Matchbox Volleyball Club, based out of Aberdeen, South Dakota, is one of the largest club volleyball organizations in South Dakota and provides athletes ages 8-18 with a developmental and competitive volleyball experience. The club was founded in the fall of 2017 and hosted its first club season with 16 teams (divisions 10-18) in the spring of 2018. Since its inception, Matchbox Volleyball has grown to host 36 club teams offering volleyball opportunities to young girls of all ages and abilities in their local community.
Due to the rapid increase in growth of the club and interest in the sport of volleyball in the area, Matchbox built its own private athletic facility that opened in the spring of 2019. This new facility allows Matchbox to serve thousands of additional athletes through the expansion of camps, private lessons, and the 22 small club tournaments hosted each season. Currently, the club offers volleyball-related training opportunities primarily for girls ages 3-18, with the majority of the participating athletes being high school level.
Due to the geographical rural location in northern South Dakota, the makeup and culture of Matchbox is very different from the traditional club experience. Firstly, the population in the area is very dispersed so the majority of the athletes attend small schools (average graduating class size: 30) spread over northern South Dakota and southern North Dakota. With little-to-no metropolitan cities, opportunities for athletes, especially female athletes, are very limited. Thus, the average drive time for the athletes is 30 miles (one way) with some athletes driving over two hours (one way) for each practice. This travel constraint not only brings late practice nights for athletes, but also makes attending large, national qualifying tournaments very difficult with either a long commute and/or limited access to airlines. Thus, the practice and tournament schedules are extremely intentional.
In addition to the rural makeup, the small school athletic programs depend on athletes to participate in multiple sports in order to field teams in every sport. “At Matchbox we have embraced the dual-sport athlete and encourage our club athletes to participate in whatever school activities they also enjoy. We try to work the club schedule around school activities and love to support our athletes in all their activities and accomplishments on and off the Matchbox court,” said Club Director Alexz Smith.
The mission at Matchbox is to serve the club’s athletes and volleyball community by providing athletes with a positive and beneficial volleyball experience. Alexz and her staff feel a strong calling to serve the entire volleyball community and not just their program, so they work closely with the high school volleyball programs in the area.
“Many of our staff members are also high school volleyball coaches which brings so much camaraderie to our sport year-round. Throughout the club season, coaches connect with other area high school coaches and learn from each other all while sharing their coaching talents with athletes from neighboring communities. At Matchbox we believe that investing in our area coaches is equally as important as investing in our athletes to best serve the volleyball community at large.”
In alignment with the Matchbox mission, the club leadership believe in the opportunity for all young girls to have a positivevolleyball experience, regardless of skill level. Thus, they rarely cut or deny athletes the opportunity to play if at all possible. The club provides different levels of play, training, and competition for a variety of skill levels so that each athlete has the opportunity to play the sport she loves. They believe volleyball is not only for the elite athlete, but for all who enjoy the sport.
Looking to the future, Matchbox is focusing on serving its volleyball community through the growth of resources for their athletes, coaches, parents and fans.
“We have identified knowledge of the sport as an area of growth for our community. Many parents and fans still do not understand the rules of the sport, coaches are struggling with unruly parents and balancing a life outside of the gym, and players are inexperienced in communicating with teammates and coaches. Not only do we believe Matchbox is in a position to help bridge the gap of knowledge among all patrons of the game, but we feel a sense of responsibility to serve the sport in this way,” added Smith.
Matchbox Volleyball Club (Aberdeen, SD) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization committed to enhancing the junior volleyball experience for club directors, coaches, players, and fans.