xcel Volleyball Club, Carolina Islanders, and MVP to name a few.
“The SAVL originated from a group of clubs who were committed to raising the level of play in our region. Our goal was to compete nationally and not be content with success locally. We researched what other national level clubs were doing and came across the JVA and its Power leagues like the MEPL and GLPL.”
Now the focus will be on raising the level of beach volleyball in the Southeast by having a dedicated beach program that competes in the club duel model and emulates the college beach game. The clubs in the SAVL will continue their collaboration on events to create opportunities for beach athletes from each club to compete against athletes from another club head to head.
GSJ expects to have 25-30 athletes in the beach program this year. The club plans to adopt more of a hybrid program that allows players to do beach and indoor, so athletes do not need to choose one or the other. Sing feels a hybrid program will help prevent overuse and injury, and avoid overloading practices and workouts, which can lead to burnout.
“We’ll also be able to coordinate the tournament schedule to avoid overlapping indoor and beach tournaments. Since many of the athletes are already playing indoor for us we can offer the program at a reasonable price point.”
The beach program will be split into two sessions. Session 1 will start in late February and finish at the end of March. Practices are limited to off days indoor or before indoor practice. Cost is $300 and players should get 12-15 training sessions. Tournaments are not included in the cost.
Session 2 will start in early April and finish in late June. The club’s indoor schedule is lighter during Session 2 so players will be able to get more training in the sand. The estimated cost will be around $400. There will likely be a Session 3 for July and August.
“Our goal is to allow players who want to play beach and indoor to do so for less than $1000 in extra fees.”
GSJ is working closely with the Coastal Carolina University Beach Volleyball Coaches to help with running the program. Several college beach players are coaching, in addition to some of the club’s indoor staff with beach experience.
Grand Strand Juniors (Myrtle Beach, SC) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, a non-for-profit organization that is focused entirely on improving the junior volleyball experience for directors, coaches, athletes and fans. Learn more about the JVA here.