Setting Up For Success in South Carolina
By Alex Sing
Club Director, Grand Strand Juniors
Grand Strand Juniors started in the fall of 2007 with 3 teams. It was the first club experience for most of our athletes. Our high school teams were very weak and most of the female athletes were playing other sports. Our best advertising after that first year were the girls who played for us. The following season we grew to 7 teams, and our third year we had 10. The number of teams grew, but so did the quality of our players. Area school teams had begun challenging for state titles and our seniors were getting volleyball scholarships.
Early on we began to see what the possibilities were for having our own facility. In 2009 I went ahead and bought two sport courts with my own money. I wasn't even sure where we were going to put them yet. Getting court time was becoming more difficult for the number of teams we had and our practice locations were 25 miles apart. Our club had grown enough and set enough money aside from prior seasons to pay a deposit and cover initial renovation costs. We knew what we were paying in renting court time hourly and that gave us a number to work with. We asked ourselves the question "Can we afford to pay the additional amount to have unlimited access to courts?" The answer was YES!
In my spare time I would ride to areas that had warehouses that might be suitable for us, but nothing seemed to work. In the summer of 2009 a door opened when the owner of a distribution facility wanted to convert his warehouse into a sports complex. The problem was the business model he had in mind required us to buy annual memberships. This was a deal breaker on our end because it pushed the cost too high. He did allow us to set up a court there that we used for our private lessons, so it was a start.
The following year (2010) the building that housed the sports complex went into foreclosure. Our club leadership, including myself, went to the management company that took over and offered to lease the 10,000 sq. ft. of space within the building for our program. We could only do month to month so it was a bit of a risk not knowing if we would have to move on a moment's notice. At this point we were up to 12 teams and had started a youth training program for beginners. We took the risk, fate was on our side and after a few positive changes and a new owner at the sports complex, Grand Strand Juniors was able to open.
Today we operate as a 501c3 with a 3 court volleyball facility including a weight, speed and agility training area. Our facility is not climate controlled, but with the bulk of club season being in the cooler months, it has not been a problem. When it warms up we just tell the girls it is good to sweat. They rarely complain.
In 2012 GSJ had 14 teams including six National teams. 5 of our teams finished in the top 5 in our region and we sent 7 teams to AAU Nationals. In 2013 we will be adding a third court and we are starting a boys program. Throughout the process of starting the club our vision has been to model ourselves after those clubs who seem to be setting the standard for performance. We are currently one of the few clubs in South Carolina with a facility. The benefit of having our own facility is more practice hours and training for our players. But like any club with its own facility and expenses to cover, we had to create ways to generate revenue, so in addition to our club programs, we operate a Bingo service. South Carolina requires that Bingo halls must donate a percentage of revenues and taxes to a charity (501c3).
Another revenue generated is hosting tournaments. We were the first club in South Carolina to host a Convention Center tournament. Our Winter Bump Volleyball Classic during MLK weekend draws over 200 teams from 6 states and 4 USAV regions. Every May we host the AAU Super Regional Coastal Classic Volleyball Championships. Not only do profits from these tournaments go toward paying facility expenses, they allow us to provide scholarships for players in the club and they help keep our club fee as one of the lowest in the state. The club puts aside about 10% of its profit into a scholarship fund. Sometimes we use more and sometimes less. Families seeking scholarships must apply and the amount awarded relates to the need. We also take into consideration any history the family has had with the club.
Our program would not be complete without the outdoor season. After all, we are in Myrtle Beach! Every summer we host the Battle at the Beach for juniors. Last year 47 teams gathered for the event. As we plan for the future, we eventually want to move out of the sports complex and build a brand new facility from the ground up. We look forward to sharing that next chapter with you then!