The social and economic barriers to high-level volleyball training and exposure to recruiting opportunities are clear. The high costs of club dues, travel, and time commitments often exclude low-income athletes from high-level training and the recruiting exposure that comes with it. As a predominantly white sport, opportunities and support structures for athletes of color are also limited. Together, these circumstances have a disproportionate impact on low-income athletes of color, reducing their opportunities to train, compete, and get recruited.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are often overlooked by athletes and junior coaches when it comes to collegiate recruiting. HBCUs play a vital role in ensuring that Black and Brown student athletes have access to higher education environments where they are supported and can thrive on the court, in the classroom, and on campus.
There are currently 104 active Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the US. Of which, more than 60 host women’s volleyball programs ranging from Division I to NAIA. HBCUs span the country coast to coast, but are largely concentrated in the east coast and the south, and cater to a vast range of academic and athletic interests. To uplift and advance athletes of color in junior volleyball, it is critical that we include HBCUs in the recruiting process and provide opportunities for athletes to explore these options.
Bernie Headley and 360 Sports Academy are doing just that. It all started with the question posed seven years ago: What if there was a camp out there that highlighted the Women’s Volleyball programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities? And, what if that same camp focused its attention on girls that live in urban environments, or in this case, Chicago?
- A camp that gave young women athletes who did not play for a club or attend a high school with a strong volleyball program an opportunity to showcase their talent
- A camp that would give players of all colors and economic statuses a chance to compete in front of local and national D1, D2, D3, NAIA, or even Junior College coaches
- This type of camp would give an athlete another chance of getting noticed and possibly receiving a scholarship.
- That scholarship could change the pathway of her life.
From this, the HB See You Combine & Exposure Camp was born. HB See You is trailblazing as one of the only combines that is available to and designed for the often overlooked players of color in urban areas. Between the long standing challenges to low-income athletes and athletes of color and the missed opportunities due to Covid-19, the HB See You Combine & Exposure Camp meets a critical need.
“HBCU Recruitment shines a different perspective through the girls who attend the event. They see that they can be both academically and athletically successful through representation of their own culture. HBCU recruitment is important, because it keeps students and athletes from falling subject to being just a number to being someone who is accepted and supported within their own community” says Bernie Headley, Director of 360 Sports Academy.
Former Olympian and current Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Alabama A&M University, Rose Magers Powell, and former USA National Player and current Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Alabama State University, Penny Lucus White, have been fans of the program at 360 Sports Academy for several years, so for Coach Bernie, it was a no-brainer to ask them to be the lead coaches at the camp. Without any hesitation they both said yes and pulled in Ray Lewis, current Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Central State University, to help out.
With the combine being held on Chicago’s Near South Side, athletes of all skill sets and neighborhoods can receive high level training from some of the best coaches in the nation, showcase their talent, and gain opportunities. To help accommodate athletes with different financial circumstances, 360 Sports Academy offers payment plans and a low cost. The combine not only provides athletes the opportunity to demonstrate their talents to renowned college coaches. It is also a testament to the fact that all athletes, regardless of identity and background, are worthy and deserving of opportunity. By spreading this message, our community in volleyball and beyond uplifts and supports young athletes, their talents, and their opportunity for collegiate recruitment and education.
Coach Bernie’s goal for this year is to bring in several other schools to recruit from at least 50 athletes. His hope is to help at least 5 to 10 girls get scholarships.
This year’s HB See You Girls Volleyball Combine & Exposure Camp will take place June 4th – 6th, 2021 in Chicago, IL. This event is open to all players (class of 2021-2025), no matter their club affiliation or high school level of play!
About the Author
This article is written by Bernie Headley, Director of 360 Sports Academy, Jahlynn Hancock, Chief Content Creator for 360 Sports Academy, and Lauren Ray, JVA Event Coordinator.