There are a million and one moving pieces at an AVP tournament. How many bleachers can fit, where will the Wilson and Klenskin tents go, how many tons of sand need to be shipped, where will the broadcasters call the weekend’s matches, how many cases of Kona beer do we need?
The AVP has teams in place for each action item. But the actual run of show that you see as a fan? The all-day music, player introductions, dizzy bat, mini ball toss, the wave… all of these elements fall on three very capable shoulders. DJ Roueche, Producer Kelly Reed, and Mark Schuermann. The Dream Team.
Let’s break it down a bit.
DJ Roueche plays music all day – 8-10 hours, never repeating a song, reading and responding to the crowd’s energy, constantly adding the newest and best hits. Save a player’s request or me yelling – “Can you please play Happy Days again?” – DJ Roueche actively chooses each new song, blending from one to the other, deploying favorites at opportune moments.
Mark is doing his thing on the mic – introducing the players for all of you and coordinating with the Peacock broadcast, interjecting funny or informational bits throughout the match, throwing a million mini-balls into the crowd, conducting the wave, etc. He’s the friend you want to be sitting next to during the game, the one who’s keeping track of random stats and cracking jokes occasionally.
Producer Kelly is coordinating everything from sponsor reads and games to syncing with the TV truck. She’s on headset all day, with ears to the technical crews all over the venue, moving us from one game to the next, keeping us on time. Producer Kelly is in charge, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
With these three different roles, each member of the Dream Team works in tandem on the fly throughout the AVP weekend. And I’m the lucky one who gets to sit next them in the booth. It’s so impressive to see them all in action, each perfectly capable of their own responsibilities, but best when synced. They have fun, bounce ideas off each other, and never miss their cues. They’re running all the entertainment (besides the actual volleyball); just those three people.
Each person has an enormous and visible role. If they mess up, we all see. But you wouldn’t be able to tell from their demeanor – 99% of the time, these three are relaxedly moving through their day (don’t ask about that other 1%).
The Dream Team’s seamless workflow stems from absolute trust in each other. The 2021 season is year seven with the three of them, but DJ Roueche has been there for 18 seasons while Kelly’s been producing the AVP since 2006. Producer Kelly is technically the boss. Her role is to tell everyone what to do and when to do it, but her laidback energy and professional flexibility lend to a very cohesive and democratic relationship.
“Kelly is the boss,” DJ Roueche says. “I know it may not look that way when you come up to the DJ Booth. But if Kelly says something, we’ll do it.
“Jeremy’s been there longer than I have,” Kelly says, “so he would probably get offended if I told him what to do.”
“To her extreme credit,” DJ Roueche says, “she will listen to Mark and me because we’ve been doing this together for so long. She’s always open to feedback and listens to our ideas. Or if she doesn’t like the idea, no one is taking it personally. Not a lot of events are like that, where it’s open. Because she’s extremely confident in her job, she doesn’t mind taking advice from Mark or me. Other people in her position, either due to lack of experience or whatever reason, aren’t always that open to suggestions.”
“Kelly goes with the flow,” Mark says, “And she’s the best producer I’ve ever worked with. She seamlessly adapts to whatever event she’s working, and she understands the people she’s working with are also professionals. It’s such a smooth give and take. We trust her so much.”
“Producers in my role,” Kelly says, “generally come in and run the show no matter what MC or DJ you’re working with, but the AVP is just different. There’s an earned respect for the experience. If I suggest something that doesn’t make sense because of the competition or players playing, Jeremy and Mark will tell me I’m off base.”
“We’ve been working together so long,” Kelly continues, “there’s an ingrained sense of knowing what to do and when. There are some people you have to teach, and there are some people who just get it. The team of me, Mark, and Jeremy – we just get our own roles and get how we work together.”
One of the collaborative tasks at hand is the sponsored games on court. Mark and Producer Kelly brainstorm which game to do and when. DJ Roueche often gets the last bit of information after they’ve decided what’s next. He’s so chill and experienced, they’ll come at him in the eleventh hour and he’s unfazed.
“We’re doing musical chairs at the technical timeout,” Kelly will shout with the score at 10-10.
“Can’t wait,” DJ Roueche will reply, barely looking away from the action. Musical chairs is his favorite game, by the way. He is fully in control of those contestants’ destinies, and he loves to mess with them by pausing the music briefly so everyone falls over or keeping it running for a full minute when TV takes a longer commercial break than expected.
He also messes with Mark, and vice versa, all day. When asked about working with Mark, DJ Roueche says, “Well, Mark likes to take his shirt off a lot. I don’t work many events where that’s appropriate. Not saying I don’t like it, though.”
DJ Roueche and Mark are buddies, placing mini-bets throughout the day (e.g. “5-to-1 ace,” “2-to-1 real point,” or “58-to-1 there are exactly 17 touches during this rally”) and getting as amped for the big games as you do. They both love and play beach volleyball, so they’re having a ball watching it. Theirs is a friendly and casual vibe, which lends to a natural connection that plays out in their professional responsibilities.
“When I provide a little more energy,” Mark says, “he’ll turn his level up just enough and transition quickly into a song with more energy. He’ll see when I’m trying to match the energy of the game and he’ll adjust his music to that seamlessly. And I’m listening to what he’s doing with the music because I don’t want to step on something he is trying to give. When I can feel he’s building something with the music, if it’s not absolutely necessary for me to say something, then I won’t.”
“Mark has had a lot of experience in a short amount of time,” DJ Roueche says. “To see his growth and his confidence build from year one to now, to see his growth in the job and the experience he’s gotten outside of volleyball, it only helps when he comes back. The experience we all gain from going to other events, the ideas we get, we bring back, talk about it, and see if it’ll work at the AVP.”
The Dream Team all have other gigs, many of which I detailed in their separate profiles. One in common was the Tokyo2020 Olympics – DJ Roueche played the beach venue, while Mark and Producer Kelly ran the indoor volleyball games. Those two actually travel the world with the FIVB as the premier sports presentation team in the volleyball world while DJ Roueche stays stateside and plays for the Lakers. No biggie.
Producer Kelly also brought DJ Roueche and Mark into the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship. So once we’re done with AVP Chicago (can’t believe it’s already here), you can look forward to seeing the Dream Team in action once again this December in Columbus, OH.
But before that, I encourage you to check them out during the AVP weekend. Watch (and help countdown) as Producer Kelly cues Mark with airplane signals. Pay attention as Mark and DJ Roueche connect during on-court games or the wave. I guarantee if you watch the three of them up in the DJ booth, you’ll see them laughing at a shared memory or joke, all while running the show you love so much.