Why Isn’t Beach Volleyball More Mainstream?

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Why Isn’t Beach Volleyball More Mainstream?

Imagine a world in which there are no sports, but someone gives you a medium-sized ball and tells you to come up with one. Odds are something resembling volleyball would be one of the first things you thought of. Team handball might come first (if you think about it, it’s about the most basic possible form of ball sport), and perhaps games resembling basketball and soccer wouldn’t be far behind. But the idea of setting up a barrier and trying to get the ball across it without having it sent back is one that could come about in a matter of minutes in this hypothetical scenario.

Given this notion, it’s fair to wonder why beach volleyball isn’t a bigger or more mainstream sport than it is. It makes easy sense to anyone watching, it’s simple enough for anyone to try playing, and it’s been around forever. And yet, while there are certainly professional matches and world tour events, a majority of people likely see beach volleyball as a beach game, or a summer hobby.

It’s difficult to say exactly why this might be. But there are a few logical theories that might at least factor in.

It Hasn’t Been A College Sport

Or at least, it hasn’t been one for long. In fact, on the eve of the Rio Olympics in 2016, the NCAA’s official website pointed out that those would be the first Summer Olympics since beach volleyball became an NCAA championship sport. Now, it’s not as if every sport with organized college competition is “mainstream” or major at the professional or spectator level; most, in fact, are not. There are droves of college athletes – in fencing, track and field, handball, swimming and diving, and more – who never expect to have professional opportunities, or to perform on television. However, those are also all fairly established college sports. The point here is that beach volleyball has never had this base level of organized competition and player development, let alone fan or sponsor attention. It is at least conceivable that in another 15 or 20 years, NCAA beach volleyball will have led to a greater spotlight on the pro game as well.

There’s Little To No Betting Interest

This is actually a fairly timely point given that sports betting has only recently been made legal in the United States. Early online gambling sites in New Jersey broke new ground, and now all across the U.S., state governments are taking steps to follow along and introduce betting practices. This will undoubtedly bring about billions of dollars’ worth of activity surrounding the NFL and NBA, the MLB and the NHL, golf, auto sports, tennis, and soccer… but not beach volleyball. Sure, attention will spike every four years during the Olympics – and possibly during trials on particularly in-depth gambling sites. But for the most part you’d be hard pressed to find an opportunity to bet on this sport outside of these rare occasions. One can debate the degree to which this is a cause or a result of beach volleyball’s lack of mainstream status, but it certainly doesn’t help the professional image (or revenue) that it’s too small to be a betting sport.

The Only Film Scene Is A Joke

Again, there’s a debate to be had about cause versus result (in terms of whether a film can make a sport more popular or a popular sport necessitates a film), but the fact remains that most every major sport has at least one great film or TV show behind it. These may not seem like a big deal, but the truly great ones do become cultural touchstones that enhance the mystique of the sport at hand. There’s Hoosiers for basketball fans; Remember The Titans for football lovers; The Natural, Field Of Dreams, and even The Sandlot for baseball enthusiasts. There’s Miracle for hockey fans and The Damned United for soccer supporters. Where beach volleyball is concerned though, the only relevant cinematic material most people can point to is the ludicrous shirtless-with-jeans scene from Top Gun. Granted, people tend to love this scene, but it’s also more of a joke than a celebration of the sport. Meanwhile it’s actually not that hard to imagine a great beach volleyball movie bringing some more attention to the sport.

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