A phrase that can make me chuckle is “free ride” when associated with an athletic scholarship. While books, tuition and room and board are covered by most full athletic scholarships, the journey to the end was by no means free. I am not sure most people fully appreciate the amount of hard work and commitment from athletes and their families that go into earning a scholarship in a sport as competitive as volleyball.Many players battle fatigue, injury, pressure and all the other hurdles a promising athlete is faced with as they work their way up through the high school and junior ranks. The hours of practice, conditioning, proper diet, club tournaments and everything else that is involved in the recruiting process can be overwhelming for teenagers, especially when you remember that their first job is being full-time students. Proficiency as a player isn't enough. Academic excellence is even more important for young players today, who are often required to excel to an even high level because of their athletic standing.
Being a parent of a scholarship athlete is no doubt rewarding, but it’s no free pass either. For every thrill associated with a big play in crunch time, there are hours of commuting in traffic to get those players to practice and tournaments on time. The costs add up with club dues, travel costs, special camps, even trainers. Parents are often “all in” when it comes to their children and volleyball. There is never a guarantee and rarely even an expectation of a payoff, but when it does materialize in the form of a college scholarship it is a special moment the entire family can share together.I know how valuable my scholarship to UCLA was more than 30 years ago, which was really the launching pad for a lifetime of memorable volleyball experiences culminating with an awesome challenge and an amazing opportunity as head coach of the USA Women’s National Team. Those experiences arose in part because of the preparation I received as a student-athlete at UCLA. That’s why it makes me proud to introduce a new scholarship program. With the women’s indoor landscape so well supported by the collegiate scholarship system, this new program is targeted toward a younger arena, an exciting growth area, of our sport – collegiate sand volleyball.
The Karch Kourts Collegiate Outdoor Beach Volleyball Scholarship program will debut in 2014. We plan to offer a minimum of $5,000 in collective scholarship funds to young players who want to pursue sand volleyball at the next level.Numerous schools have added sand volleyball to their athletic departments in the last few years and it’s important to provide as many opportunities as possible. Ultimately we all play this great game for the fun and for the love of competition, but I’d like to see special effort and achievement rewarded.
The criteria for applicants will be available in February of this year on Volley America’s Juniors website (volleyamerica.com).