When it was founded in 1982, the American Volleyball Coaches Association set sail on a journey that would take the organization, volleyball coaches, and the sport to new heights. Here is a look at significant moments, broken down by decade, that have helped shape the AVCA and volleyball.
The forerunner of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), the Collegiate Volleyball Coaches Association (CVCA) was incorporated as a private non-profit educational corporation in 1981, the same year women’s sports under the NCAA's umbrella.
- With Terry Liskevych, then the women’s coach at Pacific, and UCLA’s Andy Banachowski, leading the charge, the CVCA was founded in 1981.
- The first President was Mick Haley, and the original Board of Directors consisted of eight NCAA Division I college coaches. Sharon McAlexander, a part-time executive director, administered the first All-America and Coach of the Year awards programs, started the Division I Women’s Poll, and coordinated advocacy efforts.
- The CVCA, which started with 100 members, grew to include over 500 by 1983. The Board hired Sandy Vivas in July 1983, as the first full time executive director, and the CVCA welcomed more than 300 attendees to its first Convention in Lexington, Kentucky, that December.
- The organization added services and programming for NCAA Division II and Division III women’s volleyball, as well as the NAIA.
- In 1986, the CVCA renamed itself the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) as part of its strategy to open up membership to high school and club volleyball coaches. Following this rebranding, the Board increased to 13 members by adding seats for high school, club and men’s coaches. The membership quickly doubled, reaching 1,600 by 1988.
Following the rapid growth during its first decade, the AVCA continued to expand its footprint. This took many forms, including ramping up benefits and programming, moving into the technology space, adding staff, and increasing advocacy efforts.
- After starting its Men’s National Collegiate Volleyball poll in 1986, the AVCA named its inaugural men’s All-America team and its first Coach of the Year and Player of the Year in 1991.
- Seeking closer cooperation with USA Volleyball, the AVCA moved its offices from San Mateo, California, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in August of 1992.
- Following the move, staff positions were added to focus on specific management areas including membership, convention services, media relations, sponsorships and finance.
- Under the leadership of Sandy Vivas, the AVCA began developing technology tools for membership management and other member services like jobs boards and scheduling tools.
- The AVCA was instrumental in starting the National Invitational Volleyball Championship and the Molten Men’s Division III Championship. Both eventually lead to increases in NCAA championship opportunities.
- These, and other advocacy efforts, helped create more participation opportunities for both players and coaches as the sport continued to grow across all levels.
As the new century began, the association and the sport entered a transitional period. Amid the adjustments, progress was made on many fronts, and new initiatives would set the table for additional expansion.
- In 2000, Sandy Vivas retired as executive director and was replaced by Lindy Binns, who was succeeded in 2003 by Katherine McConnell.
- This was a time of transition for both the sport and the association. While participation at the youth levels was increasing steadily, investment in volleyball at the college level had stalled, and AVCA membership stayed flat at 3,200 for five years.
- In spite of those challenges, the association pushed forward with new initiatives. The launch of the AVCA College Volleyball Showcase, the brainchild of former AVCA President Chris Voelz, generated both exposure for the sport and resources for the association. The Convention continued to expand its footprint and offerings, and it became a must-attend annual event.
- In 2006, Kathy DeBoer was hired as executive director, and the AVCA Board voted to transition from a self-managed association to a partnership with Host Communications, a sports marketing and association management company. That summer, the headquarters moved from Colorado Springs to Lexington, Kentucky, where it is to this day.
All of the hard work during the “Aughts” set the table for another period of growth during the 2010s. A number of significant changes took place across many levels of the sport, ranging from a boom of high school and club participation to new NCAA-sponsored championships.
- The new management structure, and a refocusing of staff roles, helped fuel another rise in membership, as the AVCA jumped from 3,200 members in 2006 to over 8,000 by 2019.
- During that same timeframe, volleyball became the top team sport for girls in U.S. high schools—in terms of number of players—and participation in junior programs increased by 50 percent.
- Accordingly, the AVCA developed partnerships with state volleyball coaches associations (currently 21 high school Signature Affiliate/Membership Organization partners), regions of USA Volleyball (now 35), and with the Junior Volleyball Association.
- The number of college programs increased, especially on the men’s side, and that level of school sponsorship translated into the NCAA creating a Division III Men’s Volleyball National Championship in 2012.
- Thanks to strong pushes from the AVCA and other key leaders and administrators, women’s beach volleyball was added to the NCAA emerging sports list in 2010 and catapulted to an NCAA championship sport in just five years. The AVCA sponsored a National Beach Volleyball Championship from 2012-15, before the NCAA took over in 2016.
- The AVCA also created the Small College Beach Volleyball Championship in 2018, which grew to become the largest college beach volleyball event in the country. Champions have been crowned in Division II, Division III, NAIA, and Two-Year College with the number of teams increasing from 14 the first year to over 30 beach teams now.
- In May 2017, the AVCA Board of Directors voted to support First Point Men’s Volleyball Foundation, a fundraising group dedicated to increasing opportunities for men's and boys volleyball. The new organization’s efforts helped the number of men’s collegiate programs at both the NCAA and NAIA levels increase by more than 100 programs from 2017 to present. A byproduct was the NAIA hosting its first Men’s Collegiate Volleyball Championship in 2019.
- The AVCA Convention reached a new high for attendance, with 2,794 people taking part in the 2018 event in Minneapolis.
Ten weeks into the new decade, the global COVID-19 pandemic brought all competitions to a halt. The following years of recovery have been slow and steady, and a renewed sense of commitment throughout the volleyball community to grow the sport is bearing fruit.
- After a year’s worth of volleyball was wiped out as COVID-19 took hold beginning in March 2020, the NCAA conducted a belated “Fall 2020” women’s Division I Championship in Omaha in Spring 2021. Both the men’s indoor season and the beach season concluded with successful tournaments to close the 2021 restart.
- In 2021, AVCA membership declined by 25 percent and sponsorship revenue decreased by 50 percent.
- By late 2022, AVCA membership and sponsorship revenue rebounded following the pandemic, with the association achieving a record-high of more than 8,500 members.
- The AVCA conducted an in-person Convention in December 2021, highlighted by the conclusion of the association’s year-long 40th anniversary celebration.
- The association recognized the 50th anniversary of Title IX becoming a law through a series of initiatives in 2022, including the “Who’s Got Next” social media campaign.
- On the court, high school boys volleyball continued its rapid ascent. In 2022, participation numbers topped 70,000 for the first time and seven states voted in 2022 and 2023, to sanction boys volleyball as a championship sport.
- Thanks to seed money from First Point, six historically black colleges and universities in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference fielded men’s volleyball teams for the first time, and the conference held its inaugural tournament in April 2022.
- 2022 was also a banner year for women’s volleyball, with the Division I Championship establishing a new attendance mark. The Division I single-match attendance record was broken twice within a 10-day span, as Nebraska and Creighton drew 15,797 people on September 7, and 16,833 fans packed the Kohl Center on September 16, when Florida visited Wisconsin. Alaska-Anchorage also set the Division II attendance mark when it welcomed 3,888 for the team’s senior night in November.
- In March of 2023, AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer announced her retirement. Dr. Jaime Gordon, the former athletics director and women’s volleyball coach at Morehead State University, assumed the role as AVCA Chief Executive Officer on July 1, 2023.