It’s been a few weeks since the Champions Cup Series. I’m still coming off the high – three weekends of our favorite game, nearly 500 songs a day from DJ Roueche, Shark dances and intros, and Nick Lucena’s trash talk. As I reflect on the 2020 AVP season, my mind is a jumble of stats and standout storylines. I recapped every day and every weekend, highlighting scores and the vibe and winners. But there’s more to the story. There always is. Even with the copious writing I’ve done, there’s more to revisit and divulge about our whirlwind season. The numbers still stick out to me, just in a different way.
900 tons of sand (that’s 1.8 million pounds)
3152 Corner Bakery boxed meals
25 people working for 55hrs to build the event infrastructure
3 tv trucks
2 miles of tv cabling
1 Porsche Cayenne Coupe
…to pull off the three weeks of volleyball.
To play 138 matches, we needed 60 Optx balls, 3 courts, and 13 refs. Not to mention that 1.8 million pounds of imported sand which I just cannot get over. Half of the sand, 450 tons of it, has been donated to Gahr High School, a Title I school for use in their two court construction project this year. Any time we bring sand in (New York, Austin, here), AVP donates the sand. And it’s not the only thing we give away; AVPFirst donates court equipment and balls, handles the court installations once the sand arrives, and is expanding their reach by offering community programming and training opportunities for kids. This is something I’m enormously proud of and will be sharing more as we grow.
ZERO people tested positive for Covid-19. That’s over four weeks of testing. That’s so rad. Everyone was able to play, work, and enjoy the game free from worry about this insidious virus that’s taken so much from us in 2020. Being on-site felt intoxicatingly normal, a much-needed respite. Doing what we love and seeing our friends filled us up and buoyed our souls for weeks after the last ball fell.
No more than 180 people were allowed on-site at one time due to safety precautions of Covid-19. This may sound like a lot, but it felt nearly empty compared to a normal year. We took up the entire parking lot of the Long Beach Convention Center. Each AVP staffer had ample space to stretch and breathe but were assigned to specific “Work Zones,” preventing staffers from roaming freely and going anywhere they didn’t need to be. The athletes had 5 tents to spread out but were also given strict zones and call-times for being on-site. While it was certainly a different environment and we didn’t have the athletes enjoying “Stadium Court” matches with us in the DJ Booth (which happens throughout every “normal” event), all of this was done to protect athletes and staff and ensure ZERO positive Covid-19 tests. This may be TMI, but the Port-a-Potties remained pristine because so few people were using them.
The athletes had 4 weeks to prepare. Speaking of massively impressive… most years, athletes begin training in January, 4 months before the first AVP event. Luckily, most of the athletes anticipated some semblance of a season and began preparing before the Champions Cup Series was confirmed. The athletes received an email on June 1 saying all fan-attended events were suspended, but the AVP made no mention of canceling the whole season. On the contrary, they assured us they were tirelessly working to make a few tournaments happen. So basically, around June 1, everyone was returning to California and the sand to prepare.
On June 17, exactly one month before the first serve of the Qualifier, the Champions Cup Series was confirmed and announced to the athletes. Commence practice, texts between potential Qualifier athletes, and flights booked from the out-of-state players. Truth be told, with this short turnaround, the level of play we witnessed is borderline ethereal. Going from a quarantine schedule to pro athlete training regimen is no joke. And our athletes delivered. Especially our top athletes.
The #1 Seeds Dominated, even with an abbreviated and expedited season. April and Alix won 24 sets and only dropped 3. Phil and Nick rolled over everyone until Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb dug deep and pulled out the Porsche Cup win. Actually, with a few exceptions, most teams hovered around their original starting seed. The Champions Cup Series had very few upsets.
This last one isn’t about the numbers, and it’s rom-com sappy, but important nonetheless. I just need to communicate the level of dedication and the unfathomable amount of hours poured into making the Champions Cup Series happen. They did it; we did it. The AVP made beach volleyball happen during an international pandemic that upended life (namely sports, because ball is life) as we knew them. I am so devastatingly proud to be a part of the team that brought this to life. And frankly, my job was to write about all the cool things other people did. I didn’t even do them. The unsung heroes of this whole thing are too numerous to mention. Still, I’ll rattle off a few: Josh Glazebrook, Laura Day (and team), Jeff Conover, David Kim, Janelle Williams, Al Lau, Andrew Young, Tina Chen and so many of our partners and vendors coming in last minute and delivering.
But the real MVPs are Owners Donald and Stephanie Sun, the two people who keep the AVP running with their generosity, innovation, and willpower. Every day, they arrived at the DJ booth and posted up right at the edge of the box overlooking Court 1. They watched almost as much volleyball as I did those three weekends, ever-clad in fun masks. Stephanie rocked tye-dye ones with rainbow beads; Donald sported a rotating array of dinosaurs and unicorns that were “too big for his kids” (a transparent fib as we all know unicorns and dinosaurs are irresistible).
I’ve spent a decent amount of time with the Suns over my time with the AVP. But this was the first time I saw them in action so regularly, chatting up everyone from the caterer to the media team to April Ross as she shouted thanks from the players’ box below us. They are unabashed volleyball enthusiasts, and their love for the game and the AVP team affected me in a way I couldn’t initially define. It was both familiar (as it resembled my own adoration) and also wholly and inexplicably settling. Upon reflection, I realize why. With Donald and Stephanie at the helm, the AVP has trustworthy and enduring leadership. Seeing what it took to put this summer’s events on proves their loyalty to the tour and their competence as owners. Rest assured that we volleyball fans are lucky to have them.
I told you this got sappy. But it’s true. And I haven’t been encouraged to say this nor do I feel obligated to praise my bosses in any way [Note from AVP Marketing Team: Confirming we did NOT tell her to write this] I just think you all should know – as much as you love volleyball, the ownership and directors at the AVP rival your affection in a very real way. They care, they’re always looking to better the athlete and fan experience, and they risked a heck of a lot to bring volleyball to us this summer.