A Look Inside AVP America

The AVP has completed its 2019 tour of America, and any moment now, the staff will be plotting out the 2020 schedule.

Beneath the surface, or under the radar but becoming a rather large blip on the screen, AVP America never sleeps.

Just take a guess at how many tournaments this weekend are under the umbrella of AVP America. If you said, “Oh, about 22,” you hit the nail on the head and you’re a genius. Either that or your name is Wayne Gant or Carly Gant.

As much as AVP players dream of having their name on the Manhattan Beach Pier or achieving Olympic glory, the Gant family is building its own legacy, one that was not available to many of the stars of today.

It started with Volley America, mostly on the East Coast. Together, Volley America co-founder Rich Heiles and Wayne soon realized that at the grassroots level, outdoor volleyball was a cluster of loose-knit organizations around the country that had to fend for themselves when it came to attracting players, sponsors and attention.

With perseverance and phone calls, Mr. Heiles and the Gants tried to pull together anyone interested in volleyball. Beach, grass, here, there. When they tied together about 113 organizations with online registration, sponsors, sites, permits, rankings, schedules and any other info you need, they realized what their next step would be.

Hook up with the AVP.

“AVP was on the pro side and lacking, sort of, that embracement of the lower divisions, that, double-A, B player and we embraced them and rewarded them for being part of our tour, part of our membership,” Carly said. “That was something we developed as Volley America. It was never pretty, it was not glamorous, but it functioned. We’ve implemented a registration system, a seeding system, all online. Now we use that system for even the pro rankings.”

They cut a deal, and the parents of three discarded their full-time jobs. Their labor of love has now grown into a clearinghouse of tying together nearly 180 organizations around the nation.

“We bridged that gap so we can encompass everyone from beginner to pro,” Wayne said. “We had a lot of the junior side and the pro side but not the recreational player and everybody in between, so it was the perfect fit at the perfect time.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the age gap in men’s players on the AVP Tour. The women have their incentives with beach volleyball scholarships to universities. While the men don’t have that luxury, perhaps they will be nudged to continue the sport by seeing exactly when and where they can play, and watch that ranking rise as the results pile up.

“A double-A player from Colorado can see how they stack up against a double-A player from Florida,” Carly said.

There will be a lot of that this weekend, and it doesn’t matter if you’re on sand or grass. Two of the biggest events will be taking place: the AVP America Open Nationals in Huntington Beach and the AVP America Grass Nationals in Nashville.

You can play doubles, coed, three-player, six-player, sand or grass. There are beer leagues where you can head to the bar afterwards. Indoor facilities with sand are beginning to flourish. 

There are 13 zones across America where you can find tournaments, pick up rankings, and perhaps find yourself competing for a title during an AVP event at one of the eight tour stops.

“We’re trying to build that program where there’s something for everybody,” Wayne said.

They’ll be braving the weather in Cincinnati on Oct. 27. They’ll go indoors in Norwood, Mass. in two weeks. If you want to be dizzied by a schedule, check out the Sun Belt schedule through the fall and winter.

Wayne and Carly obviously can’t get to every event, but they’re as grassroots as it gets. They started putting up posts and tightening nets in New Jersey, so they know exactly what organizers go through whether they’re in Waupaca, Wis. (320 courts), Seaside, N.J. or Pottstown, Pa.

“We’ve seen almost every segment of amateur volleyball,” Wayne said. “You want to explain to everybody and tell them how you want to help them. It’s not like ‘Hey, we want your money.’ We are genuinely helping them.”

Carly added: “Our mission is to get out to people that we are the boots on the ground people. We’ve been out digging holes at 5 a.m. and setting up courts. It’s just touching those people and letting them know we’re in it for the good of everything.”

Who’s luckier? AVP America to have the AVP, or the AVP to have AVP America?

“We can finally give players that unity within the sport,” Wayne said. “Everybody is part of the same program now and we can all get behind it and support it.”