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AVP, CBVA, and the Manhattan Open

by AJ Mihalic

On Friday the AVP shut down operations and went bankrupt. On Monday CBVA was chosen to host the 2010 Manhattan Beach Open. In a shocking twist of events, tournament director J Parker Saikley convinced the Manhattan Beach City Council to play the event under “old-school” rules, against the advice of CBVA president Chris Brown. “Old-school” rules include the larger court (30′x30′), no antennas, and an all-leather Wilson ball. These are my thoughts on the whole thing.

This all seems so comical. It’s funny to me that there is always this wide disconnect between volleyball players and event coordinators, neither realizing that things are that way because they allow them to be. I hope sooner than later the players, the directors, and even the critics of either will take some personal responsibility and do what they can to create something symbiotic and sustainable.

Manhattan Beach Open Crowd, 1970s

2010 is going Old-School, which includes the mantra: "If you want a seat, you'd better bring one!"

To me, concluding that the rules contributed to AVP’s failure is a ridiculous assumption. Previously, rule changes were considered the very solution to volleyball’s woes. While it turned out that rule changes are not THE solution, the natural inclination of some to claim the old rules are now volleyball’s boon seems to point to the very problem itself. Namely, short-sightedness. Too many people fail to look any further than rules. It should simply be noted that every successful professional tour in the entire world has changed to the modern rules and every successful league in other sports has adapted its rules.

For those that believe volleyball needs old culture, I would also note that international success doesn’t necessarily rely on any elusive “cool” factor. Perhaps international culture is a bit more honest and relies on sex-appeal and the sport action itself. Whatever it is I’m not entirely sure, but I think trying to create an exclusive culture that inspires a large following is a daunting, undefinable task, like defeating terrorism. OK, maybe it’s not so intangible as that, but to think of creating such a phenomenon on an international scale and in an international environment seems rather unlikely to me. I do think that world-wide appeal should be a major goal of any sports business endeavor in this age.

I think when rebuilding Pro Beach Volleyball it’s probably a wise idea to look at the existing successful models of professional sports, especially volleyball, and borrow those things that lend themselves most easily to volleyball. I think this needs to be done in a cohesive way, blending player needs with sponsor needs into fan friendly events. That is the service that the AVP should be attempting to provide.

This attempt to snatch up an event of the failing AVP and stamp nostalgic “old-guys rules” onto the game seems like it’s just a new source of division. Like I said, it seems comical. Then again, maybe they’ll run a 1990s style event and it will be the catalyst that inspires the creation of a sustainable tour.

In one respect, I’m glad the AVP ceased operation. The AVP as it is currently operating should collapse. It’s much better than enabling a broken model to continue operation despite its inability to support itself, e.g. the US Auto Industry. With this death, there is now the space and opportunity for something new to be erected in its place.

I think Dan made a great point when he pointed out that embracing the internet will be the savior of any struggling business attempting to survive on advertising through traditional media outlets. This is probably true of non struggling businesses in this genre too. All right, it’s universal. Being ahead of everyone else as far as direct access on our mobile phones and computers is going to catapult your success regardless of how crappy your business model may be. No business in the foreseeable future will be able to compete with a rival business that has a stronger web presence.

So what’s gonna happen?

I don’t think the Corona Wide Open is going to be able to fill in the role of the AVP. Perhaps the FIVB will surface in the US. Maybe BVA. Maybe AVP restructures and resurrects itself. I’m not sure, but I have a hard time seeing no tour at all next year. However, I don’t see anyone stepping to the plate.


  • Name says:

    Great article and I agree with just about everything you wrote.

  • Yeah, why isn’t FIVB in the US? Because AVP was in the way? … So let Manhattan Beach have it’s “old-school” tournament. Don’t like it? Step up to the plate and make something happen in place of AVP. You Kinda Good guys think about that….

  • John Moore says:

    Just curious. When was the last time pro football changed the size of the playing field, or the number of quarters, or how the game was scored, or what a game was even called? The changes made to beach volleyball turned the game into something else, just for television and big bucks. Read the FIVB site about the history of volleyball and you’ll see it sounds like they invented it. No where does it say Southern California, or Manhattan Beach. Many top players were taken out of the game because they were not 6′ 5″ plus, Jimmy Nichols excluded :) Rudder Room Volleyball has never changed to new school thank god, or I wouldn’t have a place to play. Bring some friends, come up and play, kick back on the patio with a beer 20 feet from the main court and enjoy what the real game of volleyball was all about.

  • AJ Mihalic says:

    @John Moore – If a person is a volleyball fan they will clearly care a lot about volleyball rules. A real football fan would not be posting about volleyball on KindaGood.com when he should be scouting the pre-season game stats for his fantasy league. I’d like to sit 20′ from an NFL sideline some day.

    History of Rule Changes in the NFL
    1. http://www.steelersfever.com/nfl_history_of_rules.html
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_football
    3. http://www.jt-sw.com/football/pro/index.nsf/Documents/0-rules

    That being said, John, I’d love to play some old school sideout volley in Ventura with you when I’m back out there. :)

  • Billy Allen says:

    You’re coming back!

  • Name says:

    Here’s my take on it. If AJ comes back here… we will absolutely take 2nd place next 6-man. Anywho…
    AVP had it coming. It all started when they punished players from playing FIVB. after that they changed management multiple times, but the bad reputation carried on even today. AVP lost a lot of Sponsorship windows when they shut their door on FIVB. And Im not surprise about FIVB Not Including California on their History or Bio… After all the French started FIVB… Self explanatory. Billy I am the Doctor.

  • AJ Mihalic says:

    Breaking News (literally): AJ finally posts a KG article and breaks the site the same day!
    Luckily he it a few hours later.

    Sorry about the downtime folks!

    Next year I’ll try to come out to help lose in a double final to Smack. We’re not great…

  • LLee says:

    I disagree that the rules change didn’t have anything to do the collapse. If the tour would have soared, after the rules change, money would have never been an issue. The new rules alienated the AVP’s hardcore fan base, as well as some of the all-time greats. A lot of us tried to watch it, but the game is watered down especially by that horrible let rule. Now you have the greatest player ever openly voicing his displeasure over the new rules. You don’t think potential sponsors hear that & pause? Of course they do. The new rules turned the AVP into the FIVB’s little brother. The game didn’t need a rules change. The game was shown live on TV for 10 years before the new rules. With the clock, we could see part of the loser’s bracket & then the entire final in an hour and a half. Now we get one match in that time. I do find it rather hypocritical that Sinjin was one pushing for the new rules considering that he was against the clock, which’s sole purpose was to show vball on live TV. I also get tired of hearing that TV won’t show a 2hr volleyball match. If it was big enough, they would. How long do tennis matches last? Has tennis changed their game to speed it up?

    If you think the rules played no part in the collapse, that would be ridiculous. If you don’t, I’d point you to NASCAR. I’m a huge NASCAR fan too. They were soaring, with huge ratings & attendance. Then they changed the rules, which no one was calling for. They wanted to get bigger & be more mainstream. Sound familiar? What happened? Fans stayed at first, but didn’t like the changes. Gradually they left. Now attendance & ratings are sagging big time. I myself am not as big of a fan as I used to be. What is NASCAR doing to change that? They are reaching out to their fans, & even going back to what got them there.

    The AVP or whoever emerges would be foolish to ignore complaints of the American fans. From comments I’ve seen, it seems that both old & new school fans dislike the let serve. Why not start by killing that abomination? There is no competitive reason for that rule to be in place. The one thing that is clear is that there is a passion for beach vball out there. There’s no reason it can’t be viable once again.

    I’m glad I found your site! Enjoyed it!

  • Mike says:

    Aspiring athletes want to take full advantage of whatever their sport offers, and if the FIVB is a sustainable tour (which it has proven itself to be) that players can aspire to play in, then USA’s rules MUST mimic the rules chosen by the FIVB! I’m proud of the old sport that was invented on the beaches of Santa Monica and perfected by Karch, but if the US wants to be a powerhouse on an international level then we must coordinate with the FIVB tour.

    We shouldn’t forget about the past greats, but I say we focus on FUTURE American players or else we’ll force them overseas, where the money is good and the tour will last.

    That said, if players could somehow convince the FIVB to get rid of the let serve…

  • Matty Winks says:

    Hate to throw this into the mix, but since you are talking about rule changes:

    If USA Volleyball gets involved next year with a domestic tour, do we think they’ll implement those horrific new indoor net violation rules??

    I think I just threw up in my mouth.

  • Mike S says:

    I for one feel that the smaller court and let rule have not done the things that were expected of them. If I remember correctly, Sinjins main argument was that smaller courts would increase rallies thus making the games more exciting. I have attended most of the CA AVP matches and record every single AVP Classic and I dont see a difference. I agree with one of the comments above where I feel that the reduction in court size has alienated an extremely large portion of the people that play. Gone are the 5’9″ to 6’0″ players (sure there are still a few but you cant tell me that they arent lucky to have a giant playing with them), you simply dont see 2 successful 6’0″‘s playing together now. As to your comment in your article regarding the divisiveness of playing “old school rules” at this years Manhattan, I disagree. I feel like having it as a side-by-side comparison will be a great thing because they have played by the new rules for some time now and will indeed be able to put together sound discussion and viable positions either pro or con, something which they had neither choice nor option of when the rules were first changed. I think creating 2 different sized courts for the same sport is as divisive as it gets. The argument of 6 players vs. 2 players seemed to matter not from the early 80′s until the change. The AVP had ample success and by far its largest growth during a time that its court sizes remained synchronous and I would like to see any sort of real data that links the change in court size with an increase in popularity and viability (which was what Sinjin professed it would do in the long run).

    Im not a fan of rally scoring but I can live with it. I enjoy side out scoring more because of the ability to correct mistakes and of making a comeback. A 10-2 game to 15 is practically unwinnable in rally but I just watched a Dodd/Whitmarsh vs. Loiola/Anjihno match where just that occurred. Rally does allow the game to be more predictable regarding length but for me it stops there. JMHO

    I dont feel let serves have done anything to improve the game. Yes it will pay off when your lucky but it doesnt add to the skills nor to the popularity. I wouldnt be angry if the rule stayed but I just didnt see where it would benefit the game to have it and still dont.

    Love your site. Thanks for listening and thanks for the work you put into it.

    Lastly, I do not have as strong a feeling regarding the let serve but I am not in favor of it. It is fun to see a ball rolling along the net and trickling over or that flubbed serve that just squeaks over but the only tangible thing that I can see is that it has done is allow the game to end on a play that involves no skill and usually doesnt allow the opposing team a play on the ball.

  • Jim Klika says:

    After reading all of the posts in this forum I don’t feel optimistic about the return of professional beach volleyball in the U.S. I just don’t think that volleyball players, and hardcore fans get it. In order to succeed as a professional sport you’ve got to connect
    with the casual fan, the new fan and the potential fan. Forget about old scoring versus new scoring, the size of the court and the let serve and think more along the lines of what can be done to make this sport more exciting for the masses. As it is constructed now Beach volleyball is a lot of fun to play but boring to watch (bump, set, spike. ..bump set, spike…yawn). The first thing that must be done is to make people care who wins. I don’t know how this would be accomplished but in popular sports fans love their favorite teams and players and hate their rivals. In the AVP everyone was nice to watch. Next you need more competition. You can’t exist as a viable entity if the same team wins just about every week and there are only 3 good teams each on the men’s and women’s side. Some how, some way foreign players must be attracted to play here in the U.S. as they are in tennis. Capitalize on the two most important aspects of the sport…the beach and bikinis. I’m not sure if there should ever be another Men’s professional league. There are all ready too may men’s professional sport’s leagues. Play at the beach. Never ever poor sand into a parking lot
    or the infield of a baseball stadium and play. That said at least pretend you take your sport seriously, giving players nicknames like the “Thin Beast” or “Team Gorgeous” must stop. If a player has a nickname it must come from the fans or other players. Market the players. Kids should be able to buy a poster or a T-shirt with their favorite player’s likeness printed on it. Why was there never an AVP video game or an AVP magazine on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. Run ads on television and radio
    for the sport. I live in New Jersey and most people here (except the hardcore fans) didn’t know the AVP came to our beachs to play every summer. I could go on and on but I’m not sure anyone really wants beach volleyball to be a big time sport. In that case
    Beach Volleyball can work as a semi-pro sport by attaching itself to other events like State Fairs and continue to draw smaller crowds than high school football games.

  • Joe Boken says:

    @Jim Klika:

    What about “Kings of the Beach” the volleyball video game? How about “Spiker?” There have been plenty of beach volleyball video games. All but one were terrible, the AVP was smart to stay out of that sinkhole.


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