PVL Dawn of a New Era at Opens

By Bill Kauffman | May 26, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
USA Volleyball Communications
Phone: 719-228-6800
Email: bill.kauffman@usav.org

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (May 26, 2012) – A new era in the history of volleyball dawned Saturday morning on the opening day of the USA Volleyball Open National Volleyball Championships being held May 26 to June 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The 12-team Premier Volleyball League, a grassroots professional league built around the foundation of USA Volleyball’s 40 regions, was front-and-center as action started at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. For what has been several months in planning, the PVL has created a renewed effort to build a professional league in the United States – but using a rather unique approach.

The PVL is a grassroots professional league built around the foundation of USA Volleyball’s 40 Regional Volleyball Associations. A total of 12 regions have placed a team in the PVL bracket and supported the overall initiative. Regions competing for the $20,000 prize purse include Arizona (Arizona Sizzle), Northern California (Dream Team NCVA), Great Lakes (Team Great Lakes), Hoosier (Exterminators), Puget Sound (Puget Sound), Evergreen (Team Evergreen), Florida (Team Florida WAVE), Iowa (Iowa Ice), New England (Team New England), North Texas (Team North Texas), Intermountain (Utah Unity) and Western Empire (Western Empire).

“The PVL is a new model developed to stir added interest among the adult volleyball playing population within the U.S., all while serving as a role model for our junior programs through the outreach provided by the USA Volleyball regions,” said USA Volleyball Senior Director Tom Pingel, who also serves as the PVL commissioner. “The PVL can stand on its own without the benefit of ticket sales and television sponsors as past volleyball professional leagues required to succeed. Among the PVL’s objectives is to take its volleyball product directly to the fans and young volleyball players by utilizing existing events. The PVL is truly a grassroots concept that creates playing opportunities for post-collegiate athletes while not having to travel overseas to compete.”

While the junior volleyball membership has been rising, the adult playing population in many regions has been level at best. The PVL has the opportunity to spark the adult membership drive while also allowing for the game to grow as a whole.

“In the Iowa Region, our PVL tryouts got a lot of adult players who were not actively playing,” Iowa Region Commissioner Lynne Updegraff said. “These young adults have come back to the sport and experienced the love of volleyball again. The PVL is bringing adults back into the fold, knowing they can still volleyball play at a high level.”

The PVL concept is not a new idea, but it has gained traction over the last nine months with the assistant from Florida Region Executive Director/President Steve Bishop.

“We have kicked around this idea for a few years, but never had a firm direction until recently,” Pingel said. “After discussions from the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships last summer, we presented the proposal in October to the regional commissioners. Steve kept pushing the commissioners and by the first of the year we had about seven teams and were excited by those prospects on getting the league off the ground.”

Those discussions have come to fruition this weekend with more adults coming into the USA Volleyball mix.

“Our players on Iowa Ice have been very excited to represent Iowa and play volleyball again,” Updegraff said. “Some of our players have had the chance to play overseas, but others have stayed home with their families and jobs after college. The chance to stay in Iowa and still play volleyball is exciting to them.”

While some of the PVL teams will handle prize money differently, the Iowa Chill are not getting paid for their time with the team unless it finishes in the money.

“For Iowa, the girls’ expenses are paid,” Updegraff said. “If we get into the prize money, they will get a split of the money. And still be happy either way.”

After its only official event for 2012 being the USA Volleyball Open National Championships, the PVL plans to offer tournament play in 2013 at various USAV Junior National Qualifiers (JNQ’s) in addition to the USA Volleyball Open National Championships. After this year, the league championships will take place in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Qualification Tournaments that are held in various locations throughout the United States.

While the PVL has focused its early format on the women’s game, the goal is to add a men's division in the near future and the league championships for the men will take place at the USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championship event.

“We expect to add a men’s division of the PVL and play here at the Open National Championships in 2013, and the desire is not to replace the Men’s Open Division with it,” Pingel said. “On the women’s side, the PVL will expand into a full schedule that will include the Girls’ National Qualifiers in 2013. We are also seeking a PVL presence at the (USA Volleyball) Girls’ Junior National Championships as we have added the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball A2 Program to the GJNC this summer in Columbus.”

Athletes who entered the business world or coaching field right after college will benefit from the PVL concept. They can start immediately in the business world they were trained in, rather scrapping together a living playing overseas, and still play high-level volleyball. And for those in the coaching profession, they can have the best of both worlds in playing and coaching.

“With the PVL have competitions at junior qualifiers next year, college coaches can play in the event and still recruit,” Updegraff said. “The inclusion into the qualifiers and playing in front of the junior girls will be a huge benefit for the league in creating role models. However, I think it will also result in fairly big rosters to compensate for some players going as junior coaches or college recruiters. In the end, I think it will lead to better competition within the region and get more past collegiate players back playing adult volleyball.”

For additional information on the league, visit usapvl.com. To follow the tournament schedule and results, click here.