Legacy Volleyball Club was created in December 2011 by Afrolatino community member and advocate, Joel Sanchez, with the mission to serve as a youth empowerment organization that offers various programs in underserved communities, exposing youth to new experiences including national travel, competitive play, and collegiate exposure. Volleyball is traditionally an elitist sport, and Legacy brings volleyball to athletes starting as young as four years old through their senior year of high school who are coming from the highest poverty communities in NYC. During its existence of over a decade, Legacy has served more than 12,000 athletes and is the only volleyball club serving athletes in The Bronx and surrounding Harlem areas.
At the heart of Legacy is their Metro Program which formed in 2021 to focus solely on target communities. While Legacy as a whole mainly serves BIPOC youth, the Legacy club leadership wanted to be deliberate with their locations for those that struggle to travel to Throggs Neck. Being in The Bronx Community Boards one and six, the Metro program operates in some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. With that in mind, Legacy must keep participation costs extremely low for the athletes.
“The communities Metro serves are the soul of our organization and we believe providing a league for members of those communities is of the utmost importance,” said Sanchez.
The Bronx is a large and diverse borough. Legacy’s flagship gym, located in the east Bronx is not necessarily easily accessible to all Bronx youth. On the West side of the Bronx is located Bronx Community Boards one and six. These zip codes have median family incomes below $20,000. Many of the youth may have increased familial or work obligations and may not have the luxury of time to take public transportation across the Bronx for recreation. Sanchez and many other staff understand this personally, as they grew up or reside in these areas. Legacy created programs solely for these neighborhoods.
The nonprofit offers programs for girls, boys, and youth year-round, including 20 travel teams. In June 2022, Legacy applied for the JVA Grant Program and was approved to receive funding to continue to provide the Metro program at little to no cost. The program runs twice weekly for neighborhood residents. This past year a record number of boys and girls joined the program. With the grant money, the club was able to purchase new uniforms and equipment, including volleyballs.
“This past year alone, the Metro program exposed 75 boys of color to volleyball,” added Sanchez. “Our players are going on to make their school teams, or joining us for club season through scholarship money. Many athletes just need the space for a positive place to be after school, and we are happy to be that. Over this past year, our Metro Director has gotten youth excited about the sport and community and established trust, so we anticipate that this program will continue to grow.”
Local athletes can travel minimally to reach their Metro practices. Hostos Community College and P.S. 51 in the Bronx are locations at the heart of critical communities. With the mentorship and guidance of dedicated contract employee coaches and a salaried Metro Director, eleven through eighteen year old Bronx youth are able to develop their skills and enjoy an uplifting space to safely participate in recreation.
Each student athlete from sixth grade to twelfth grade is required to try out for a team. During tryouts, the student athletes will be evaluated and placed on a team based on their skill level, potential, and attitude. At the conclusion of the tryouts, a Legacy representative contacts the student athlete’s family with an offer to participate on a team, along with any additional information that may be required. Two coaches are assigned per team in order to adequately support the youth and hold practices twice weekly. Additionally, Legacy is a bilingual club, making their program accessible to the vast amount of Spanish speaking athletes and families.
“This program has the ability to make a historically elitist sport accessible to some of the poorest neighborhoods, with the most eager athletes. Our youth need spaces to develop the life skills team sports can teach and the ability to be children and youth in a place that too often requires growing up much too quickly,” shared Sanchez.
After each Metro season, the Legacy tracks athlete retention, with a goal of 95 percent retention from the beginning of the season through its finish. They also measure satisfaction with anonymous surveys at the end of each season. Additionally, the club will compare the amount of eligible returning athletes the following season with their goal of 80 percent. Finally, the club will measure Metro athletes participation in their school athletics with a goal of at least 50 percent.
“Legacy cannot function solely as a “standard athletics organization,” because our athletes face increasingly extraordinary life experiences. Our club transcends athletics and continues to be a transformative community committed to our Bronx and Harlem youth. Our players do not leave their identities and context when they show up at Legacy. Instead, our coaches teach our athletes that because of who they are, rather than “in spite of” who they are, that they are capable of reaching their goals.”
Legacy Volleyball Club (Bronz, NY) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, a nonprofit organization that is 100% focused on improving the junior volleyball experience for over 1,300 clubs, directors, coaches and athletes. Through the JVA Grant Program, Legacy Volleyball Club received funding to support it’s Metro Program this past season. To learn more about the JVA Grant Program go to jvavolleyball.org/jva-grant-program/