The area’s youngest volleyball players are about to enjoy more competition with the merging of a Virginia Beach-based club and another from the Peninsula.
Bob Arnette, director of the Coastal Volleyball Club, and Tommy Thomas, director of Hampton Roads Juniors, have discussed merging for a while. Arnette said the timing of the move falls in line with the exponential growth of the sport among younger athletes in the region.
“The demand for volleyball has skyrocketed,” said Arnette, who founded CVC in 1995. “This is a great opportunity to improve the quality of the game.”
Arnette’s club currently manages 24 teams between boys and girls. HRJ, founded in 2004, runs seven. Both programs believe the consolidation will provide more opportunities for children to learn the game.
Will Stein, executive director of the Tidewater Volleyball Association and long-time coach of many CVC club teams, is excited about the move.
“I’m pretty pumped about it,” he said. “The influence we can have on programs of all age levels is remarkable.”
Stein said the merger will give the new, larger club enough young players to create an under-12 league.
“Instead of our youngest kids just playing here, or them playing there, now those kids can go to a tournament like the older ones do,” he said. “It gets them involved and exposed to higher level ball earlier.”
Both clubs have tryouts for travel teams for kids ages 14-18. Originally, players who did not make team cuts would have the opportunity to play recreationally or in a more competitive program. The expansion allows the program to create more travel teams, creating better opportunities for more players to play at higher competitive levels.
“If we have kids leftover after tryouts, we can put them together on one team and spark greater competition than before,” said Stein.
One of the goals of the move is to produce elite volleyball players who might play competitively beyond high school, Stein and Arnette said. The Coastal Volleyball Club of Virginia Beach has sent more than 100 athletes to college programs, while Hampton Roads Juniors has sent more than 50, according to HRJ’s website.
“More competition will lead to elevated talent,” Arnette said. “We want to have a program that families can buy into.”