Factors for change
The COVID-19 pandemic was a big factor in the decision. Parents were keen on getting their kids back into activities, and the local teams / non-elite program registrations went way up. The local travel teams practice and travel far less than the elite travel teams, plus the program is split into two seasons, so it accommodates multi sport athletes very well. The first season runs November through February and the second season runs March through May. The cost is $1,200 for each each session and the teams play in all but one or two K2 hosted events, typically 5 tournaments in each session.
The rising cost of the elite travel teams is also a factor at a $5,000 price point. Many more families can afford $1,200 for a local travel team than $5,000 for an elite travel team.
The Knoxville area is a smaller market so there is not the depth of athletes to pick from, especially in the older age groups where size really starts to matter. 95% percent of the athletes that do not make an elite team decide to stay with the club and play for a local travel team.
The number of coaches that are capable of coaching at an elite level is limited in K2’s market, so by limiting the number of elite teams the club is able to guarantee an elite coaching experience for the elite travel teams, rather than create elite teams coached by an inexperienced coaching staff. The local teams receive master coaching from the elite coaches for skill development and their team coaches manage their play at tournaments. Long time K2 staff member, Director of Operations and 13s Elite Coach, Brent Carter, runs the club’s local travel program. The team coaches are high school and junior high coaches, former K2 players, current elite players, and some older volleyball fans and former players that just love teaching the game. Some of the coaches are placed with more than one team, and a couple of elite coaches help train the local athletes as well.
Positive Impacts of the Change
After starting a boys team in 2012, K2 decided to expand to multiple teams in 2021. By 2022 there were 65 boys that competed on five teams in 12U-18U. K2 will now be focusing on modeling its boys program after the girls program from a training and development standpoint. It’s a longer term goal of introduction of volleyball through college placement. The boys program has continued to grow organically but the club is now actively trying to get the high schools to add boys volleyball in the Knoxville area. Next season, the club anticipates the program to grow even more, and will be making significant changes to adapt to the demand.
Next year K2 will be moving into a new facility that is currently under construction, which should allow the club to expand its tiny tots and middle school programs as well. From a business standpoint, elite travel teams do not bring revenue for most volleyball clubs. The cost of travel, tournaments, coaches, equipment, uniforms, etc. is high. The local teams and other in-house programs are typically much higher revenue generators, and for K2 Volleyball, it’s where the majority of their athletes should be from an athletic/volleyball skills standpoint.
For K2 it really came down to what their customer base wanted and what their market looked like. They recognized that a lot of people didn’t want or couldn’t make the commitment for elite but certainly wanted something more than a recreation league experience. It was easy to under promise and over deliver on the experience for the local travel teams, and happy customers made the program successful.