The pandemic and social justice movement dominated the cultural conversation of 2020, both for good reason. In response, the AVP sensed and evaluated different and novel needs in our community.
Moving forward, the philanthropic arm of the AVP – AVPFirst – will focus solely on community clinic and development programs. AVP America is taking over all organized youth development and leagues. AVPFirst will transition from overseeing this effort to exclusively offering underserved communities free coaching and connection from top coaches and AVP pros.
AVPFirst spent all of November and December reinventing its business model. They’ve overhauled four areas – programming, development, board structure/engagement, and marketing strategy. They have numerous projects in the pipeline that teams of talented and thoughtful individuals are working on manifesting. Their sights aren’t set to just 2021; they’ve been fully fleshing out a Five-Year Plan.
AVPFirst Executive Director Tony Giarla says, “I’m so excited about where we’re headed. Without competitive youth tournaments, we’re able to clearly focus on underserved populations. We were doing great work before, of course. But now, all of our time and energy will be refocused.”
AVPFirst will build partnerships in new communities to reach new populations. They look to join forces with a surfing group to offer both beach skills to kids in a single day. “We have more potential for local and consistent community-based work now,” Tony says.
Though the AVPFirst youth tournaments were a roaring success, AVPFirst felt pulled to answer the call of our sport. As Falyn Fanoimoana and I discussed at length this summer, our sport is largely caucasian. AVPFirst is actively seeking to diversify the sport by exposing different and more ethnically dynamic populations to beach volleyball.
AVPFirst will continue to offer one-off clinics all over the country at various tour stops. At these clinics, AVP pros spend a couple of hours with local kids from all different backgrounds, deepening their knowledge of the game, offering them tips, and answering questions about life as a pro beach volleyball player.
But the real difference of AVPFirst reimagined is the introduction of 10-week community programs. AVP athletes, coaches, and volunteers will run a 2.5-month series of clinics for large groups of kids. At the end of the ten weeks, they’ll organize a culminating tournament, giving the kids a chance to show off their skills and get a taste of the competition. “These longer-term clinics will teach them how to play, build them up, build the skills, get them working,” Tony says.
“The one-day Community Corner clinics are so great, but they’re not necessarily making a lasting impact. One-offs are a way to engage kids, expose them to volleyball, and create opportunities. But it’s the follow-up stuff, the consistent programming that’s actually going to change the diversity of the sport and introduce a new fan base.”
There’s no time like the present to reevaluate and pivot to better serve our communities’ needs. The AVPFirst Board worked tirelessly leading up to the new year to address what they believe to be the most glaring issues. Bottom line: we need more diversity, different backgrounds, and greater access to the beach. With the reinvention, AVPFirst is taking the best parts of what they’ve done in their community initiatives over the last five years to create greater access and opportunities within the sport for a new generation of young athletes.
To learn more and donate to AVPFirst’s cause, visit their website here.