Ignatius L Hoops
- Sep 9, 2015
- Reaction score
Club volleyball's vast world: A multimillion dollar culture of dreams, sacrifice and cold reality
Thousands of girls gather in Minneapolis throughout the year for elite competition in pursuit of college scholarships. A family can pay more than $30,000 (plus travel expenses) for a child to play from age 12 to 18. Here's an inside look at that world.
THE CHAOS BEGAN before sunrise. Fresh snow had fallen overnight, and the sidewalks around the Minneapolis Convention Center were silent.
Inside was a different story.
The 2023 Mizuno Northern Lights Qualifier and January Thaw volleyball tournament was already underway at 7:30 a.m., and the scene for anyone unfamiliar with the expansive reality of club volleyball was incomprehensible.
Thousands of teenage volleyball players from around the country were scattered around 41 courts laid out in three cavernous halls.
Packs of girls waiting to play roamed thin sideline aisles with casual anticipation in color-coordinated sweatsuits. Bodies twisted to make room in tight spaces, selfies were snapped with lightning efficiency, parents stood chatting with early morning energy stirred by sleeved cups of coffee.
As far as the eye could see, volleyballs traced lofty, unending arcs as teams warmed up — a mad science experiment, electrons around some unseen nucleus. If you were not prepared, a wayward ball could torch you. Thrust into this reality, the mind recoiled.