USA Volleyball An Interview with Tom Pingel, Senior Director of Indoor Events and High Performance USA VOLLEYBALL IS THE National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of volleyball in the United States and is recognized as such by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The mission of the organization is to lead, serve and grow all areas of the sport of volleyball, including beach, indoor and sitting, and to achieving excellence while providing a lifetime of opportunities for all to participate in a safe and positive environment. USA Volleyball is committed to and works toward opportunity for all to participate. It is an advocate for all Americans, endeavoring to assure universal access to opportunities at all levels of the game. Sports Destination Management: Volleyball was just on the international stage in Rio at the 2016 Olympics. Are you seeing a lot of growth as a result of that? Tom Pingel: I wouldn’t say we saw a spike, exactly. On the indoor side, there has been pretty steady growth. We’ve seen more rapid growth in the beach discipline, which we attribute to the success of our teams in the past Olympics, plus the inception of a beach volleyball championship at the NCAA level. SDM: That is the fastest-growing discipline? Pingel: It is; we’re seeing that growth pushing down into the juniors level, at high school and below. Arizona was the first to formally adopt it as a high school sport; we’re also seeing high school teams in parts of Florida, Texas and California – it’s growing in the areas you’d expect. SDM: Does USA Volleyball oversee grass surface volleyball as well? Pingel: No, we used to but we don’t do that currently. SDM: In terms of the growth of the sport overall, are you seeing that among both men’s and women’s teams? Pingel: I think it’s growing in both areas but there is more rapid growth on the women’s side than in the men’s side. College opportunities for men are still pretty limited. SDM:When USA Volleyball is looking for facilities to host championship events, what is it that you look for in particular? Pingel: For indoor volleyball, we need a venue large enough to hold the event, proximity to hotels, decent prices, especially if we’re talking about a juniors event. We like to find a city that is willing to work with us. SDM: Do you need additional space for an expo or other ancillary events? Pingel: The vast majority of our square footage is being used for the championship event itself, but we will have exhibitors and space reserved for our corporate partners. SDM: Do you look for the same sorts of things with regard to beach volleyball events? Pingel: I don’t do as much on that side but yes – the venue, easy access to airports, hotels, affordability – we’d be looking for a lot of the same things as with indoor events. SDM: You talked about the popularity of the sport. Are you doing any initiatives to encourage participation, or at this point, is it something you don’t really need to do? Pingel: I think we will still continue to do initiatives. We want to work on retention of athletes, for example. Our growth has been steady but our retention has not been improving. People drift out of the sport – they might get cut from the team by their coach and not have another way to play, for example. We’re also working on keeping athletes who are coming in from other sports. For example, we might get gymnasts or soccer players who have outgrown those activities, body-style-wise. Sometimes we get basketball players who come in from that sport. It actually makes the sport a lot more diverse, particularly on the girls’ side. SDM: Does USA Volleyball get involved in league or club play? Pingel: We have 40 regions in the country that run their own USA Volleyball programs. They have a lot of their own programs. Editor’s Note: Event owners searching for the region to contact for an upcoming event can go to the USA Volleyball website (address above) and click on the link under “About Us.” SDM: It’s a popular sport. Do you see that growth continuing? Pingel: Yes – we’re excited and proud about that. It is the most popular high school sport right now, surpassing track & field and basketball. We’re hoping that leads to more people playing and also hoping that it leads to continued success at the international level.
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