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Are you ready to go to the beach?
As if Florida didn’t throw its year-round sunny, beach-worthy weather in the face of the rest of country enough already, the Sunshine State Athletic Conference and the Florida Region of USA Volleyball announced Wednesday that it has partnered to initiate beach volleyball as an official high school sport in the state.
The SSAC High School Beach Volleyball League is set to begin in spring of 2017 and will start off as a girls’ only sport.
“Offering girl’s beach volleyball to our members for the 2017 season was a decision that just made sense; girl’s beach volleyball is the fastest growing sport in the country,” said Stuart Weiss, President of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, in a release. “We believe that partnering with the Florida Region of USA Volleyball is a logical choice, as they are the established expert in this sport and will help give the SSAC and its members a great platform to grow beach volleyball.”
The Florida High School Athletic Association, the state’s governing body of interscholastic athletics, already sanctions indoor volleyball for both boys and girls. The girls indoor volleyball season runs through the fall and the boys season is played during the spring – with the state championships being played on May 6-7 in Naples, Florida.
As a sport, beach volleyball has grown in popularity. It has been an Olympic discipline since the 1996 Summer Games and has recently been recognized as an official National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sport.
Bringing the sport to the high school level now, with the Rio Olympics mere months away, makes sense for the SSAC and its supporters.
“With the full support of both the Florida Region of USA Volleyball, which currently produces numerous beach tournaments around the state, and the SSAC Board of Directors, I’m convinced this program is destined to expand rapidly and become one of the favorite sporting events for the member schools,” said Jim Hoffman, the league’s commissioner.
Hoffman also said his goal is to have at least 20 schools participate in the inaugural season of the league.
Taking the high school game from inside the gym to the beach is surely something that will be welcomed by students-athletes and coaches across the state.
According to the SSAC’s release, the league’s spring season will replicate most of the NCAA formula for matches and adapt USA Volleyball rules and regulations for play.
The competition aspect will involve a minimum of three pairs of girls per squad, competing against the opponent school’s team in the best two out of three matches.
The league will initially be for schools with a 3A classification and below (681 students in grades 9-12) and various venues throughout Florida will be used for in-season matches.
The first SSAC High School Beach Volleyball Championships will be held next April at Hickory Point Beach, a 21-court beach volleyball facility located in Tavares, FL, at a date to be announced later.