The Growth of Women’s Beach Volleyball
The 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games are four months away and one event expected to draw a lot of attention is beach volleyball, which will be played on the legendary Copacabana beach. It’s been 24 years since beach volleyball made its Olympic debut. First, as a demonstration event at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, and then as an official sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
However, while the sport has been visible at the Olympic level, it’s the growth spurt happening at the collegiate level that is starting to grab attention. As of 2014, there were 41 (mostly Division I) schools with a women’s beach volleyball program; that’s up from 16 teams during its inaugural season in 2012.
NCSA Sports says that the jump in numbers makes women’s beach volleyball “the fastest growing NCAA emerging sport ever.”
And that growth is also making its way into high schools. Part of the sports appeal, especially at the high school varsity level is low overhead cost: little equipment is needed and there are no large rosters to fill. Plus, some indoor volleyball players will switch over to play beach volleyball at the collegiate level, which keeps scholarship costs down. Not to mention it helps schools meet the Title IX requirements for female sport participation. While we'll have to wait until sometime in June to find out whether Kerri Walsh Jennings and her new partner April Ross qualify for the Rio Olympics, it's a good bet that interest in the sport won't be waning anytime soon.
Since then, the United States has won a gold medal at every Olympic beach volleyball tournament, in either the men's or the women's competition, while Brazil has won gold or silver in every men's or women's tournament. In fact, the American duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor have won gold at the last three Olympic Games without losing any of their 21 matches.
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