The AVP 2017 season was awesome, but how can it improve?

AVP-beach volleyball-AVP improvements-AVP 2017

I’ve written my piece. Many of them, actually. You know how I feel about the AVP Tour in 2017. I thought Donald Sun and the crew did an incredible job. Every stop was packed. Every stop delivered. Beach volleyball is on its way back – hopefully the finances come back with it. But there can be improvements, because no matter how good something is, there can always be improvements.

I don’t know if my ideas are worth any more than the virtual paper I’m printing this piece on, but these are just a few ideas I’ve kicked around that I’d like to see the AVP toy with in the future.

AVP Tournament in…Vegas, baby!

For the love of God, let’s go to Sin City.

Listen, I know that beach volleyball has been moving to a more clean-cut image, and the players are supposed to be good ole boys and shake hands and say good game and sign some autographs and kiss some babies.

But let’s all be honest: Beach volleyball is a rebel culture. Always has been, probably always will be. A good number of beach volleyball players like to imbibe with a rum and coke or 20 on a casual Thursday night at Treasure Island, followed up by a 40-McNugget pit stop at 4 in the morning, ok?

And where is it not only accepted, but encouraged, to go out and rampage on a Thursday night?

Vegas, baby.

I’ll be forever disappointed if I don’t get to at least play in a qualifier at Cesar’s Palace, lose in the first round, and then become rich beyond my wildest dreams playing $5 blackjack.

Though the tone of this doesn’t really suggest how serious I am about a tournament in Vegas, I would legitimately make a push for a tournament here. It has everything a beach volleyball tournament could need: a built-in audience, unbelievable atmosphere, made for TV scenery, and, yeah, it’s Vegas.

AVP Local Wildcard

This idea originally began to take root in Austin, when I saw a packed qualifier tournament going bananas over the local boys, Rafaa Quesada-Paneque and Troy Schlicker. Even though I didn’t make it through – I lost in the first round to Sleepless in Seattle, Brett Ryan and Brian Miller – it was some of the most fun I’ve had in a qualifier, because the Austin locals know how to have a good time, and they brought that good time to the qualifier.

When the Austin Boys made it through, they brought that good time to main draw, making for a lively atmosphere and atoning for what I thought was the probably the most disappointing venue of the year.

Would that crowd have been so fantastic had there been no local teams? I don’t know. It’s tough to say. What I do know is that I’ve seen very few first-round qualifier vs. seeded team matchups with as much fan interest when Quesada-Paneque and Schlicker played Billy Allen and Stafford Slick.

A local team adds obvious interest, particular for the non-California tournaments, where every team is, for the most part, a local team.

I really wouldn’t mind seeing a local team receive a wild card for the out-of-state tournaments, and a promise of a stadium match first thing Friday morning. This comes, however, with a caveat: That local team has to prove itself.

Quesada-Paneque and Schlicker did so by dominating the AVP Next series in their region. Maybe when the AVP stops by a non-California state, that region’s AVP Next winners will get a bid to the local tournament rather than Manhattan. This could then open up the Pacific Region, by far the deepest and most competitive, for a few more bids or just add a few extra spots to come out of the Manhattan Beach qualifier, which went 106 deep this year.

Or the AVP could just divvy out a wild card to a player who’s from that area, like Raffe Paulis in Chicago, for example, who is clearly talented, whether he has the AVP Next wins or not.

No matter the system, I think it would be something for the AVP to consider, given the outstanding turnout in Austin.

 

AVP King of the Beach/All-Star Weekend

People like to trash the NBA All-Star Weekend and the NFL Pro Bowl and the MLB All-Star Game and home run derby, but let’s be honest, it’s always fun to see the mega-talents of a sport play together, and it is rare entertainment to see mega-teams compete against one another. The only trouble is that the effort during the games is, um, well – what effort, really?

Beach volleyball could put together the best all-star weekend of any sport. After the final event of the year, there could be a fan or player vote to elect the top eight players – ideally four blockers, four defenders – as the AVP’s All-Stars, or All-Pros, or whatever you’d like to call them.

Those eight pros would then get to play in an extra cash tourney: A King of the Beach. (In Vegas, anyone??)

KOBs are, by their very nature, fun tournaments. I wasn’t yet involved in the game when the KOB was a regular part of the tour, but from what I hear, it was a great add to the schedule. Players get to compete with guys you wouldn’t normally play with, fans get treated to partnerships they’ve only hypothetically imagined – Phil Dalhausser and John Hyden might side out 1,000 percent – and the extra money is always an incentive to volleyball players, because basically everybody is broke.

The effort will be there.

The talent will be there.

The fun new partnerships of the best eight players in the country will be there.

So…KOB in Vegas, anyone?

 

AVP Challenge System

I can’t take credit for this idea. That goes to Reid Priddy, who pitched it on The Net Live after the Manhattan Beach Open, when he was hilariously hit with a red card for punting a ball after a questionable call.

Virtually every professional sport has some sort of challenge system, including the FIVB, which I think was a tremendous addition.

How the AVP would implement it is quite a beast to tackle. It would be expensive, and it would slow games down, neither of which sounds great for an inherently slow-paced game devoid of riches. But if the game is to be treated professionally, I think it will be a necessary addition down the road.

Would only stadium courts have a challenge? Could qualifiers challenge? Like I said, I don’t know. That’s why I get paid the little bucks.

But it’d be nice to see the most inconsistent refs in all of sports – Pac-12 football included – get a little help from a replay system.

 

AVP Uniforms

Two years ago, my girlfriend worked at Asics, and was a sales rep the entire week of the World Series of Beach Volleyball. As you know, it’s an FIVB event, and at FIVB events players must wear jerseys.

Asics knew. And Asics cashed in on that. People couldn’t buy jerseys fast enough, proud to rock their favorite country – since when did so many people root for Italy, by the way? – and favorite players.

My girlfriend had orders from at least a dozen different states, and she’s still getting Facebook messages and texts asking when they can get more. My friends from home, who have never seen a beach volleyball tournament in their life, ordered about 20, because the jerseys are pretty darn comfy and just look cool.

One of the most glaring holes in beach volleyball is the lack of merchandise. Board shorts and bikinis aren’t beach volleyball merchandise. They’re just beachwear.

Having players wear jerseys fixes at least a tiny slice of that problem. Now we could have fans wearing Casey Patterson jerseys, Jake Gibb jerseys, Taylor Crabb jerseys. We could throw out some retro jerseys, because who wouldn’t want to rock the likeness of Tim Hovland, Mike Dodd, Sinjin Smith, Karch Kiraly and Randy Stoklos?

They could do so much with this, and the players could add their own flavor to it. Business-savvy players, like the McKibbins, for example, who have their own little businesses on the side, could toss their own personal logo on theirs, adding some branding to the biz.

 

AVP Livestream X3…at least

The livestream was such a hit this year that one just won’t do it anymore. More often than I would have liked, I was stuck at work during a tournament, and stuck on the livestream was a match that was not appealing in the least, so I had to scour Facebook for a random fan with an unlimited data plan willing to throw it on theirs (Jorge Martinez, you’re a saint for this in Seattle).

Keep the livestream on stadium with a commentator, and throw up maybe two others – one male, one female – in case the stadium match is a snoozer.

And while I’m on the topic of a livestream: Could the AVP make this a subscription deal?

I’d pay 10 bucks an event for unlimited streaming, and I’m sure I’m not alone on that. Ten bucks a pop on livestreams will not solve the AVP’s decades of financial woes, and it’s not about the couple grand it would make over the course of a year. It’s about perceived value.

Anytime a product is put out for free, the perceived value is depressingly low. But if the AVP shows that people are willing to pay to see its product, the perceived value takes a significant bump, establishing a little credibility.

About the Author

Travis Mewhirter
Travis Mewhirter is the founder of PaperCourts.com. A graduate from the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Mewhirter's work has been featured in the Washington Post, Yahoo! Sports, Northwest Florida Daily News, and the Orange County Register. He currently writes for VolleyballMag.com, DiG Magazine, and Diehards.com, among others.

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