COVID-19 and AVP 2020: Making Sense of it All

Life feels weird right now. 

The world has stopped. We’re encouraged to stay home and indoors, a strange diversion from the usual prompts to get outdoors and be social! And it doesn’t seem to be slowing — as of today, March 19th, six counties in the Bay Area are on mandatory lockdown and New Yorkers have been told to prepare for the same. Los Angeles has closed all bars and gyms and restricted restaurants to takeout only. We’ve got a long way til normal. Well… I’m writing this from my living room desk, so really not that abnormal for my schedule. But still, feels different. 

The world was shocked last Wednesday night when the NBA suspended its season due to the COVID-19 international outbreak. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Cue cancellations, postponements, and suspensions of professional hockey, tennis, soccer, golf, indoor and beach volleyball, March Madness, and all NCAA winter and spring sports. 

But if you’re reading this, you’re likely chiefly concerned with the AVP’s response to COVID-19. In a statement released on the morning of Tuesday, March 17th, AVP Owner and CEO Donald Sun said: 

The AVP is committed to conducting its 2020 Pro Tour in a safe and responsible manner. Due to the universal uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, we have made the difficult decision to reschedule the Huntington Beach Open and the New York City Open, and cancel our events in Austin, TX and Seattle, WA. 

With this development, the 2020 Revised AVP schedule as of now looks like so: 

Gold Series New York City Open: Postponed indefinitely 

Hermosa Beach Open: July 24-26

Gold Series Manhattan Beach Open: August 14-16

Gold Series Championship Chicago: September 4-6

Hawaii Open: September 18-20

Huntington Beach Open: October 2-4

As a player and an avid beach volleyball fan, I’m devastated. As a socially-conscious citizen, I’m grateful for responsible leaders making tough decisions. As a human being, I’m just trying to make sense of it all. 

In this health crisis, it’s been tempting to be an armchair epidemiologist. Let me be the first to tell you that as much as I can educate myself on COVID-19, I do not have the capacity to responsibly report on the virus. As such, I am trusting the advice given and decisions made by people who know more than I do. 

I spoke to two of the AVP’s executives — Owner & CEO Donald Sun and Senior VP Josh Glazebrook — about their decisions regarding this year’s tour schedule. 

Donald and I talked about it at length on Sunday night. We were both just sad about all of it, but we also know it’s in the best interest of everybody. “I struggled with this for a while,” he tells me, “because clearly, this isn’t an easy decision. Personally — I’m super bummed. But from a social responsibility side, it was the right thing to do. It’s a letdown, but what can we do? This isn’t in our control.”

Josh filled me in on the timing and reason for the Austin and Seattle cancellations versus the postponements, like Huntington Beach and New York City. Austin cancelled its biggest annual event, SXSW, on March 6th and a handful of events in that area followed suit under direct order from local authorities. Seattle was hit hard and early by COVID-19, with over 1187 cases as of March 19th. The unpredictability and rapid spread of the virus understandably drive the focus of these cities away from events and solely onto public health. Even though these two AVP tour stops would have been eight and thirteen weeks away, “significant financial investments were on schedule to be made in the next ten days,” Josh says. 

The AVP is unique from other sports in that we travel around the country working with cities, securing permits, and operating as guests in each location. If a city cannot host us for any reason, we cannot build our beach there. There are so many moving parts to each tour stop; the first three events, as we are now seeing with the severity of this virus, are too close to the outbreak for the AVP to responsibly build and operate. Luckily, Huntington Beach could support an October postponement. Seattle and Austin, however, could not. 

Many sports across the globe made statements about their seasons on Thursday or Friday of last week; because the AVP isn’t in season, Josh and the rest of the executives made sure all was settled before their announcement. “We did extensive risk-assessments within each market,” Josh tells me. “We tried to work through scenarios where we could push the whole season back, but ultimately we realized that wasn’t a possibility. Pushing tournaments meant competing city events and dates in each market, weather risks, sponsor and partner conflicts, and media distribution challenges.” The AVP attempted to salvage or postpone each stop, but after tough talks, both the executives and each city decided what was best. “We had to take our time, work through each scenario, weigh the repercussions in each city, and make the best decision for the safety and integrity of the entire tour.”

I applaud the executives, owners, and commissioners around the world that are disregarding the bottom-line in lieu of public health and safety. When I think about the number of people affected by the sports industry pausing, I’m equal parts brokenhearted and heartened. While I’ll miss my sports, both playing and watching them, I celebrate the unified response of authorities to uphold the efforts of containment and eventual eradication. The same goes for the AVP, and I’m even more grateful that they were able to uphold three-quarters of the season. 

Coronavirus may be keeping us from the beach for now, but the AVP is bringing the beach to you. Keep checking avp.com for COVID-19 updates and all things beach volleyball—stories, reactions, recipes, workouts, and more.


Updated May 11, 2020


Read more from Kim Smith:

Strategy Chat with Sarah Pavan

How NCAA Beach Volleyball is Changing The Game

The Voice of the AVP: Mark Schuermann